Ash, by Malinda Lo (Buddy Review with Amanda at Zen Leaf)

Amanda and I read 'Ash' by Malinda Lo at the same time, so we did a little buddy review of it. This is the second half of that review, the first half being at her blog.

The story in Ash is pretty simple - it is a retelling of Cinderella, but one in which the 'fairy godmother' (a man in this case) is in love with Cinderella, and where instead of falling for the prince, Cinderella falls for the King's Huntress. I didn't enjoy it as much as Amanda, but it was a wonderful premise. Here's the second half of the review:


Jason: I did not notice that. You'll laugh at me, but for a minute, I thought she was going to say the prince had a boyfriend at one point :D. But, then, it's interesting because even in this world, homosexuality felt like a rare exception to the general rule, an outlier not described properly by the 'rules of the game' - but that's just an impression. What you bring up about the romance is an interesting point. I didn't feel like it was like that with her fairy lover, but I certainly did with the huntress. But that didn't bother me, or impede my feeling like they were in love. I mean, part of what makes people so well suited to each other, I think, is that they can give each other what they need, you know? True love is more than just romantic attraction, it's feeling a comfort with each other. Some people need someone to be a comforter, some people need someone who is good at appreciating them, some people need someone who makes them feel like they are at home, etc. We all have things we need, and part of the beauty of love is that we can give those things to each other. So, which characters did you feel like you related to?

Amanda: I think it's uncomfortable to think about people choosing their romantic partners based on them being mother or father figures to them. Maybe it's because I was once in one of those types of relationships, but I think that there's automatically going to be a block in such cases. I get the impression that Ash and Kaisa could not live happily ever after because Ash really has some major issues to work out in herself. And I liked that about her. I liked that that was realistic.

I'm not sure I really related to any of the characters personally. I usually don't when it comes to fairy tales. Certainly I didn't to Ash or Sidhean. I understood Ash's stepmother and stepsisters, but didn't really relate to them either. I suppose in some ways I could understand Kaisa the best, though I felt like her character was a bit underdeveloped. I do like that she was considered a high station even though she was the king's huntress. I guess I assumed, when I first heard of the hunters and huntresses, that they were similar to the king's military - upper lower class, higher than servant but not royalty. It was interesting that she had a status above Lords. That wasn't something I expected. An interesting little twist in their world.

Who did you relate most to?

Jason: I think, in fairy tales, I usually relate to situations, more than characters. But in that sense, I related to Sidhean's situation, the sort of steady descent. Particularly at the end, where you learn that he has a curse that he, frankly, earned fair and square for his actions, I understood his character. I think sometimes I have to be cursed in order to learn, that I'm too oblivious to learn things without having my eyes opened by force. And so, the feeling that for him to grow he had to decay, and to be opened into real, genuine emotions (both love and regret, and then loss), was poignant to me - though I wish the last scene with him could have been a bit more evocative. I didn't mind it fading out then in the way it did, I just felt like that was the climactic scene for him, not her, and that he is almost absent in it.

Amanda: I'd agree with you on that sentiment. That was part of the place where I wish there had been MORE to the text. I personally am not convinced that Sidhean felt any real emotions, honestly. I don't know that a curse could actually make him feel something real, or that his feelings were ever anything more than lust/greed. There's argument both ways, but I couldn't feel like he really loved her, which I guess is why part of the ending felt false/unsettled to me. I needed more in order to buy into the way the book ended, to the way the characters all resolved their fates.

But overall, I really enjoyed the book. I'm sorry you didn't like it more. :/

Jason: Yes, that's part of the frustration, for me, is I felt like I had to really work to make up my own stories in this book - a fairy tale, to me, is just the opposite, it's this sort of infinitely fertile ground, that lets your brain spring up in different ways. Here, it felt like it was explained too much for that, but then not explained enough to be a world-intensive story like historical fiction or high fantasy might be. It kind of teetered back and forth and didn't succeed as either for me. But, honestly again, I think it is probably just me. I probably wanted the book to be something it just wasn't intended to be. Thanks for reading it with me, though :).


Amanda said...

Thanks for reading/reviewing with me even if you didn't like it as much.

Jason Gignac said...

Oh, no, thank you for having me :). I really WANTED to like it more, and I was glad I could read it with you :).

Trisha said...

See, here I was making a comment on Amanda's blog about how polite you two are to each other and then I come across this little exchange between you guys. :) Did you two like make out after this convo? Okay, wait, that's probably too personal.

As for the book, now I'm all divided on whether or not to read it. I think I may have to just for the experience, but first I'm going to read that Beastly book....

Anonymous said...

I've read another review of this book, can't remember where, but the things you guys brought away from it are so different from the other reviewer, I'm really curious to read it now.

Nymeth said...

"Here, it felt like it was explained too much for that, but then not explained enough to be a world-intensive story like historical fiction or high fantasy might be."

Yes! This is exactly how I felt about it, only I'd never been able to articulate it before. So yeah, I wanted to like it but sadly felt much like you did.

Jason Gignac said...

Ms Trisha - you'll never know, will you? ;P

Ms villanegativa - the book, I know, could be read a number of different ways. I suppose part of the problem to me was that it felt like that was inadvertent - that it just was almost but not quote several different things.

Ms Nymeth - it's kind of a shame - I felt like... I dunno. Like this was a really great first draft of a novel. It was frustrating because it WAS such an interesting premise.