I've noticed a general trend with lesbian and gay fiction (that I've read, of course I haven't read ALL there is). Maybe I'm picky, but lesbian and gay fiction in general seems to be poorly done--particularly in the Young Adult areas. Probably this is because lesbian and gay fiction is a small market right now (although it's growing), and, as with other small markets (such as the LDS market for example) it's easier for people to get published simply because there's a need for SOMETHING in this area. Unfortunately this book doesn't stray from this disappointing trend.
I will say that the premise is interesting and catches my attention, but the writing is...well...painful.
And here's why:
-insufficient character development
-too much description
-lots of adverbs: unkindly, gruffly, sharply, quickly, shortly
-tags: Beatrice ordered, Ash objected, Ash asked in a thin voice, Ash replied, Lady Isobel inquired, the woman teased, the huntress affirmed, exclaimed the woman, Ash interrupted, Ash asked curiously...
While the world-building was very interesting (I've realized I do like to see world building because it's quite fascinating), it took over the story and didn't allow for the kind of character development I'd like to see. It also seemed that the story took forever long to get to her "grown up" stage which is where the real story takes place. We all know the general plot of a cinderella story: the mom dies, the dad remarries, the dad dies, the step mom and daughters treat her like shit...But what makes this story different (aside from the very cool magic stuff) is the prince-charming aspect, and let's be honest here--that's what we want to get to!
One of my favorite re-tellings of the Cinderella story is Elle Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. That book is well paced, has a very unique angle, and builds up a very cool world while using this fairy tale that everyone knows. Ash had some similarities to Ella Enchanted, but for me, it just wasn't paced right. It didn't introduce the love interest early enough into the story. It felt very repetitive with the dreams and otherworldly aspects, and overall was just too wordy.
Ash wasn't for me, but I certainly give kudos to Malinda Lo for writing this book. Writing is really HARD. And, although, this one didn't work for me, I know a lot of work went into this book. I particularly enjoyed seeing a lesbian relationship in a magical setting, because most I've read have been contemporary.