Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ASH Celebration: Review: Ash by Malinda Lo

Tags: YA, fantasy, fairy tale, retelling, Cinderella, lyrical, love, GLBTQ

Rating: 5 out of 5


Aisling was just a young girl when she lost first her mother, then her father, to death. Now she lives with her cruel stepmother and irritating stepsisters, forced to tend to their every whim and demand. The only times Ash feels remotely happy is when she can escape into the magical wood and be with her fairy friend Sidhean.

But Ash’s world changes yet again when she befriends Kaisa, the King’s Huntress. Kaisa doesn’t see Ash’s servant clothes, and instead keeps her company and teaches her how to hunt. Torn between an cold eternity with Sidhean and a life with Kaisa, Ash must find the strength to be true to herself.


ASH is one of those books that I read slowly, savoring each beautifully crafted line, running the words and imagery through my head until they became poetry in action. Malinda’s sensuous writing brings Ash’s world and the characters within to blazing, ethereal life: you can fully tell that you are immersed in a fairy tale world, one that doesn’t just satisfy, but leaves you wanting more.

I’ve often heard ASH described as a lesbian retelling of Cinderella; in fact, I think that I have used that comparison myself. However, this book is so much more than that. As the story went along, and Ash suffered under her stepmother’s rule, then triumphed in her own little ways of grasping happiness, I came to see the novel as a moving tribute to the triumph of human spirit and desire to live in the face of adversity. ASH is a story that anyone can relate to, a story that can get to anyone.

The closer I got to the ending, the slower I read, so badly did I not want the story to end. When the end inevitably came, I was devastated, so moved was I by Ash’s development from scared and petulant girl to a young woman capable of living and loving again. What else can I say that would do this novel justice? It has a bit of everything for everyone: a magical world for fantasy lovers, incredible writing for aspiring authors, a moving love story for romantics, and a je ne sais quoi (edited: thanks, Tynga! my years of high school French all those years ago got rusty) that makes it stand out from other books. Enough of this now; read it and experience the magic of ASH and Malinda Lo for yourself.

Similar Authors
Shannon Hale
Lisa Mantchev
Maggie Stiefvater
Beth Kephart

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 5 out of 5 - A beautiful book deserves a beautiful cover, and that's exactly what ASH gets. The girl in the middle seems delicate, otherworldly, and irresistible, and there's just an incredible amount of visual texture from the rest of the image. A+ for Little, Brown.

Little, Brown / Sept. 1, 2009)

Thank you, Malinda, for offering me an ARC!

For more information about and links to the ASH Celebration, click HERE.

For one entry to the ASH Celebration Giveaway, answer the following question: What draws you to love certain books? The characters? The romance? The writing? Anything else?


  1. Awesome review- I can't wait to read this!
    A lot of things draw me to love books. If I can feel a connection to the character, I love books in first person, the writing is a big part to, I don't like books that aren't written well. I like when the two people in the romance have a connection as well.

  2. Any I book I'm going to love must have good writing, but on top of that I want interesting characters that I feel for, and a plot that keeps me guessing.

    jillkt13 at yahoo dot com

  3. Great review, makes me want to read the book. :)

    I think what draws me to love a book is mostly the story, but only if it's done right (it's so sad when it's not). I like books that make me want to be in their world, with characters that are awesome, but flawed (I hate perfect characters).

    eclecticdahlia at aol dot com

  4. It's definitely the characters and world creation that pull me in to a book. If these aren't pulled off well, then I have a hard time enjoying the read.

    Great review :D

  5. Ooo you make Ash sound so good *pines* I might as well go get a copy now.

    The writing is one of the main things that draws me to love a book. No matter how good or original the plot is, you need a strong writer to carry it and make it accessible. Characters are also important, though mainly I just don't want them to be Mary-sues and Gary-stus. Also, books that are retelling of fairy tales/myths or are set in a dystopia gets extra points before I even start reading.

  6. Great review - I totally agree with the rating of 5/5 and many of the points you bring up! Malinda's writing is beautiful - it really pulls you into the story, doesn't it? The whole "lesbian retelling of Cinderella" does sort of pigeon-hole the story when in fact, that's only one of the many facets. There's just so much more to ASH! And it's all tied together so beautifully.

    That's an excellent prompt, btw. I think that's definitely something that's worthy of exploring, why people are drawn to love certain books. I think it could be either one thing that's done just so exceptionally well that it blows [the reader] away, or if everything just ties together like a seamless performance.

    Of course, one of the major aspects would be the writing/voice, because the diction choice, the flow, the pacing - it all has to immerse you enough to want to keep reading, y'know? But then beyond that - and this depends on the type of book as well - well fleshed out characters that one can relate to are always a plus. Intricate plots with red herrings and such, where you get to the end and can't help but marvel at how cleverly they were laid out - these are always brilliant.

