Book Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Posted July 16, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 5 Comments

Book Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa MarrInk Exchange by Melissa Marr
Series: Wicked,
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Published by HarperTeen on April 24, 2008
Pages: 325
Format: Paperback
Source: the library


Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.

Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.

The tattoo does bring changes—not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils.

Also by this author: Faery Tales & Nightmares, Fragile Eternity, Radiant Shadows, Darkest Mercy

Second in the Wicked, Lovely paranormal romance series for Young Adults with the, um, couple focus on Leslie, Niall, and Irial.

My Take
I’d rate this story as soft-core horror as well. It’s horrifying what Irial is willing to do, what he wants from Leslie, but it’s very soft-pedaled, even as I found myself screaming no in my head as I read this! It’s also a story of rape, still soft core. More hinted at than outright, but the story talks of the aftermath, how it makes you feel.

What’s attracting me to this series is Marr’s twist on the fae. She adheres to the primary idea we have of them, but twists it to have their secondary courts in the human world, walking about in the, well, trashier, areas of our neighborhoods. It’s a contrast of thugs and children with the Dark Court fae appearing vicious and evil while the Summer Court is supposed to represent life and gaiety. Then there’s the Winter Court. Back in Wicked Lovely, 1, Winter is cruel and mean. In Ink Exchange, Winter’s role is evolving with its change in leadership. But what is more fascinating is the truth behind Dark and Summer. For while Dark appears so evil, it’s also more about life, real life. The secret desires we all have but daren’t express. But it’s also one that accepts anyone, no matter what they look like. Desires that the Dark Court allows, nay, it encourages its members to be themselves. There are no brakes on. Meanwhile, Summer appears to be a court I would adore with its sunshine and fun, but it sometimes appears a forced gaiety, and lord knows, Keenan isn’t all that happy. And you must be beautiful… Then there’s Sorcha’s court. The one of logic and order. No emotions need apply.

I sometimes think we humans are a blend of all these courts. We’re a mess of logic and disorder, desires of want and need, and a wish for beauty. Maybe it’s because of this mélange that humans can create from nothing, a talent the fae envy.

I liked that Rabbit tried to talk her out of this.

Marr has done a beautiful job of making me want Irial to be successful even as I find him horrifying in this dance Irial must step through. He has to keep his Dark Court fed and satisfied when they desire the worst of all emotions as their sustenance. War would make things so easy, but Irial, if not his Court, knows that there are no shadows without light so a balance must be kept.

“We are what we are, Niall, neither as good or as evil as others paint us. And what we are doesn’t change how truly we feel, only how free we are to follow those feelings.”

I don’t get what Aislinn’s problem is in not telling Leslie what’s going on. Marr should have done a better job of making this believable instead of wimping out.

There are things that Marr simply hints at: Niall’s obsession with Irial, his attraction to mortals, what Rabbit is doing to extract Irial’s blood, the horrors Ren visits on his sister, and how Irial uses his link with Leslie to feed his court. It’s just enough to get your imagination racing but without the details.

“The things you do when you’re desperate aren’t who you are.”

And yet another twist of an ending, one I didn’t see coming.

The Story
It starts with the scene in Pins and Needles from Wicked Lovely. For Leslie needs that tattoo. She needs something of her own, that she has chosen. Something to drown out the horror of what Ren has done to her.

Niall watches over her, guards her, worries for her and all the fears she holds inside. He would do anything to protect her, even leave her alone. Irial, however, needs her. He needs her, a Shadow Girl, to feed his dying Court.

The Characters
Leslie is in her senior year at Bishop O’Connell High School and struggling to survive against her alcoholic father and addicted brother, Ren. Mitchell is her obnoxious ex-boyfriend.

Niall, Gancanagh, is caught up in Leslie but faithful to the Summer King to whom he swore allegiance centuries ago. He values Aislinn’s Seth as a brother. He’s valued at the Summer Court for his knowledge of the Dark Court. A temptation that still sways him because of Irial.

Irial is the Dark King, responsible for the health and safety of his Dark Court which needed “the nourishment of the finer emotions: fear, lust, rage, greed, gluttony, and the like”. Guin was one of his faeries; she should never have died of a mortal bullet. Gabriel is his left hand, his chief Hound. Chela is Gabriel’s sometimes mate. Bananach is a war-hungry faery, the raven-woman, agitating for battle. Other Dark fey include Jenny Greenteeth, the beansidhes, the glaistig, the Gabriel Hounds, thistle-fey, Ly Ergs, the Gancanagh fae who can’t resist mortals and whom mortals can’t resist, thorn-covered men, Vilas, and leanan-sidhe.

Aislinn is Leslie’s friend, and unknown to her, the Summer Queen. Seth is Aislinn’s human boyfriend while Keenan is the Summer King, one who cares only for his own fey and his Court. Niall is one of Keenan’s advisers. The Summer Girls are those humans who fell for Keenan and fell under Faery’s spell. The fey that belong to his court include the rowan and dread-locked quints.

Donia is the Winter Queen per events in Wicked Lovely. Sorcha is the High Queen. Far Dorcha are death fey; too strong to need any court.

Rabbit is the tattoo artist, Gabriel’s son, a halfling who runs Pins and Needles. Ani and Tish are his sisters, also halflings.

Verlaine’s, the restaurant where Leslie works
Étienne is the pastry chef. Robert is the owner.

The Cover
The cover is darkly beautiful with its purples and blacks. It’s Leslie’s back with a much larger tattoo than I had expected. Nor did I expect the wings that project—I suspect it’s a metaphor for Irial. The title and author’s name is in gold at the bottom with the curling vines emerging from the title and bordering the author’s name.

The title is how it’s done. It’s the Ink Exchange that makes it possible to forge a connection.

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5 responses to “Book Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

    • ladystorm

      What I like about this series is it’s both darker and more real feeling in its approach to the Fae. It also shows you the bad side of what is thought of as the “nice” fae court and inveigles you into seeing the good side of the “bad” court. As Sorcha and Irial can point out, it’s all about balance. For some reason when I think of Wicked Lovely, I always get this visual image of a gang of kids walking through alleys and down the streets, kicking cans. Then there’s the overall series tension of Keenan loving but unable to be with Donia complicating the individual story tensions. It’s good. It’s the kind of series where you can’t wait to read the next.

    • ladystorm

      Oh, it’s a good one! I recommend reading the short as well, “Stopping Time”, 2.5 in the Wicked Lovely series.

  1. I love, love this series! I too, adore Marr’s twist on the fae. And I think Ink Exchange was one of my favorites. I can’t wait to see what you think of the rest of the books. Excellent review, Stormi!

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