Author: Malinda Lo
Reading Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Lo
This book opens in a fairy-tale world of mythical beings, magic and evil stepmothers. Ash, still grieving the recent death of her beloved mother, is dumbfounded when her father returns from a long trip with a new wife and daughters in tow. Shortly after, Ash is left alone in the world, except for the evil stepmother and stepsisters. They initially treat her like family, but after a not-so-stunning revelation, Ash is relegated to a role as housekeeper and cook. So begins this tale which just seems like another remake of the, often used but never really interesting, Cinderella story. But don’t give up on it yet! This story is dark and completely beautiful which is exponentially better than any fairy-tale remake or rehash that I have read in a long time. Ash does meet a prince named Sidhean who is a fairy that knew her mother. She also befriends the king’s huntress Kaisa. Both of these two characters show her the kindness she is denied by her stepfamily. It is her developing relationship with both characters that help define this book and set it apart from so many others in this genre. Of course, the question in the end is still, how will she have a happily-ever-after? But I think for this book the real question becomes, with whom will Ash have her happily-ever-after?
The author really does a wonderful job with this story. The book is not long and the author uses every well-placed phrase to further develop her characters and their relationships with each other. The author makes a real effort to bring layers to all her characters and meaning to their actions, whether good or bad. Some characters do still fall flat, despite these efforts. However, the three main characters while not as complex as I would like, still shine bright in this creative re-telling of an all too familiar tale.
The Bottom Line: It sounds like the same old fairy tale, but Ash is a quick, romance with great characters and a unique storyline. Read it if you enjoy a more untraditional happily ever after.