Author: Malinda Lo
Page Count: 264
Published: September 1st, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
5 Stars ★★★★★
Ash's mother dies, and soon after her father marries Lady Isobel. But when her father falls ill and dies as well, she is left in her stepmother's care. They move away from her childhood home to a new one, where Ash lives her life as a servant.
She becomes acquainted with a fairy, Sidhean, and later meets the king's huntress, Kaisa. While she's grateful for their company, she longs to attend the various events taking place around her home, including dances and hunts. But while her wishes may be granted, they come at a price.
I don't read many fairy tale retellings but this one was worth reading. I was worried that it would be exactly the same as the story, Cinderella, which it was based on, but the author changed things up a bit in interesting and enjoyable ways. I liked the way that fairy stories played a part in this book, and the way that Sidhean was portrayed. He wasn't open and generous as the fairy godmother in the Cinderella stories that I've read, instead everything had a price and this added some tension and a bit of suspense. However, I do wish that the author had added more scenes with Sidhean because I wanted to know more about him.
I thought Ash was a great main character, she tried to make the best of her situation and she never truly gave up, even when things seemed impossible. She was strong and determined, and at times a little bit impulsive, but she was overall very likeable. Kaisa was also a great character and a good love interest, however I wish the author had added more dialogue between her and Ash. I wanted to know more about Kaisa's life!
The world-building was incredible, I felt like I was there with Ash throughout the whole book and I could picture the settings vividly. The descriptions were amazing, the author describing everything in detail so that I could see everything as Ash did. I usually get bored when there is too much description but I was completely entranced by the way everything seemed to come alive like a movie in my mind.
I do feel like the ending was a bit rushed and almost convenient. While this didn't take away from the quality of the book overall, it irked me a bit that everything was resolved so easily. If the curses or spells that had been cast upon Sidhean were really so strong as to make him feel emotions as intense as love, it shouldn't have been so easy for Ash to get out of paying the price for her wishes.
This was a great retelling of Cinderella, with a few twists and amazing world-building. I recommend this to those looking for books with LGBTQ characters without a focus on coming out, fans of fairy tale retellings and those who enjoy fantasy novels.