Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading *Wicked Lovely* by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely surprised me.

At the start I thought I was getting into another paranormal romance and I thought I had the couples pegged. When Keenan, the Faery Summer King, shows up I thought, "Okay, well here's the dark male lead for Aislinn (ASH-lynn) to fall for after an extended romantic push-and-pull". But even by page 200 I had no idea who would end up with who, or how the story was going to end. So kudos to Melissa for pulling me along and taking the less obvious route.

Aislinn lives with her Grams, her mother having died in childbirth, and has grown up with the Sight. She can see faeries; but she can't let them know it. In the legends, mortals have been blinded by faeries, who were known to have the Sight. Faeries, too, are far darker, cruder, and more vicious than people assume. Aislinn has grown up with three rules: Don't stare at them, don't speak to them, and never attract their attention. Faeries move and intermingle in the human world, but are mostly invisible to regular sight. For the most part they've left Aislinn alone, thinking she's no different than other humans--oblivious. Until Keenan, the Summer King, begins to take a special interest in Ash, and the entire faery world's attention is on her.

Right at the beginning, the "rules" of Keenan's "game" for Aislinn confused me. He is the Summer King, looking for the right mortal to be his Summer Queen, in order to balance their world properly. Other women have tried out for the position, only to be enveloped by the Winter Queen's deep freeze when they failed the test. Other girls have remained as Summer Girls, unwilling to take the test and essentially remaining with the Fae as Summer King groupies, feeding off his warmth. But Keenan knows there is something special about Aislinn. And he still doesn't know she can see Faeries, yet. He has to convince her that she must take the Summer Queen test to heal the balance between the Winter and Summer court and stop his mother's wintery reign.

And the cool wrench in this project is that Aislinn has no romantic interest in Keenan at all. At first I thought, "Okay, she's rejecting him because he's coming on too strong, but she'll come around soon enough and fall for his dark thrall". But she doesn't. She's in love with someone else. I have to say that Keenan is probably my favourite character because he's this summer-loving carefree guy who is immortal and incredibly naive. After thousands of years he only starts to wonder now if he is good for Aislinn, and if he is worthy to ask these women for their sacrifice. He's not a jerk about it, he's perfectly innocent. By the end of the book there is something human unwinding in him that I'd love to see in later books.

It's funny, I pictured Keenan as David Bowie from Labyrinth while I was reading and a few scenes reminded me of the Ball scene from the movie (favourite!) and also the boardwalk carnival scene from Lost Boys. The world in Wicked Lovely was one of the book's stronger points; faeries are like punk carnies when they live in the city--raucous, dangerous, dirty and weird, but also beautiful and vivid. I have this need to jump right into Ink Exchange, the sequel, because I want to know more about Melissa's faery court.

One of the weaker aspects of the story was the actual plotting of events. It was all a little uneven for me, and some scenes (like when Ash confronts Keenan at the club) lacked necessary tension. My mind would kind of wander and I'd have to go back to see what happened. Another thing that kicked me out of the story was Seth's character. It's funny, I was thinking that he's just a little too perfect and then I read Melissa's Q&A at the back of my edition where she addresses this critique (I guess others have mentioned it as well). She says:

I've been amused by some readers' comments that [Seth's] "too perfect," especially when such a remark came from one of the guys who influenced me in Seth's creation. There are just a lot of awesome guys out there. Of course, we also see Seth through Ash's eyes, so we see him as she sees him. When we look at the people whom we love, we see (or should see) their radiance. Seth's radiance is dazzling because that's how Ash sees him. If you looked through my eyes at the men and women I've loved, you wouldn't see their flaws, but their brilliance. So that's how I wrote Seth.

And that makes sense to me. To a certain extent. I still think that Seth is too perfect. My point is that if Seth were a girl in the story, I'd look down on her as being too passive and dependent. He spends the book intuiting Ash's needs before she feels them, has no real personal life that is written into the story, and doesn't seem like a person outside of his function as Leading Love Interest. Male or female, I'd love to see more gravity and independence in Seth's character.

What I really did enjoy was the amount of research Melissa obviously did for her story. Each chapter starts with a quote from classic fairy folklore that has to do with the action unfolding. These snippets give the reader an understanding into the type of world that you can expect, it's rules and traditions. When I was initially confused about how the faery balance was kept, these quotes reminded me that there is something fairytale-like about strange rituals muddied by overuse, traditions with weird pasts applied over and over again because they are "law". Until some modern girl comes along and shakes things up a bit.


Looking forward to reading Ink Exchange, Wicked Lovely #2.


Tales of Whimsy said...

I love that you thought of David Bowie in Labyrinth. I do so love that film. Nice review :)

ninefly said...

I really like the themes you've chosen to concentrate on in this review, Keenan sounds like a very unique male paranormal love interest/lead, and the twist of the girl liking another guy altogether has me sort of wanting to read this now =)

Rhiannon Hart said...

I've just bought this book and I was hoping beyond hope that it would make me think of Labyrinth! I love that film so much. I'll definitely be picturing Bowie.

Donna Gambale said...

I am SO not a girl who reads books about fairies (they just bother me for some reason) ... but I've made an exception for this series and for Maggie Stiefvater's "homicidal faeries" in Lament (still haven't read Ballad, but I hear it's even better). Glad you enjoyed it too!

Cecelia said...

I really liked this first one. I felt some of the same things you did - well-researched, unpredictable, quite 'real-feeling' fantasy fiction. I was so enthusiastic that I bought a copy for my sister's 9th grade English classroom.

What killed the story for me was book #2. I was pretty unhappy with that one. Maybe it'll work for you, though. I haven't gone on to book #3, and I probably won't. Such a shame, too, because the first book was all full of promise. Good luck with your reading (and may you fare better than I)!

Katie said...

Love the imagery of David Bowie as Keenan -- it's absolutely perfect and made me guffaw.


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