    Especially in this day and age, being new, refreshing, something that pushes the envelope - edgy without being cliche or superficial or forced - is always good. Bringing something new to the table always offers that extra ka-bam.

    In the end, it could be one thing, or everything, or just that special spark, that ka-bam that makes a reader connect with [a particular story] that draws readers to love those books.

  7. Er - kind of got carried away there. Oops; wall of text! Gah.

  8. Amazing review! I can't love a book if I don't love the characters, regardless if the story is beautifully written or has an amazing plot. Romance is always good too! I like a little (or a lot of) romance in a book.

  9. Thanks for the review :D I really want to read this!

    What draws you to love certain books? The characters? The romance? The writing? Anything else?

    The characters and the story. It has to keep me interested, and in the end, wishing for more. Of course, if the story is too predictable is boring. Is terrible when you know exactly what it's going to happen next.
    I also love the romance, in all books. And all the paranormal thing. I'm a big fan of vampires. :)


  10. It's a combination of a lot of things, but what really makes me LOVE a book is if it takes me through a whole gamut of emotion. I need to feel very connected to the characters and be able to laugh as well as ache with them.

  11. Thank you for the great review! Sounds like a great book. (:

    What really makes me love a book is first a good blend of my favorite elements (ie. handsome princes, danger), and, I have to admit, beautiful covers are very tempting to me too. I then have to like the characters and the plot. All of that added together is an amazing book that will always have a spot on my bookshelf!

  12. Amazing review! I have a copy on the way and now I'm so excited to read it. I actually got chills reading this. haha

    What really draws me into a book is the writing and languauge. I want to be challenged when I read. I hate when authors feel the need to use simple launguage simply because they're writing YA. Dialogue is also a major part of the story for me. I love to be able to feel the chemistry between characters.


  13. I'll admit to being drawn to books for the characters. And writing. If the book has promise and the writing doesn't deliver, I tend to get angry, then disappointed. It HURTS, you know? Like, it should have been good, so why isn't it?

    Good question!


  14. I think that what draws me more to certain books is definitely the plot, to get away from whatever you're doing to get to a magical place where anything can happen.


  15. OMG!!! I cant wait to read it!!
    What drawns me to love certain books is the plot and the writing


  16. It depends on the book, but in general, I have to care about the characters and be invested in what's happening.

    bcanyon at hotmail dot com

  17. What a great review. Just your review draws me to this book. But as to what draws me to certain books, I'm not sure. Some books are just naturally keepers - something in character, plot or writing that resonates.

  18. I think character development can make me love a book or completely hate it. The characters are what drives the story and if I don't care about them then what's the point?

    It all ends up being a combination of characters, plot and writing that make me fall in love with a book. :)

  19. Cool review. Ash looks really good!

    What draws to me love certain books?
    Uhm, well definately the romance in some, but also the connectivity with the characters, the adventure/ plot, ending, and so on and so forth.
    To me its a mix of different things coming together in the right combination.
    (Does that make since?)


  20. It would have to be the idea, first, and then what other people are saying about it. If I'm in a bookshop, it's the first page. I look a good opening!

  21. I'd have to say it's a combination of everything. What first draws me in is the cover or the title or previous enjoyment of a particular author. To get into the story, I like well-developed characters I can relate to, a great plot, a good ending, etc. I also have been known to really enjoy a book based on great writing, beautiful descriptions, etc. even though I didn't particularly care for the characters or storyline.

    melacan at hotmail dot com

  22. What initially draws me to a story is the plot. I love knowing that a book is going to take me on a wild adventure. However, what keeps me interested is the characters. I can deal with a rather boring plot if the characters are lively. It looks like I won't have to worry about that with this book, though. It sounds amazing!

  23. I would definitely have to love the writing to love the book itself. As long as the writing is good, I don't have to really like the characters so much :P

    bunnybx at gmail . com

  24. Connecting with the characters is a must if I am going to enjoy a book...no connection no love.

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  25. It's been a while since I saw you rate a book 5 star. Ash must be even greater than I imagine. I love the covers for this book, both US and UK, they make me want to buy two copies.

    Let's see the thing that draws me into a book is the relatability. I want to read stories that I can live with the characters, that I can understand the situations. I especially love stories that the main character's life seems to be a mess since I want to know how people deal with problems. And because I'm a sucker for romance, the romance has to be REAL.

  26. I've seen reviews of this book everywhere! And after reading your review, it makes me want to read it even more :)

    And to answer the question...
    The plot first draws me to liking the book. An interesting and an original one is what I would prefer. But what would make me LOVE the book is the romance. That would depend, though, on the characters. And it's important on the characters' parts if the romance is good or not.

  27. email jennay1221(at)gmail(dot)com

    First off, I know this is bad...but the covers are usually what initially grabs my attention and also things I see posted online by fellow bloggers and at goodreads.

