So it’s June and this is the May book review. This is because I finished Ash in May and then immediately needed to read Huntress as well, for reasons, but the only bookstore and libraries in my town did not have it and I had to scramble with online ordering.
May was Asian Pacific Heritage Month and I interpreted this by… reading some fairy tales by Malinda Lo, at drift partner’s recommendation. These are fairy tales with influences from Asian cultures and they are absolutely freaking beautiful, okay. I would say this even if they were not both very, very gay, but the very, very gay aspect is a bonus.
Ash is Cinderella, essentially. Aisling, called Ash because that’s how names that are originally Irish work, is mistreated when her father’s second wife takes the house over after his death. But there’s all sorts of magic and in-story fairy tales and actual fairies and look what I’m saying is there’s a fairy boyfriend instead of a fairy godmother and he kind of unnerved me because that’s just my reaction to most men in stories anymore but it was interesting having the magic and the fairy thing twined in with the story much earlier on.
And then! Then Ash meets Kaisa, the king’s huntress, because the king has a huntress and isn’t that cool, and it’s enchantingly gay and happily ever after breaking out of abusive situations it’s just freaking perfect and lovely and it’s YA so it’s not the most complicated prose in the world but what I’m learning is, it’s just easier to find YA stories about ladyqueer that are happy and whatever I’ll do what it takes.
Huntress is… its own thing. The story is a bit more complicated, the book is a bit longer and more intense, but it works as a fairy tale I think partially because there’s not really a lot about the story that’s unfamiliar but also it’s entirely original? It feels traditional but new all at the same time. And it’s steeped in lore and tradition and influences from Chinese magic and Japanese archery and and and names and beings and it’s so interesting! Because high fantasy is, by and large, a very European genre, but this doesn’t feel European, it feels like its own separate kind of world.
And also, Taisin and Kaede are lovely and… it’s not a happy ending, per se, but it is 2016 the year of the dead ladyqueer and I was expecting horror. Another thing is, it felt like a story I’ve been hearing forever (in a good way) but virtually all of the important characters were women and that’s cool because standard fairy tales, even the ones with lots of women (like Cinderella, actually) hinge on aggressive heterosexuality/a male presence that affects and doesn’t, like Con, exist mostly to encourage girls.
I think the thing I need to say is: these books were beautiful and Malinda Lo’s Acknowledgements section makes my heart warm and fuzzy. There’s just a beautiful sense of “everything is right” with these.
–your fangirl heroine.