Aug 292014
 

ash_malindalo_500Ash, by Melinda Lo

Synopsis: An asexual lesbian retelling of the Cinderella story

Book Review: I’m reluctant to say bad things about this book, because it seems to have come from a sincere place. So I’ll start by saying it was nice to see some depth in the evil step-mother and step-sisters. They were still evil, but not for the sake of generic evil-doing, but for good reasons. We as readers could detest them properly, the way real shitty people deserve to be detested. :) And the imagery in the book is beautiful, Lo knows how to turn a paragraph into a painting. The important things pop out and grab you.

But that being said, I’m glad I had heard beforehand that this was a lesbian retelling, because I wouldn’t have known it until halfway through the last chapter otherwise. Not once did I get the impression Ash was attracted to the huntress. I don’t expect erotica, but even a mention that her pulse quickening would be something. Honestly, I feel more passion toward my platonic male friends than Ash did to her love interest. Which is why I said this was an asexual lesbian retelling – but in retrospect, that is unfair to asexuals. Because it wasn’t just a lack of sexual attraction or tension – Ash doesn’t seem to feel any strong emotion at any point in the book. Reading this was very much like watching Kristen Stewart act. There is only one expression, and it is always Bland.

I was also annoyed by how many times something really interesting and potentially emotionally-involving is brought up, and then is never mentioned again. The “dry, atheist philosophers” vs “earthy, nature-based spirituality” was being set up very nicely, and I thought I could get good and steamed about that, but no – nothing. It just petered away. Same with the conflict between the male and the female fairies. And Ash’s mother’s journal. And on and on. So many things that I can’t even call “missed opportunities”, because they were clearly being capitalized on! Before they are entirely forgotten.

And finally, the way Ash gets out of her obligation to the fairy at the end is simply a reinforcement of every negative stereotype of women that every MRA-douchebag has ever vomited forth, and just made me give up in complete despair. If that’s what love is, you can count me out.

But more than anything, the book was just boring, primarily because of its lack of emotion. Not Recommended

Book Club Review: Even if there had been good emotion and strong plotting and I enjoyed the story, I still don’t think this would make a good Book Club book, because it just doesn’t have anything to say. It’s a “Thing That Happened” story. It doesn’t champion any struggle, say anything about the human condition, or question any assumptions. It doesn’t even have a new take on the Cinderella story. It’s just there. Swirsky’s “All That Fairy Tale Crap may have an unlikable protagonist, but it has more to say in a few thousand words than Ash said in a full novel. Not Recommended.

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