When her beloved mother dies, Aisling's small, perfect world is shattered. Two weeks after the funeral, her father abandons her for the city, leaving Ash alone with her grief in their country house bordering the Wood.
But when her father returns, he astonishes Ash by presenting her with a new stepmother and two stepsisters. He also brings with him a book of fairy tales, meant to replace Ash's dead mother's stories. In a land where the fairies still cling to close memory, haunting the shadows in the Wood behind her home, the stories call to Ash's lonely heart. Each night, Ash curls up on her mother's grave with the book, drinking in the tales of ordinary people losing themselves to the faires.
When her father becomes ill, their stepmother moves them to the outskirts of the city. When he too dies, and Ash believes there is nothing left for her in the mortal world. Informed by her stepmother that she must work off her father's debts, Ash accepts her fate with a cold indifference. Her only escape is into the Wood, where she meets Sidhean, a fairy prince of fierce, inhuman beauty. Though Ash wants more than anything for her fairy to take her away, he refuses, though he cannot seem to stay away from her, nor she from him.
And then Ash meets Kaisa, the king's Huntress, in the Wood. Kaisa is warm, and real, and encourages Ash to emerge from her shell of grief and fantasy. As their friendship grows, Ash finds herself faced with a choice - between Sidhean and his cold, glittering immortality, and Kaisa's real, human world, with all its sorrows and joys.
A haunting, beautiful tale of the power of grief and love, Malinda Lo's debut novel is, in my humble opinion, one of the best of 2009. Ash's journey through the dark shadowland of grief will make your heart ache, her encounters with the darkly terrifying Sidhean will give you the shivers, and the time she spends with the adventurous Kaisa will make it just as hard for you to choose between the fairy and the Huntress as it is for Ash. Nominated for this year's Morris Award, fans of dark fantasy and fairy tale retellings have got to check out Ash @ the library!
(who finished Splendor, the final Luxe novel over the break - it was better than fudge!)