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Melissa Marr

Dear Author

REVIEW: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Dear Ms. Marr:

I was blown away by your debut book, Wicked Lovely, and thus my expectations for Ink Exchange were quite high. While the smooth narration and elegance of prose are still present in Ink Exchange, the storyline didn’t deliver for me.

Leslie, friend of the protagonist in Wicked Lovely, lives a very sad existence. Her mother is gone. Her father is a drunk who occassionally remembers to pay the bills but often does not. Her brother has a drug habit and has, on at least one occassion, used his sister as currency to support that habit. Leslie’s response to her situation and her past trauma is to supposedly to respond in increasingly sexual ways, although this is simply alluded to through slurs and innuendos and not something of which the reader sees evidence.

The story is quite complicated and I think that without having read the first book, readers might be quite lost as to the interplay between humans and the faery world. While Leslie plays the role of the outsider, the entirety of the story is not narrated from her point of view. Instead the point of view of the two other leads, Irial, King of the Dark Faery Court, and Niall, member of the Summer King’s court, flesh out much of the story. Niall and Irial thrive on the darker emotions of humans and helpless faeries. Irial and his court is suffering from his lack of ability to feed. Leslie decides to get a tattoo which is the symbol of Irial and through it, the Ink Exchange, Irial is able to feed off humanities despair through Leslie. Of course, this means Leslie must feel it as well.

I think that you use the cover of the faery world to tackle some serious issues that teen or young adult might face. In Wicked Lovely, there was an implied rape scene where Keenan, the Summer King, uses the elixir of the faeries to intoxicate Aislinn. In this, the core of the story is of young Leslie, growing up the victim and repeatedly exposed to abusers. She suffers her father’s neglect, her brother’s betrayal. Niall and Irial and a host of others take turns using Leslie for their own purposes. The goal of the story seems to be Leslie’s reclaming of self, of gaining self actualization and ceasing to become a victim.

One of the problems, however, is that in the power struggle between Leslie and her abusers, Leslie never gains power because the worldbuilding dynamic is set up in such a way that mere humans are pawns. These pawns can either be treated well or they can be treated poorly, but the power rests solely in the hands of the faery world. The only protection Leslie has is not within herself but external. In many real ways, Leslie’s life would be the same regardless of what choices she makes.

For all that this story is about Leslie finding her personal strength and recovering from past tragedies, she is still victimized in the end, saved only by the choices of others. This story particularly highlights that there is little in the control of a human and that unseen others, more powerful, ultimately decide our fate. This message is at odds with purpose of Leslie’s story.

If it was intended for Niall and Irial to represent a forbidden something, whether it be drugs or sex or alcohol, it seems that the message that was sent was that no matter how greatly you are self directed, the other something can defeat you. To that end, I felt that the story failed in its delivery, no matter how beautifully it was written. B-

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells. No ebook yet.

REVIEW:  Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

REVIEW: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Dear Ms. Marr:

This story probably has one of the best opening scenes I’ve read. Keenan, the Summer King, has wooed countless of girls throughout the centuries, hoping that each is the one who will return Summer to the faeries. The Winter Queen, Keenan’s mother, has been slowly overtaking fairyland and the cold power of her rule is seeping into the human world. Keenan must find the Summer Queen for her power combined with his will be strong enough to combat the cold. For each girl Keenan seduces into loving him and who ultimately is not the Summer Queen, an eternal life of coldness is her reward, with only a wolf for a companion. The forsaken girl is only released from her captivity when another unsuspecting one falls for his golden charms.

Aislinn is his next target. He dreams of her and, like the many girls before he’s courted, believes that she is the one.

Aislinn is special. She can see the faeries and otherworld creatures. Her grandmother is the only one who knows this. Grandmother has taught her the rules to avoid being caught by the faeries, the first of which is to not draw attention to oneself. It wouldn’t matter if Aislinn tried to make herself invisible, as she sometimes does. She had already been marked. Aislinn was seemingly ordinary who found her extra ordinary power useless and frightening. Her only refuge is the converted train car her best friend and not-so-secret crush, Seth, calls home. It’s made of iron and not even the faeries are able to penetrate it.

Seth and Aislinn have been friends for a long time. Seth is a bit like Keenan in that he’s had his share of girlfriends, a string of one nighters as Aislinn characterizes them. She values her friendship with Seth too much to take him up on his constant flirtations. But when Keenan woos her in earnest, will Aislinn succumb and be doomed? Or is she the one who will save them all?

I was worried that there was a love triangle and I hate getting attached to characters only to see one hurt and left out but that part of the story seemed to be clear early on. You relied upon the suspense plot rather than a love triangle to move your story forward. Aislinn’s struggle with her “power” and her desire to be real was a captivating conflict.

Most of the characters were delicately drawn, particularly Keenan and Donia, the current forsaken girl. Keenan wasn’t evil. He was trying to save his people and there was little he wouldn’t do for them. Donia, after decades of watching Keenan romance other girls, still aches for him even though he is constantly breaking her heart. Aislinn was unsure of nearly everything in her life: of Seth’s feelings, of her otherworldliness, of her future.

For the parents out there, there is one intimate scene between Aislinn and a character. The details are sufficiently vague that each reader imputes her own version of what happened that evening. Being the perv that I am, I wished the door wasn’t closed quite so tight but I guess it wouldn’t be a Young Adult book if it weren’t.

There were a couple things that bothered me a bit. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning, I felt the pacing, or maybe it was the tone, was uneven. This may have been intentional by you, to punctuate the difference between Aislinn’s world and Keenan’s world, but at times I felt it interrupted the flow of the story. I also thought that Seth, while a major player in the story, was not as three dimensional as the other three main characters. He was seemed too perfect, too forgiving, too accepting.

Wicked and Lovely is a book, though, I will be taking down regularly from my shelf. It’s a keeper. Maybe even a classic. A-

Jane Litte