    Next, its the characters. I love books that are character based and I guess its a way for me to pretend I'm them or relate to them. At the end of the book I know I want to reread it or continue the series (if it is one) because days after reading it, I'm still thinking of the characters.

  28. Nice review. It must be a really good book as you gave all top marks.

    All of the things you listed are important to me. It has to have good writing to keep the story moving so that I feel like I can't put the book down. Also I have to be able to relate to the characters so that I can make that emotional connection.


  29. Texture and depth are the two main elements that draw me to love a book. My favorite books are gritty, deep, or multi-layered. The more complex, yet easily comprehendable, the world, the better I love it. Like Harry Potter. There was a whole universe in that series, but it wasn't something that you grappled with, because it just was.

  30. The characters must have witty dialog, or at least believable dialog. I'm so picky that a book could have a good plot but if I don't like the way the characters talk I probably won't finish the book.

  31. What draws me to firs tbe interested in a book is the fantastic aspect, but I don't enjoy books as much if there is no love story in there.
    It was a great review! I definatly wanna read that book.
    And by the way, The french expression is "je ne sais quoi" =)
    I though you'd like to know *winks*

  32. Wow! With your glowing recommendation, I absolutely want to read this. Sounds fantastic!

    What draws me to love certain books is, first and foremost, whether I can emotionally connect with the story. Whether running along on an adventure, falling in love, avoiding a killer or struggling with family issues, I have to be able to really get inside the minds of the characters and actually feel what they're feeling. Without that emotional component, the book will fall flat for me. I might enjoy reading it at the time, but it's doubtful I'll be recommending it or even really remember it down the road.

    That being said, I do love me some romance, too... a great love story draws me in every time! And it definitely helps if I can fall in love with one of the characters, too. Then I'm hooked! :)

  33. The cover of the book is what initially draws me to read it but after that it is the writing style.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  34. Oh no! This review just makes me crave for Ash more! It's a wonderful review, nonetheless:)
    As for the question, I think book covers are what initially draws me to any books, however, it's kind of useless once you start reading the book since it's really the characters and the romance and how they evolve that makes me really LOVE a book, I'm a hopeless romantic that way:)

  35. What draws you to love certain books? The characters? The romance? The writing? Anything else?

    Def the story-line, but there are somestory lines nomatter how good they are, I can not read them because the writing is bad. Romance is again another must along with 3D characters, And relatiblity if i cant relate to the characters why read it?

    I can not wait for ASH. My book store doesnt have it yet. :(

  36. Beautiful review for what sounds like a beautiful book!
    The characters draw me to lov a certain book as well as humor. Especially dry or sarcastic humor. Girl v. boy or girl v. girl verbal sparring is always entertaining to read :)

  37. What draws you to love certain books? The characters? The romance? The writing? Anything else?

    It's a combination of all those things really. I'm big on character development because that is what drives a story for me and if I don't love or care about the characters then what's the point?

  38. Definitely the characters and style of writing. Plots play an important role for me as well and when I'm feeling superficial, the cover of the book :)


  39. Initially its definitely the cover of the book that catches my eye and then all the other things because a great book has to be a combination of lively characters, passionate romance and a very fluent & consistent writing style and obviously a great story line.


  40. This sounds like an awesome, awesome book! Ii love books with sensual writing and character journeys.

  41. What draws me to a book? Of course first the cover or the author- that's what gets me to pick it up. I'll want to read it if it seems like it's a story that will capture and hold my attention. While reading it - I have to start caring about the characters. If I don't care, I won't read.

    foltzsfantasticbooks at gmail.com

  42. I think what draws me to the books are the characters and dialogue. I like humorous books, and books that show you the character's personalities without telling you with words how they're suppossed to be. I like romance too, but I'm most drawn by unique characters :)


  43. I so totally want to read this book. What draws me to a book is first, of course, the cover, then the synopsis, but above all it's the writing. I love books with fantastic prose that enraptures me with their beauty and takes me on a ride through its changing faces. Romance is always a plus, but it has have fantastic writing.


  44. Awesome review!
    Usually it's the plot/concept that initially attracts me to story. After that comes the implementation of that concept and the depth of the characters.


  45. I usually always read the summory and then look at the cover I love a good cover art freek !!! but I think that the plot has to be able to keep me reading !!!!



  46. Great interview!

    A lot draws a book to me. The summary most of the time. If I haven't heard of an author or book, then the cover art is usually what catches my attention. Once I start reading, the characters, the plot, and the writing are what keeps me wanting to read more.


  47. Wow, what an excellent review!
    I've been wanting to read this one, and it seems that most people agree that it's excellent! I'd be curious to give it a try and see for myself now.

  48. Awesome review!! So glad you loved it too, Ash is just such an amazing book :)

    The thing that draws me into books is...the cover, the plot, if there is romance (and if the romance actually makes sense) and just the believability of the story.

