Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange
Melissa Marr

I just finished reading Ink Exchange. I read Wicked Lovely earlier this year and I was told this was a different book, so I decided to try it. Well, it wasn't for me either.  There's nothing wrong with the writing, it has a lovely lyrical quality, but I think that somewhere along the line I stopped being able to suspend my disbelief over a supposed near-immortal (kings and their advisers as that) falling in love with a teenage girl. I think I just got too old.

In Ink Exchange, Leslie, who is a friend of Aislinn, the protagonist of Wicked Lovely, decides to get a tattoo. The tattoo she chooses is the tattoo of the king of the Dark Court, Irial, and it connects her to him in a magical way. In the meantime, Niall, adviser to the Summer King and Queen finds himself drawn to Leslie unlike any mortal before her. Leslie in turn is drawn to both men and seems to seesaw her way back and forth between them.

 Leslie is first in great pain over her home life, a mom who left, a dad who gambles, and a brother who does drugs and uses Leslie to pay off his debts. Then after her tattoo, which leaches out her real feelings, she's so separate from herself and constantly numbed that it was very difficult to feel anything for her when she felt so little herself. At that point I just found it hard to connect with anyone in this book. I was having no trouble imagining their terrible beauty, but besides hearing how good they looked, their individual personalities and connections weren't developed enough for me. For example, whenever Leslie felt good to be with Irial and Niall I just felt like it was the product of what creatures they were, not real. And Niall's feelings of betrayal contrasted with his supposed experience with these people – why is he surprised? He became uncharacteristically more naive in this book compared to the last one.  Despite all this, I was at least satisfied with the ending. I was close to thinking I preferred Wicked Lovely over this second book until I got to the end, but this ending felt more right. And yeah, I did see that Leslie realized something about those feelings that were leeched from her – the fear and hurt, the bad stuff, were needed as much as she needed the happier feelings, in order to feel whole. That growing up on her part, plus the darker aspects of this novel were positive parts of the book. But still, I don't know, it still didn't work overall for me. I was unsatisfied for some reason, but I know that most people who I have seen review this online have reviewed this positively, so I'm probably in the minority. It may be that this novel would have worked better for me if it was packaged in a short story or novella. Maybe then I would have accepted certain things I felt were missing or inferred them more than I have here.

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