AUTHOR: Malinda Lo
PUBLISHER: Hodder Children's
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling, LGBT
RATING: 4.5/5 Stars
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
What I Liked:
- Malinda Lo proved herself a masterful writer with this solid retelling of 'Cinderella'. It many of the recognisable traits of the classic tale: a ball, a prince stepmother and stepsisters, fairy magic and romance, but gave them such a spin that actually most of them were not the focus of the story. This LGBT retelling instead focuses on Cinderella's grief and despair as she chases fairy tales and superstition in the hopes of escaping her miserable life. It tells a tale of love coming from the most unexpected places and is a real 'be careful what you wish for' cautionary tale. I loved all of the unexpected twists on the original, especially the way the 'fairy Godmother' was handled!
- Of course, let's look at the LGBT aspect and diversity in this story because it's done beautifully. In this story, despite the Fantasy setting which normally sees women in an inferior position, the King's royal hunt is always led by a women. In fact, the characters in this book were pretty much solely women save for a few, and the men included had very little to do with the story. LGBT relationships are referred to with the same respect and reverence as heterosexual romance and I loved that there was no struggle on that part. Ash and the Huntress fell for each other without judgement or worry about what their peers may think. I wish more books, especially Fantasy, would integrate LGBT+ relationships in this way.
What I Disliked:
- This was a surefire five star read up until the very end, because it was so darned rushed in comparison with the rest of the book. I felt like after a gorgeous build-up displaying a choice between giving up her mortal life and paying a debt, or choosing true love and risking a dangerous enemy, our MC ended up stamping her foot about how unfair it all was, then just getting away freely with no consequences whatsoever! It didn't help that at times, while Ash was a great narrative, she lacked a little bit of personality.
This is a beautiful story for a variety of reasons: wonderfully written, gorgeous world-building and LGBT inclusion to die for. I loved the diversity and clever twists on the original story. I read every page eagerly and devoured this story. It was a bit of a shame that the ending felt so rushed in comparison to the rest of the story, and the happy ending did come a little too easily. The characters were really likeable with an individual spark about them, though at times Ash herself felt a little dull by comparison. But make no mistake, this is a gem of a story, and I shall certainly be reading 'Huntress' which is set in the same world!