Monday, November 17, 2008

Review of Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

In this sequel/companion to last year’s enticing Wicked Lovely, Summer Queen Aislinn’s mortal friend Leslie is in big trouble. Not only has her father pretty much abandoned the family, but her brother is a truly nasty creature who uses Leslie as a toy for his drug dealer buddies. Wait, it gets worse – Irial, King of the Dark Court of fairies, has his eye on Leslie. When she gets a long-desired tattoo, the ink is a potent mixture of fairy blood and other magical fluids that links her to Irial inextricably, allowing him to feed on her emotions and thus to feed his entire hungry Court. Meanwhile, the mysterious and haunted Niall (formerly of the Dark Court but recently allied to the Summer Court) is also attracted to Leslie.

That is essentially the whole plot, and it’s certainly intriguing – but it was not enough to hold my attention for 325 pages. What this felt like more than anything was a bunch of really good-looking, popular teens from different cliques vying for power and influence. These are supposed to be ancient faerie folk, and yet they all talk and behave as if they were eternally 17 years old, which is probably appealing to many teen readers but which left me yearning for a bit of that fey mystique. Magic is all very well, but when it’s wielded by adolescents out for a cheap thrill, it palls rapidly. I slogged to the end, but even the regime-change twist at the finale only perked me up slightly.

The most interesting tidbit of the story for me involved Irial’s 2nd-in-command Gabriel and his half-human offspring. What must it be like growing up in both worlds? Now that would make a fine tale. More about the complex interactions between faeries would also have been welcome. I read fantasy for the fantastical elements, not teen angst. (my 14-year-old daughter begs to differ, by the way)
Perhaps the third tale, if there is one, will focus more on the Otherworld and less on our own sordid world. Grit is fine, but give me that old-fashioned fairy dust!

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