These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2009 August #5
This debut, a retelling of Cinderella in which the heroine falls in love with a beautiful huntress rather than a prince, should establish Lo as a gifted storyteller. Aisling, aka Ash, is newly orphaned, her beloved mother dead and her father soon to follow. But not before he marries the woman who plays the part of Ash’s wicked stepmother and provides her with equally unkind stepsisters. Only Ash’s periodic trips into a fairy-filled wood at night and time spent with the beguiling huntress Kaisa—who enthralls Ash more and more—save her from her oppressive new existence. Lo’s prose is beautiful, her descriptions lush; the novel’s one flaw is that the third-person narrative keeps readers at arm’s length. The dialogue is sparse, with Lo spending most of her time on narration, making it difficult to connect emotionally with Ash. This aside, Lo offers an important twist on a classic story that will appeal to a wide readership, especially those looking for a girl romance. Ages 15–up. (Sept.)
[Page 60]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2009 September
Gr 8 Up—Described as “Cinderella…with a twist,” Ash is in many ways the familiar fairy tale about a girl’s move from comfort to despair to true love (with a little help from fairies and magic). Standard Cinderella images set up the story: after losing her mother and later her father, Ash is treated as a servant in the home of an unkind stepmother and two unfriendly stepsisters. She has ties to the fairy world, attends the royal ball in an enchanted dress, catches the eye of the prince, and finds love by the end of the story. However, while structural similarities exist, ideologically Lo’s beautiful and dark tale takes the story to a new place. It is not about Ash being found and saved by a charming prince; instead, it is about her courtship with Kaisa, the King’s huntress, a relationship that burgeons over time and is based on more than just initial attraction. Despite Ash’s grief, oppressive guardianship, and dangerous flirtation with the fairy Sidhean, who promises to steal her away from her sadness, the protagonist finds her own salvation and chooses to live and love in the real world and on her own terms. Ash will appeal to readers looking for GLBTQ titles, but fans of romance, fantasy, and strong female protagonists will also embrace this fine debut novel.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
[Page 164]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Booklist Reviews 2009 September #2
In this groundbreaking, gender-mixing retelling, it’s another woman at court, not the prince, who captures Cinderella’s heart. After she loses both her parents, Aisling, or Ash, becomes a beleaguered servant to her cruel stepmother and husband-hunting stepsisters, but an enchantment allows her to attend a ball, where the prince finds her irresistible. Here, though, is where Lo’s debut diverges from the original tale’s familiar plot points. The magical godmother in this story is actually an ethereal male, Sidhean, whose fairy kingdom lies hidden in the vibrant, wild forest that Ash loves. Among the trees, she also meets Kaisa, the king’s huntress, with whom she feels an overwhelming, real-world pull, and it’s Kaisa, not the prince, who inspires Ash to make a perilous, soul-threatening pact with Sidhean and attend the court balls in enchanted disguise. Part heart-pounding lesbian romance and part universal coming-of-age story, Lo’s powerful tale is richly embroidered with folklore and glittering fairy magic that will draw fans of Sharon Shinn’s earthy, herb-laced fantasies. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
The Horn Book
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #6
This promising debut novel, set in a pseudo-historical Celtic society in which magic is just starting to be regarded as superstition, adds a few new twists to the Cinderella story. Ash (short for Aisling), indentured to her stepmother following her father’s death, escapes the drudgery of her new life in the city with visits to her old home (and her mother’s grave) in the country. There she meets Sidhean, an enigmatic fairy with a mysterious connection to her mother — and conflicting impulses regarding his interest in Ash. The first half of the book covers Ash’s teen years and introduces her brash, modern-thinking stepfamily, who reject the Celtic mores Ash’s rural community still adheres to. This opening may move slowly for some readers, but the time spent on world-building pays off when the second half picks up the pace, allowing readers a deepened sense of Ash’s character as she forms an unlikely friendship, then falls in love, with the king’s huntress, Kaisa. Their gradually developed relationship is heartfelt, presented with a stylized fairy-tale matter-of-factness that heightens the book’s romantic aura and expands its audience. The juxtaposition of Kaisa and Sidhean as Ash’s suitors is particularly thought-provoking — Kaisa is warm and constant, tethering Ash to the real world, while Sidhean is changeable and seductive, offering an escape from the hardships of human existence — and invites readers to consider the nature of fictional and folkloric constructs of romantic ideals. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2009 October
Ash has lost her mother. Shortly after her father remarries, he dies as well. Taken far away from her beloved childhood home and its magical woods, Ash becomes an indentured servant to Stepmother and two Stepsisters. Befriended by Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, Ash is offered a chance to ride in the first great hunt of the season. She desperately wants to go, but in order to do so, she must first enter into an illicit bond with the Fairy, Sidhean. Unsure of what her full repayment might entail, Ash only knows she would risk anything to see Kaisa again. Part one of this Cinderella-with-a-twist remake displays all of the fine elements of a Donna Jo Napoli tale. In the second part, however, the story begins to degrade. Ash’s life is followed from ages thirteen to eighteen, and yet there is nary a mention of any budding sexual preferences. It is therefore, a bit bizarre when Ash ultimately develops feelings for Kaisa. Also, the Huntress herself is fairly undefined; one feels at a loss to fully grasp her connection to Ash or even her physical details. More disturbingly, the male characters are either nondescript or negatively portrayed, which is somewhat off-putting and unnecessary (Father inexplicably dwindled away the family fortune; Prince is war-worn and bloodthirsty). Overall it is an admirable first effort, and unless there is an objection to same-sex romance (which is neither overplayed nor in-your-face), this book should appeal to teenage girls and fairy tale/fantasy fans. —Ann Welton. 3Q 2P J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.