Hey everyone! A few weeks ago I bought 9 lesbian books so I thought I’d do reviews here when I finish them. All book reviews touch on genre/plot, tropes/clichés, and quality of gay content, and include spoiler and light-spoiler versions!
Simply put, Ash is a queer retelling of “Cinderella,” for it features a number of familiar key elements: dead parents, evil stepmother, a fairy (of sorts), a prince, a royal ball. To be honest, Cinderella was one of my least-favorite Disney princess stories of all time, so I was a little reluctant to buy this. However, Ash was the first book in a long time that I’ve managed to finish in mere days. I have no regrets. Also, the drop-cap style at the beginning of each new chapter is so pretty.
You should know that there is a lot of world-building and exposition. It’s very much set in the fantasy genre, with the language and descriptions reflecting this. If you don’t usually like fantasy books, you probably won’t care for this one.
In this version, the main character, Ash, does not end up with Prince Charming (or Prince Phillip or Prince Stephan or Prince-Whoever-It-Is—honestly he barely makes an appearance in this book.) He isn’t even part of the love triangle. Yes, a little bit of a groan for the overused trope, but the story reduces it to a minimum. It’s better described as an unrequited love for one character, and then a friendship to lover slow burn.
Characters’ sexualities are not explicitly stated and treated as a non-issue amongst the side characters. We can assume that heterosexuality is still the norm, but queer relationships are not kept closeted nor treated differently. The relationship between the two women starts about halfway through the book, as the second character is not introduced until later on.
So, what made Ash so much more enchanting than Cinderella? First of all, our main character, Ash, has much more to offer. She spends a childhood reading fairytales, believing in magic long after most of the kingdom has dismissed it as myth, and sneaks off to the Wood every chance she can. Here, she befriends a Fairy, though many believe the species part of the myths too. Ash knows that one day she will join them, and she looks forward to leaving her current life of servitude.
Even better than Ash’s life outside of her step-family, is her curiosity towards the woman whose path crosses hers so often: the Huntress, an integral (and badass) part of the king’s court. After a hunting season of riding lessons, tracking, and secret rendezvous, Ash isn’t so sure about her fate to join the Fairy. But in a desperate attempt to escape her stepmother’s control and spend more time with the Huntress, Ash only seals her fate to the Fairy more.
The Fairy grows jealous of the time Ash spends with the Huntress, creating a not-altogether-distasteful love triangle, but a love triangle nonetheless. While Ash’s only friend asks her often about the boys she might like for a husband, Ash never responds, knowing her only path leads to the Fairy, and she spends little time pondering why she’s always waiting to see the Huntress next. That is until Ash is faced with a countdown on how long she has left to spend with her. Big spoilers ahead: Nobody (except Ash’s parents) dies. Ash and the Huntress live happily ever after.
Coming up next
My next review will discuss Huntress by Malinda Lo, a prequel to Ash. Next week I’ll be posting part 5 of my How I Met My Girlfriend series. Catch up here!