review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr. HarperTeen, 2008 (978-06-121468-4) $116.99
The sequel to Wicked Lovely (my review) takes place after the events of that book, amidst the aftermath of the change in Faery regime. It could be read independently, but will be harder to follow.
Leslie, who has no idea that her good friend Aislinn is now the Faery Summer Queen, is searching for just the right tattoo, the symbolic marking that will reclaim her body as her own, after her rights to it were brutally taken from her. But her desire is linked to someone else's agenda and her ultimate choice of tattoo will be bitterly ironic, an "ink exchange" that will tie her to Irial, the king of the Dark Court of the fey, making her a human conduit for the dark emotions he needs to feed on. As the tattoo is slowly applied, over a period of days, Leslie finds herself seeing things that can't be there and feeling emotions that don't seem to be really hers. And she is torn between her feelings for two men who have appeared in her life, Niall and Irial, both of whom have secrets.
As Leslie is stalked by Irial and protected by the emotionally tortured Niall, both of whom are increasingly obsessed by her, the book feels a little too much like a conventional damsel-in-distress story, as well as an overly conventional romance. But Marr turns it around--as with Wicked Lovely the story ends on a striking note of female empowerment and choice. Also like Wicked Lovely, it stretches the usual boundaries of romance--here perhaps to the breaking point; some readers will inevitably be disappointed in the ending, despite how elegantly it is foreshadowed. My primary disappointment was that the climax of the book feels rushed; there is such a long build-up to the ink exchange but when it's finally complete, everything happens very quickly. The story could've stood to be longer.
Ultimately I enjoyed Wicked Lovely more, but this is a welcome revisit to the complex, often morally ambiguous world of the fey--which has the additional virtue of not doing anything to sabotage the original story for its fans. (14 & up)
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