Great Reads brings you book reviews on teen books that parents will love from such great young adult authors as Garth Nix, Clare Dunkle, DJ Machale, Stephanie Meyer and many more.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Wicked Lovely" and "Ink Exchange" by Melissa Marr

"Wicked Lovely" was another one of those books that I'd seen in the store, and always put off for buying something else- why, I don't know. It's a great book as is its sequel.

"Wicked Lovely" is the story of Aislinn, who is a rare mortal that can see and hear faeries, but must keep it a secret from everyone (including the faeries). These aren't the pretty "fairies" found in Disney tales, but mischevious and often nasty beings who delight in tripping, pinching and tormenting unsuspecting humans.

But one afternoon, things start to change. Aislinn realizes that there's a couple of faeries following her- a gorgeous young man and a young woman who don't seem fazed by the steel of the city that normally make other faeries sick. The young man, who introduces himself as Keenan (and is prince of the Summer court), sets his sites on Aislinn- he believes she is to be the next Summer Queen. The young woman who accompanies him is Donia, who Keenan once believed would be the Summer Queen, but instead became a Winter Girl when she was put through a faery test. They are both pawns in a much bigger game for control over the faery courts by the Winter Queen (Keenan's mother), who set up this game when she bound and limited Keenan's powers as a baby. They can only be restored when he finds the one girl who can become the Summer Queen- those that fail the test become the Winter Girl, who then must persuade the next possible Summer Queen from taking the test. Those who choose not to take the test become Summer Girls, humans who are now immortal, but must always remain near Keenan. Aislinn doesn't want either life, but once chosen, there is no way to escape it, except for death.

Aislinn, though attracted to Keenan (he is the embodiment of Summer), is also terrified. Her relationship with her friend Seth is changing into something more, and she really doesn't want anything to do with the faeries. But she doesn't have much of a choice as Keenan's pursuit is unrelentless and her secret is on the verge of being discovered.

"Ink Exchange", while based in Aislinn's world, isn't so much about her but her friend Leslie, who has attracted the attention of Irial, King of the Dark Court (faeries who feed off darker human emotions) and Niall, one of Keenan's closest advisors. Leslie's life has been terribly hard (her brother openly smokes crack and has left her defenseless against his stoner friends) and Irial is attracted to the fear and anger she constantly battles. When Leslie decides to get a tattoo to symbolize taking control over her life and starting fresh, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a design that she doesn't know will link her to Irial in a faery Ink Exchange. It will allow him to pull her negative emotions from her, and magically "feed" his court. But Irial finds himself drawn to Leslie in ways he didn't expect, and while Leslie finds herself with feelings for him, she has also been pining for Niall, who, as it turns out, can no longer take mortal lovers because he is addictive to humans.

"Ink" is a much darker novel than "Wicked" and I would definitely recommend it for older readers. It touches on rape, drug abuse, alcoholism and the darker side of human (and faery) existence. But the characters are compelling and surprising. While you expect Irial to be one thing, he is multi-faceted and surprising. Where some girls would crumble under the horrors that Leslie has faced, she instead is determined not to let it crush her.

Fans of Holly Blacks "Tithe" series will enjoy these stories that tell much different stories of the faery world. I recommend them for older readers because of some of the subject matters. I've given more plot away than probably the first half of the books- Marr tends to not give it all away, you have to pay attention and keep reading to find it all out, which is a refreshing change of pace.


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