Lo, Malinda. Ash (2010). 272 Pages. Little, Brown Books. $8.99
Aisling is Cinderella, and not Cinderella at the same time. Her mother died when she was young, and her father not long after– though he survived long enough to marry the cruel Lady Isolde. Without her parents to protect her, Ash is at the mercy of her stepmother and her stepsisters, who use her as a maid to settle her father’s debts. Her stepmother especially grinds her down, allowing freedoms only when she is gone.
It is when Lady Isolde, Ana and Clara are gone that Ash learns to live, exploring the magical woods near her home, where she meets Sidhean, an attractive, and strangely protective fairy* who becomes her only friend in this oppressive world.
When Ash is older, things begin to change. She meets Kaisa– the King’s Huntress– who invites her along on a hunt. Desperate to attend, she asks Sidhean for help, which he grants with a steep price. During the hunt, she meets Prince Aidan, heir to the throne, and eligible bachelor.
The hunt leads to the traditional ball, which she attends because Kaisa asks her to– where Aidan is completely enchanted by Aisling– and Aisling must escape before the magic runs out at midnight. Things progress from here in a not-quite Cinderella-esque fashion, and ultimately Aisling finds that she must fight for what she desires.
Aisling’s mother died at midsummer. She had fallen sick so suddenly that some of the villagers wondered if the fairies had come and taken her, for she was still young and beautiful. She was buried three days later beneath the hawthorn tree behind the house, just as twilight was darkening the sky.