Wicked Lovely

Among the darker paranormal YA books out there, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely is the first in her series that deals with fairies... but most definitely not of the Tinkerbell variety. Twisted and somewhat lurid, these are fairies who do nothing in halves -- whether that's stormy anguish, vicious carnage, or orgiastic celebration.

Aislinn (called "Ash" by her friends) and her grandmother have always been able to see fairies -- and unlike everyone else who does not have the Sight, they've lived their lives in fear of what they can see the fairies do to each other and the mortals who cannot see them. This danger, however, is nothing in comparison to the danger Ash knows she'd be in if the fairies KNEW she could see them... and so she guards her secret and mentally chants the rules her grandmother has established: "Don't stare at invisible faeries. Don't speak to invisible faeries. Don't ever attract their attention." Ash keeps her head down and tries to spend as much time in her best friend Seth's "house" -- a steel train car, where the metal keeps the fey out.

The rules, however, change forever when Donia and Keenan appear. The Winter Girl and the Summer King start to follow Ash and she scrambles to figure out what they want from her... but simply by singling her out, they've taken away any chance for Ash to have a normal life. Now, as Keenan's newest choice to attempt the test to discover if she is the long-lost Summer Queen, Ash must come to terms with the fact that she is now fey, like it or not... but will being fey define the rest of her, too?

The set-up for this series is fantastic for fans of the paranormal genre -- a girl falling in love with her best friend is altered forever when she is forced to play a role in the fairy world. The pull of her personal desires pitted against her new fairy impulses is a tug-of-war within her own heart and only her strength can see her through. Very few characters are straight-forward and simple in terms of their own allegiances and wants, and the complications make for a storyline that is filled with twists and turns, even in this first book and most certainly in the ones that follow.

I'm probably not going to review each one of the subsequent installments, but I did manage to read all of them. (SPOILERS ahead for Wicked Lovely, but not really much else.) Ink Exchange isn't really a sequel to WL so much as it was a companion novel -- like a JR Ward kind of spin-off where the actions taking place dealt with other characters that didn't play a strong role before, but it all helps set up events for future books. Fragile Eternity can claim "sequel" status to WL, I suppose, as it returns to the complications surrounding the tangled lives of Ash, Keenan, Donia, and Seth. More and more, Ash is realizing what it means to be the Summer Queen -- and that her responsibilities to her court are undermining everything she once held dear. In Radiant Shadows, I started to loose interest, as it broadens the character scope to examine more people in the world in addition to the main ones, obviously pushing the storyline in to an even more epic scale. I forged ahead with Darkest Mercy, knowing it was the last, and I am glad that I made it through to see everything wrap up. Lots of bloodshed and sacrifice, as befitting the scale of actions, and somehow I felt like not quite enough sacrifice had been made. Still, a very interesting series and Wicked Lovely is the best of them all.

Even though Wicked Lovely was only published in 2007, it certainly feels like Melissa Marr beat the other dark paranormal YA writers to the scene -- perhaps because even with so many others flooding the market, Marr's series holds its own as creating one of the more twisted and intriguing worlds out there. If you enjoy paranormal YA and have made it this far without yet experiencing Melissa Marr, you should most definitely give at least Wicked Lovely a whirl to see what you think, as she's become something of a standard. It may not be my favorite series out there, but it is quite memorable.

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