“Aisling’s mother died at midsummer.”

Title: Ash
Author: Malinda Lo
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal/Supernatural
Publication Date: 2009

Aisling’s childhood home is nestled at the edge of the Wood, a vast untraveled forest rumored to be the home of elves and spirits. Many dismiss these rumors as mere fairy tales, but Ash knows better: she has seen spirits, stepped into a fairy ring, and made a promise to a handsome elf.

After the death of her parents, Aisling (known as Ash) is left in the cruel hands of her stepmother, who takes her away from the only home she has ever known. In the Royal City, there is no room for Ash to breathe. It is only through an unlikely friendship with the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, that Ash begins to come alive once again.

But not all stories have happy endings, and through each fairy tale is woven a thread of truth.

A twist on a classic

Now this is a great modern adaptation of a classic story. Where Alex Flinn’s Beastly is a little contrived and a little boring, Ash is dark, smart, and surprising.

I love seeing how Lo incorporates the old, traditional tales of fairies and witches into a story that is fresh and modern. I love Ash’s journey from scared girl to strong, determined woman. I love that nothing falls into a predictable pattern: the prince isn’t charming, there’s no creepy love triangle, and there’s no unnecessary titillation. It’s a brilliantly crafted story, different from the squeaky-clean Disney tale, closer to (and yet very different from) the original tale of Cinderella.

Ash is not for the faint of heart. It is also, hands down, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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