Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely (Quality))
By Melissa Marr
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2008, The Bowen Press
Paperback, 325 pages
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.The second book in the Wicked Lovely series is decidely darker than the first book, especially as it focuses on the Dark Court. A major plot point is Leslie's struggles to deal with how her brother and father have fallen off the "deep end" and the rape that her brother allowed to happen to her. She believes a tattoo will allow her to reclaim her body as her own and stop being afraid, but the tattoo she chooses has unimaginable consequences as she becomes entangled into the drama of the faery courts that her best friend Aislinn belongs to.
Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.
The tattoo does bring changes—not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .
I like the change in main characters, as we get to see this world through other characters' eyes as well as learn about different aspects that Keenan or Aislinn may not be familiar with. I had a difficult time finding a character to really love, as all three of the main characters, Leslie, Irial, and Niall, all seemed to have major faults that I had a hard time getting around. The theme for this book seemed to be the darker side of humanity and how deeply entrenched people can get into the "gray" area of life, while still believing that they are not doing anything wrong. Irial wants to only use Leslie, just as he has for every other mortal, but then he falls for her. Leslie wants to be her own person and hates her brother for his druggie lifestyle, but then becomes an addict just like Ren. Niall has shunned the Dark Court for all it stands for, even denying his own nature, but then wants Leslie so bad that he unknowingly uses what he is and what the Dark Court is about to try and lure her to him. In a word, they all behave like hypocrites, but Marr is such a good writer, that I find myself feeling sorry for all of them at some point. While in many fantasy genre works, the female lead often has to choose between two guys, Marr takes a completely unpredictable approach, and I think that I like this ending the best of all possibilities. Plus, since this is only the second book in a series, there is potential for Leslie to change her mind in the long run as she becomes more comfortable in her own skin.
The way that Marr approaches the horrific trauma that Leslie endured prior to this book's beginning is handled very delicately, as it should be. It is never really described in detail what exactly happens to her, and it is mostly left up to the reader's imagination, which I think is a smart move in that girls who have been in a situation similar to Leslie's can relate to her and feel like they have a voice in her words and thoughts. This alone is what makes this book both poignant and powerful. The fact that both males vying for her affection try to rescue her from this trauma in his own way is what redeems both of them for me.
Politics run heavy in this series, and while I am not really a fan of politics in real life, fantasy books often make it much more interesting, Marr's writing being no exception. The dynamics between the faery courts are quite intriguing and I think they seem to balance one another out well, even though at first glance it might seem like some should be kept over others. I find myself constantly wondering about the High Court and its Queen, Sorcha, which I can look forward to in the third installment in the series, Fragile Eternity (Wicked Lovely).
The Cover: I love the cover - it shows the tattoo that is central to the main plot, as well as hints to the effect that the tattoo has on Leslie. I was slightly disappointed, though, that the tattoo in the book did not actually sprout wings.
First Line: "Irial watched the girl stroll up the street: she was a bundle of terror and fury."
A very intriguing first line - what would a girl look like with that sort of description? Plus, I don't know who "she" is or who Irial is.
Favorite Quote: "Do you ever wonder if what you look at is the same thing everyone else is seeing?'
He went even stiller at her side. 'Sometimes I'm sure it isn't the same...but that's not so bad is it? Seeing the world in a different way?'
Creative vision creates art' he motioned around the gallery 'that shows the rest of the world a new angle. That's a beautiful thing."
Read For: Pages Read Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge, The 2nd Challenge