After losing her mother and father, teenaged Ash is treated as a servant in her stepmother's home. But with the help of a little fairy magic, she's able to anonymously attend a sparkling ball and catch the eye of a prince.
But fairy magic doesn't come free: the mysterious Sidhean warns her that the price is to become his. And Ash isn't really interested in the prince, anyways. Instead, she's shyly courting Kaisa, the king's huntress.
It started off well, but I got progressively less interested as the book progressed. I had a few issues with the story. One, apparently every female in that world is totally ambiguous about orientation. If you want your entire world to be bisexual, authors, go for it; great for you. I'm not a homophobe. But in context here, it just didn't make sense. I was completely thrown for a loop. And left wondering what Ash was doing suddenly being attracted to girls, out of the blue. And wondering why apparently a lot of girls shared Ash's orientation and not a single male did, as far as I could tell. And wondering why Ash never seemed to notice that she spontaneously changed sexual orientation. You'd think that sort of thing would, you know, at least inspire a sentence or two of introspection, not just be taken for granted.
Anyways. There was also Sidhean (more below) and the ending (more below.) But my general evaluation is: a great start, that sort of peters out into unfortunate-ness halfway through.
In general I'm a fan of rewritten fairy tales; in fact I love them. But I didn't like the Cinderella references. They were scattered and heavy-handed, almost like the author wrote the story and then went back and stuck in a few paragraphs here and there to link the book to the fairy tale. Fairy tale parallels should be subtle and/or original, and unfortunately Ash didn't really pull off either.
As far as the actual plot, it was largely unimpressive. The romance was sudden and felt forced. I strongly disliked the ending. I felt that there was no resolution, no closure, and that there were an awful lot of threads left dangling. Plus the "clever" or "feisty" or whatever conflict resolution seemed fake to me.
Not a whole lot to write here, because Ash didn't have a whole lot of character. She came off as very bland, very vanilla, and not a lot of her actions really made sense to me. Kaisa was just kind of odd - she seemed to spend the whole story performing her role as a love-interest prop without actually becoming a person. Sidhean really annoyed me. He started off cool but then turned cliche, plus he gets a little stalkerish. I'm sticking to my spoilers-free style, but I hated his shall we say behaviour at the climatic point.
There was nothing standout to report here: the writing was fine without being particularly special in any way.
End Result: two stars. I was not impressed.