This week on The Literary Horizon, we deal with a Cinderella in love with a huntress, and Queen Elizabeth I as Nancy Drew.
Ash by Malinda Lo
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, re-reading 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 enjoy retellings of fairy tales–I’ve been meaning to get my hands on a copy of Robin McKinley’s Beauty for ages. Ash caught my eye because it deals with two girls in love in a retelling of Cinderella. According to the author herself, while Ash lives in a medieval society, homosexuality is no issue. This heartens me as to the world Lo has created in Ash. There’s also the divide between Ash’s childish fairy tale dreams of being kidnapped by fairies being fulfilled and Ash’s true desire to remain with Kaisa, a conflict that sounds, frankly, delicious. Kaisa also sounds like a rather dashing young lady, perfect for a love interest in a medieval romance.
Reviews seem mostly positive–although Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot notes that she couldn’t connect with Ash, The Story Siren finds Ash absolutely superb. Both reviewers applaud Lo’s world building, an absolutely necessary skill in writing any sort of fantasy. I think this bodes quite well for Ash. I certainly hope I can get my hands on it soon.
Ash was released on September 1.
Her Highness’ First Murder by Peg Herring
Elizabeth Tudor is as appalled as everyone else when headless corpses litter the streets of London, but when one of her own ladies is murdered, she vows to stop the killer. Her new friend Simon Maldon wants to help, and they join with a sergeant of the King’s Welsh Guard to investigate. Is the killer Elizabeth’s castellan? A creepy cleric who manages her household accounts? A madman captured on the grounds?
Religion seems to be a factor, since the murdered women are dressed in nun’s robes. Is it due to the fact that Henry’s beheaded two wives or that he’s outlawed Catholicism in England? The answers aren’t clear, but danger soon stalks the two young people. As the guardsmen search frantically for the depraved killer, Simon finds himself a prisoner, alone and in trouble. Elizabeth’s life is threatened as well. It may be too late for one of them, maybe both, to emerge from Her Highness’ first murder alive.
I’m getting more and more interested in historical mystery, as a way of solving my usual doldrums for mystery–currently, I find them too repetitive. I hope by adding an element of historical fiction, which I adore, I can rejuvenate my interest in mystery. The idea of a preteen Queen Elizabeth solving murders is so delightful that I couldn’t help but notice Her Highness’ First Murder.
Reviews are far and few between for a novel being published in January, naturally. Publishers Weekly’s quick review is quite approving of the novel’s pace and characterization, and Armchair Interviews gushes about it. These are certainly positive signs!
Her Highness’ First Murder will be published January 20.