    Wdebo :)


  49. Great review! I'm dying to read Ash!

    Umm.. I think that the thing that draws me to love certain book is a mix of all these thing. I can like a book due to it characters or the plot, but to love it, it has to have interesting characters, breath-taking plot, it has to be well-writteng and if the romance is well developed the better!


  50. Now I want to read this even more. To answer your question, it's all about the characters for me. If I love the characters, I love the book. If I don't give a fig about them, then I'll almost certainly be indifferent to the book.

  51. I'm drawn to a book because of the characters. If the characters speak to me, then I tend to love the book. I'm partial to series because once I like the main character, I tend to want to find out what else happens to him/her. It helps when there's a bit of romance in the book, just to make it fun. Dialogue is critical as well, so I guess this means that the basic foundation for the characters, plot and dialogue is well crafted writing.

    I've read books that were well written and interesting plots but when I disliked the main character, I haven't been able to really enjoy the book or its ending.

    gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

  52. it's all about the characters for me. sometimes I won't even notice if a book's plot is lacking until the end, if the characters are compelling enough. I'm also a huge fan of setting--a well-described world can really pull me in.


  53. Oh, wow, that's a hard question. I guess, for me to really LOVE a book, it all has to be there - likable and realistic characters, a good and believable plot, and definitely good writing. Romance isn't so important to me, although I do love a good romance element in a book. But I can love a book with no romance in it (although I can't, offhand, think of any. Grr).

    I think one thing that really makes a difference for me is setting. I really enjoy fantasy and historical fiction (hence why Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors - she writes historical fantasy), and I love to get immersed in a world and learn about it and get to know it like I'm living there myself. Good escapism :)

  54. Probably the most important factor for me would be the plot. It has to have that certain quality w/c is sure to capture my attention. And the romance almost always helps in getting me to like the book. :)


  55. I love, love, love your interview! You really have a great review system!

    What draws me into a book and makes me love it would overall have to be the originality of it! Someone could easily get sick of a book if it seems too much like others they've read, but if the book has an original plot line and characters and brings uniqueness to it then it will definitely be loved by many!

    infinitemusic19 at gmail dot com

  56. What draws you to love certain books? The characters? The romance? The writing? Anything else? - The main draw (for me) is the plot, especially if it is original, weird, or contains one of my favorite speculative fiction elements (like parallel universes or Atlantis). But beautiful writing, characters, and sometimes romance also attracts me.

    paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

  57. the thing that draws me to a book is: origionality of the plot, the writing prose, and the characters.

    haley mathiot at yahoo dot com

  58. I guess it would have to be a combination of all these. First of all, the main idea of the book has to capture my attention. It doesn't have to be something original, but if it is well told, then I'll definitely will love to read. In second place comes the characters. They're the foundation of the whole story, so if I don't sympathize whith them, I'll not like to continue reading. And last comes the romance. Of course that part is important (i'm a girl, c'mon), but just not as the other two.

    juiceb0xx at hotmail dot com

  59. Blair

    If you don't have a good writting style you don't have a good book!!!!

    Thanks for this chance to win this amazing book!!!

  60. Shawna Lewis

    Well.... I think that if it is written good it will be a good book!!!!

    Thanks for the Ash Giveaway!!!

  61. What draws me to certain books? Well, the plot should be good with no loopholes.

    A definite pull-me-in factor would be a book that can make me laugh, for instance 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon'. :)



  62. What draws me to a book? Well, I guess it's a combination of things that makes me love a book. But the plot is what really draws me in. Sometimes if there's an excerpt on the back of the book and the writing is good then that draws me in too.

    shutupjessicasreading at gmaildotcom

  63. Mary D
    zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

    What draws me to a book is, firstly, The Title and then I check out the cover art (some of these latest book releases feature just incredibly eye-catching art!). Anyway, THEN I read the back cover or inside flap to see if the plot is something that would intrigue me.
    I think, being an artist as well as a writer, I am perhaps more visually captured than the typical reader. But don't get me wrong lol, some of the best books I own have lousy covers (or none at all). It's just a real bonus when wonderful cover art meets talented writer!

  64. To start with, the story is what draws me in. It is not always the same genera though. It really depends on what mood i am in. Also the characters, they have to be someone i can relate to.


  65. To start with, the story is what draws me in. It is not always the same genera though. It really depends on what mood i am in. Also the characters, they have to be someone i can relate to.


  66. Wow this was a great review, I'm dying to read it! I just love the cover! Wow, I feel pretty dumb....I just now realized it was a GIRL on the cover, I always thought it was crumpled up paper! I love it even more now, haha.

    What draws you to love certain books? I LOVE books with romance, they really draw me in. Also, I don't like whiny characters - I like characters that are kind of shy and keep to themselves.

  67. I love reading about strong women.



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