My dad once said to me, "You give a lot of books three stars." I do.
I enjoyed Ash as much as I think is possible for me. This is not my usual fare. I don’t really read fantasy. And if I do, I tend towards sci-fi fantasy/adventure stories than romances. That said, Ash wasn’t bad. It might be cliche. I don’t know. I have nothing to compare it to. (I’m guessing it’s not cliche though.)
Ash is a retelling of the Cinderella story. The cover looks like most YA covers on the market these days, but the story feels like something I would have read when I was twelve (if I ever read fantasy novels, it was when I was twelve). If I had to label it in a way that other people can understand I’d say that it feels timeless.
I think Cinderella is one of the most retold/adapted stories ever (don’t quote me on that, I have no source other than my brain telling me that’s true, but I can think of at least five versions of the story right off the top of my head.) That said, Ash felt fresh. It’s an imaginative retelling of the story that keeps familiar elements but avoids feeling derivative of any previous versions. (Except for the dress. Why does everyone feel the need to put Cinderella in an ice blue dress for the ball?)
I didn’t find the story incredibly compelling, but it moves along at a good pace. The writing is often beautiful, but I found myself skipping over the descriptions after a while. The characters (some of them) are well thought out, but I found all the romances unbelievable. I was also more interested in the secondary characters than in Ash’s story. I really wanted more about Clara and even Gwen to some extent.
I didn’t hate Ash, but I didn’t love it. I just didn’t feel that invested in or compelled by the characters. It’s another one of those novels where stuff happens because of reasons, and I just kind of went along with it. It wasn’t so bad that I felt offended while reading it, but it wasn’t so good that I really enjoyed it. However, it was nice to read a novel that was a stand-alone story rather than being the first in a series.*
Also, parts of the book felt heteronormative to me, which is strange since I'm pretty sure Malinda Lo has spoken out against heteronormativity and specifically said the book isn't heteronormative. But the scene where Gwen is asking Ash if she dreamt of her future husband? No one says, hey maybe Ash isn't into guys. No one corrects Gwen. Not one single person. They just let her go on and on about husbands (I could be misremembering the exact details, but I'm pretty sure that was the gist of the scene).