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Old 24th Feb 2015, 23:23   #1
JunkMonkey
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Default Malinda Lo: Ash

Cinderella reimagined in an ill-defined Olde Worlde Fairy Tale Time where characters use very modern expressions like:

"You disrespect me and what I do for you."

and eat potatoes, and where Cinders (here renamed 'Ash') falls - agonisingly slowly - in vague, ill-defined, lesbian love with the 'Royal Huntress'. The wish-granting Fairy Godmother role is given to a male fairy who turns out to be, potentially, the most interesting character in the whole story. (The fairies here it must be said, are not the winged flittterers of Victorian children's book illustration but ethereal, razor cheeked, otherworldly types prone to luring innocents astray, stealing babies and draining the souls of all who meet them.) This male fairy is, it turns out later in the book, under a spell cast by a human and cursed to be in love with our heroine. It's an interesting idea let down by a plodding, juvenile, vague and waffly prose style which spends a lot of time describing the heroine's inner-indecisiveness and feelings of impotence and not a lot else. When we do get out of our heroine's head, and away from her endless dream sequences - and the endless exchanges of smiles, laughs, and coy blushes shared with her lesbian idol - things get even duller. Stuff happens but it's hazy and plodding. Descriptions of things outside our heroine's head are stuffed full of vagueness. Lo uses 'a bit' and 'seemed', and 'some sort' an awful lot.

What this book needed was a good editor to tell Lo to go back and do it properly. A good editor would have caught things like 'the number of servants were' and straightened out the strange habit Americans have of semi-randomly capitalising anything to do with royalty. The city in which a lot of the floppy 'action' of this book takes place is referred to initially as 'the Royal City' so, thereafter, any mention of the word city is capitalised: City. Likewise 'the King', 'the Queen':

'We will hunt tomorrow and though the King and Queen will return to the City, the hunt will remain here...' pg. 201

For some strange reason the prince, unless he is referred to by name, doesn't get a capital P. The heroine's love interest is alternately: the 'Royal Huntress', or 'the huntress'. Surely if the City gets a big C every time it is mentioned the huntress should get a big H too.

And a decent editor would have taken sentences like this outside and had them shot.

"'You look as if you are leaving,' said Kaisa and those around them turned to look at whom the King's Huntress spoke to. " pg 200

Why the royal hunt is always lead by a woman is never explained. Why is the leader of the royal hunt a woman? Who knows? The rest of the society seems to operate in a stereotypical male dominated fashion with all the women portrayed either as servants or competing for a good husband (or both). The only woman shown to have gained a position of power through her own endeavours is the huntress and that is in a job reserved for women. Early in the book a good, old-fashioned, feminist fantasy trope is trotted out as a patriarchal 'church' sweeps away the more female dominated world of magic but this strand of the story is quickly abandoned and seems to be there merely to establish that women are a bit magicy and blokes aren't. This church of rational philosophers certainly doesn't bring our heroine into conflict or pose any threat to her. In fact there is very little conflict or threat of any kind in this book. The only real danger hanging over Ash (apart from the panto dame stepmother) is the ill-defined 'price' demanded by the fairy godfather for his services. In the end this threat just vanishes when the heroine asks nicely for it to go away.

Gay relationships seem to be accepted without much comment in this society so there is very little inner turmoil / guilt / shame / angst to be dragged out of the closet. Furthermore, since Ash didn't seem to be interested in the prince, the prince not even really aware of Ash (they dance once and he abandons her almost immediately), and the huntress doesn't appear to be interested in anyone else but Ash, there's bugger all conflict getting in the way of True Love at all!

The only discernible (intentional) joke in the whole thing is that the house where the stepmother and her three daughters live without male company is called 'Quinn House' which (seems), if you look at it carelessly and squint your eyes (a bit), could be read 'Quim' House. Ho Ho Ho.

My teenage daughter thought it was pants too. (Though I don't think she got the 'quim' joke.)
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Old 25th Feb 2015, 7:00   #2
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Ash by Malinda Lo

Oh dear. Admittedly it was several years ago that I read it and the style does seem quite feeble there. I hope other books are more enjoyable and stylistically more impressive.
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