In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
I had a feeling early on that I would find this book difficult to review. I can say that I definitely liked it, but beyond that it’s hard to describe.
It would be easy for some readers to find the protagonist, Ash, annoying in her long-running grief–first of her mother and then later her father–but it’s important to remember that Ash’s circumstances worsened in both cases as well. Not only was she grieving but she was also dealing with a whole new level of nonsense–first with the introduction of her father’s new and unpleasant wife, Lady Isobel, and then later being forced into servitude as a punishment for her father’s financial struggles after he had died and was no longer around to protect her from her stepmother, who seemed to take her mere existence as a personal affront. It was interesting to have a reason attached to Ash’s stepmother turning her into the family servant, although certainly not a justification for the abuse that ensued, because while the treatment was still horrifying, it did feel more realistic.
I found Ash to be an oddly detached character with the narration being quite distant. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the way this story was told reminds me of stories I read when I was in primary school. That was a massive hit of nostalgia.
The portrayal of the fairy Sidhean was also quite interesting. Ash’s awareness of there being a sense of compulsion around him, while not necessarily succumbing emotionally to his charms, was a breath of fresh air.
I also liked that there was no real sexual orientation panic when Ash became aware of the possibility that she was falling in love with the huntress, Kaisa. Ash’s worry regarding the situation owed more to her own dealings with the fairy world. Same-sex attraction wasn’t entirely normalised in the same sense as heterosexuality, but it certainly wasn’t deemed lesser, either.
The ending felt a little rushed to me, but overall this was an enjoyable read. I’m going to have to read the companion novel, Huntress, at some point, aren’t I?