Get ready for an unconventional retelling of the Cinderella tale!
In Malinda Lo's debut novel, Ash is still grieving over the death of her mother when her father, newly remarried, takes to his sick bed and suddenly dies. In order to pay off her father's debts (there is some question in my mind about whether there were really debts), Ash's cruel stepmother presses her into service as the housekeeper in order save money on hired help. Ash, stricken with loneliness and grief, becomes more and more enamored with the fairy world of the Wood outside her back door. In order to escape her suffering, Ash walks along the edge of reality, courting powers beyond her understanding.
As a retelling of Cinderella, we are given the familiar mean stepmother and uncaring stepsisters, but Lo takes several detours to give us a fresh take on an old standby. The heroine has, not one, but two loves interests, and neither of them is Prince Charming. Sinister fairy magic also abounds, along with the enigmatic and fascinating introduction of the King's Huntress. While the unconventional love story and overtones in Ash might be a little troubling for conservative traditionalists, overall it is a story of healing and hope. Beautiful prose and lush descriptions make for a delicious read. Recommended.