Pros: lush imagery
Cons: relationships aren't quite as well depicted as the scenery
Ash is a retelling of the Cinderella myth as an actual fairy tale, involving fairies, fairy lore, witches, a curse, and yes, queer acceptance.
Ash is Aisling, orphaned after her mother's death and her father's subsequent remarriage to a woman with two daughters and a house in the city. Aisling's mother had once been apprenticed to a greenwitch, but her father -- and his new wife -- don't believe in the old ways, to his detriment once he becomes ill. After his death, his new wife finds he had debts, and she forces Ash into servitude to pay them off. Away from everything she knows: her forest, her mother's grave, and all the people of her village.
Once in the city, Ash wanders repeatedly into the forest, wanting to flee to the world of the fairies. She keeps running into Sidhean, but he tells her she isn't ready to come with him yet, sending her back time and time again to her life of misery. She meets the king's huntress, however, who teaches her to ride and invites her first on a hunt, then to join her at the ball.
Ash is torn between true love and fairy love; which will she choose?
The imagery in Ash is gorgeous, and you can picture every scene, from Ash's encounters with Sidhean in the woods to her gown when she finally does attend the fabled ball. You can feel her despair at being left alone in the world, and the comfort her book of fairy tales brings her. Her desire to disappear into the woods with the fairies is understandable, but Sidhean's denial of her each time and sending her back to her sad life is not, and is never fully explained. Worse, though, I felt no true connection between either Ash and Sidhean or Ash and the huntress, Kaisa. Ostensibly, I knew from descriptions of the book before I read it how it would end, but I didn't find myself caring much either way which Ash chose. The settings were perfect, but the relationships paled in comparison.
This review originally appeared at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/189368794