REVIEW: “Ashes” by Mike Lewis

Review of Mike Lewis, “Ashes”, in Starward Tales II, edited by CB Droege (Manawaker Studio, 2017): 63-80 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I really do love retellings of known tales. You get all of the comfort of familiarity and all the joy of wondering what the twist(s) will be. This story is, of course, Cinderella — if the title wasn’t a big enough clue, then the main character’s name being Ella definitely should be.

One of the fascinating things about fairy tales is that the characters in them are more like caricatures; they are fitted into a story according to the roles that they play rather than according to characteristics of themselves. This works brilliantly for fairy tales told to small children, who can use the technique as a means of inserting themselves into the story. For a retelling of a fairy tale, however, the use of stock characters executing well-known tropes can sometimes feel a bit tiresome. I spent much of the story being bounced between irritation at the appearance of these tropes and then having that irritation assuaged by the way Lewis played on the tropes and twisted them. Why must Ella’s sisters be physically gorgeous while she is not? Why must Ella dream of a handsome captain to rescue her? The answers are not what you might think! Sometimes, the heroine gets something better than a prince…