This week I am going to Japan with my best friend, which we are excited about for many reasons.
CHIARA: As a diplomat, I am very much looking forward to the cultural experience.
SARAH: I hope we can go to a cafe where they will give me KITTENS to play with!
CHIARA: The beautiful palace at Kyoto is of especial interest to me.
SARAH: I know from jdramas and manga that there may be PIRACY and CROSSDRESSING. I am TOTALLY PREPARED.
I will also be there to visit with and publicise the Japanese edition of The Demon's Lexicon. If any of you are in Japan, my wonderful Japanese publishers Media Factory, otherwise known as the Givers of Great Cover, are still working things out, but should I end up doing any public appearances I will of course announce them here forthwith!
I will be in Japan until late September, and then I will be hastily doing things for the Children's Book Festival in Ireland, and then flying to America to do the Tour! With! Scott! Westerfeld! and after that, I am going to Mexico to write. So you may be worried that I will be even worse at replying to email and comments here than I currently am.
And you may be right. But, you do not need to worry that I would abandon my sacred promise of a book a month.
The book for September is Ash by Malinda Lo.
As soon as I heard about Ash, I knew I wanted to read it badly. Different turns on fairytales call to me and always have (see Beauty, Rose Daughter and Spindle's End by Robin McKinley and Valiant by Holly Black), so a dark take on Cinderella with dangerous fairies was bound to appeal to me.
Then I found out that it was a take on Cinderella in which Cinderella falls in love with another girl. Now, I think there should be more gay characters in fiction, because, well, there are gay characters in life. I've especially noticed that there are very few gay girls. Also, I thought it was a cool and different twist on a fairytale. After all, if Cinderella hadn't fallen in love with the Prince, she would still have wanted to get out of the life she was living before. And if the fairy help she was getting wasn't without a price, even more interesting.
So, I was desperate to read Ash. I remember expressing this while on retreat with Team Castle.
CASSIE: Yes, Ash is awesome.
SARAH: Oh my gosh oh my gosh you have read it can I have it where is it give it to me!
CASSIE: It is in America. Where I live. Be calm, you are upsetting the Castle Kitten.
SARAH: Oh my gosh oh my gosh when you get back will you send it to me!
CASSIE: ... I think you should buy it.
SARAH: HOW CAN YOU BE SO CRUEL? I DON'T WANNA WAIT FOR MY LIFE TO BE OVER! I want to see right now what will it-
CASSIE: Carrying on like this in front of an impressionable kitten. You should be ashamed!
Finally, the book did come out and I did buy it, and I was not disappointed. It reminded me of Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt, a book I've recommended here before: with more the air of fairytales and mythology than modern fantasy, a calm, quiet story, beautifully written, with deep magic, tales within tales, and the story unfolding to a seemingly inevitable ending.
Ash is a great character, always reserved but never unlikable. Kaisa the royal huntress, who is gorgeous in her own way, kind, athletic and terribly straightforward, may be my favourite character. And Ash's fairy godmother is a fairy guy, who obviously has his own agenda.
The world of Ash is like the world of Justine Larbalestier's How To Ditch Your Fairy, in that it's simply accepted that sometimes people are into the same sex, and nobody thinks much of it. It's refreshing to see a world like that every now and again! It's also a world that's obviously been well thought out: one of the little details in it I thought was awesome was that in funerals in Ash's world, gold dust is scattered on the earth to bind the soul there, so the fairy hunt can't take them away.
I also enjoyed the role of Prince Charming - not a terribly important one. Everyone thought a lot about him, as you would about royalty searching for a bride, and he does dance with Ash, but that's really all. He seems a nice guy! He marries an heiress! Ash never needs to be rescued by him, and never has any particular interest in him.
PRINCE CHARMING: Mysterious and beauteous lady, ten o'clock! Dance with me, madam.
ASH: Okay. So, have you seen the royal huntress around lately?
PRINCE CHARMING: Uh I guess. Maybe at the recent fox hunt.
ASH: I tell you I think she's pretty foxy.
PRINCE CHARMING: ... Okay.
ASH: Dude, you mind moving a little to the left? You're in my line of vision, and I'm trying to scope out hot huntresses, here.
As mentioned above, Kaisa is my favourite character, and I might have liked even more of Ash and Kaisa together: whenever Fairy Godmother Guy Sidhean is around I was just yelling 'Out of the way, dude! Hands off!' But I was reconciled to Sidhean, because in him Malinda Lo explores things that Interest Me Greatly: how human nature would change when it came into contact with a nature totally different. How the different creature would change too, how we all change when observed, or tamed, or loved.
In summary: Dark Cinderella, awesome fairy mythology, hot huntresses!
I know y'all find the difference between UK and US covers of interest, so here they are, US cover first, UK cover second. I have the US edition, since I did not want to wait for the UK edition to come out several months later.
So Ash is one of those books that makes me happy I write in the awesome YA genre. I have one copy of Malinda Lo's Ash to give away, and I will be doing so quite shortly: speak up now!
Also should you have any questions for me, like 'Will you die in Japan?' (Possibly) 'Will you recommend me a particular kind of book?' (Yes absolutely, only name which kind!) or some such thing, you can of course ask them here. Or you could join me in a Teen Author Chat, held tonight 1t 8pm EST here. Password is Demons!
ETA: Chat now over, and winner chosen: contest closed. ETA: REPEAT. Contest is closed. Book is on its way to winner!