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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Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely
Melissa Marr

I kept hearing only good things about Melissa Marr's debut young adult novel Wicked Lovely, so after visiting copies of the book at the bookstore several times, I finally got hold of one to read.

I'm dense because I didn't notice until I was about halfway through the book that the girl on the cover is holding flowers covered in frost. Which ties in with the story. Doh! It is a lovely cover though even without noticing that!

Aislinn goes to an all girls school and lives with her protective grandmother in a town called Huntsdale. For the most part she's a normal teen, except for a wariness she's developed because she has the ability to see faeries. This isn't the sweet kind of faerie but rather capricious beings who are everywhere, usually invisible, playing cruel games on others. If they knew she could see them, Aislinn knows she would be harmed, she's been taught by her grandmother (who also has this ability), to lay low and pretend she can't see them. She spends her days as a normal kid, going to school, and then hanging out with her best friend Seth, an older kid with tattoos and piercings who lives in a train. The iron keeps out the faeries so Aislinn tries to spend as much time as possible there, while harboring secret feelings for him.

Unfortunately for Aislinn, she does eventually gets noticed by Keenen, the Summer King, who decides she's the next girl who could be the Summer Queen. For years he's been chasing human girls, asking them to pick up the Winter Queen Beria's staff and help him break the hold his mother has on the seasons. Every girl who has picked up the staff could not hold off the chill and thus they have become the Winter girl (the current one is Donia) until another girl relieves them.

Overall: I'd recommend this for fans of Holly Black, but I think I like Holly Black better. It has that same type of young adult in modern times with faeries feel (along with my thoughts of how are the parents letting these kids roam about so much?). There are mild allusions to sex but it will likely go over the heads of the innocent. The story had a fairy tale in modern times vibe, reminding me of stories about the struggles between two deities or royal beings over who rules the season - Summer and Winter. And the writing has a lyrical, lovely fairytale lilt which just goes with the story beautifully. There was some greying of characters – especially that of Keenen – he's not seen as the bad guy, even though he's been callous in the past, but I thought that Seth was a bit perfect, and the Winter Queen was a bit heavy handed. I also thought that every main character in this book was described as being gorgeous, so I was imagining these perfect looking beings (including Seth and Aislinn) in a semi-dramatic fantasy, doing stuff like: yearning for things that they couldn't express and being caught in a tragic game for eternity… I wish I saw less romantic characters, but I'm not sure if I'm just being old and crabby here in thinking that. Another thing – I also didn't understand why there needed to be a Summer Queen when there was no Winter King? I'm still a bit confused about that. Anyway,the ending was satisfying. A fine way to pass the time, and I'm sure it's a keeper for many, but not a keeper for me. I'm interested enough to read the next book Ink Exchange, which deals with the Dark court (I think?), but it's going to come from the library.

Review at Dear Author (they gave it an A-)

Review at The Book Smugglers (they gave it an 8 – Excellent).

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