Wicked Lovely tells the story of a teenage girl called Aislinn, who has been able to see faeries for her whole life – a dangerous ability, as the faeries themselves aren’t fond of being seen by humans. She’s managed to keep it hidden so far by forcing herself to ignore them, but recently she’s noticed that she’s being followed by two powerful faeries: A corpse-like girl riding a wolf, and a beautiful yet sinister young man whom Aislinn can’t help but feel drawn to.
Wicked Lovely was Melissa Marr’s debut novel, and was first published in 2007. It is the first book in the Wicked Lovely series, in which there are five primary novels: Wicked Lovely (#1), Ink Exchange (#2), Fragile Eternity (#3), Radiant Shadows (#4), and Darkest Mercy (#5).
The main plot of this book is a romantic one: Keenan is pursuing Aislinn (in the creepiest way he knows how), and it’s up to her (and her friend Seth) to figure out why, and how to get rid of him. That last part, you may have noticed, is not-so-standard in romances, and Aislinn’s disinterest in a relationship with Keenan – despite her attraction to him – persists throughout the novel, and is one of its more refreshing elements. The story’s resolution, as well, was unexpected and well-executed, but unfortunately what was in-between was a little bit messy.
Besides the romance, there’s also a significant political plotline, which revolves around the Faerie Courts, as almost the whole of Faerie has been taken over by the cruel Winter Queen, Beira, and her son, Keenan – who is the Summer King – needs to break the curse that’s been put on him if he ever wants to regain his full abilities and restore his Court to their traditional place in Faerie. This was another aspect of the story that I liked, but it was often swept under the rug in favour of the main romantic story-thread, and I think the story would have been improved if Beira’s villainy – and the presumably disastrous effects of her long rule – had been more evident during the parts of the book when she wasn’t an immediate threat.
Aislinn is, of course, the main character, but I’m not entirely sure what I think of her. On the one hand, she’s a strong character who’s been through a lot, and the way she reacted to the situations that were thrown at her seemed very realistic. On the other hand, she was incredibly secretive, even when it was obvious that her secrets were hurting her situation more than helping it, and that got quite irritating sometimes. I’ve also been a little spoiled by Ink Exchange (which I really shouldn’t have read before finishing this review), which had a protagonist who was just better in every way…
Her two prospective love interests are Seth and Keenan, who proved to be pretty interesting. Seth I really liked, but he was a huge mystery. How does he know Aislinn? Why did his parents go away? What does he do (he’s around the same age as Aislinn, but he doesn’t seem to go to school, or have a job…)? He comes across as the kind of character you find in romance novels where devastatingly-attractive-bad-boy falls for good-girl-with-tragic-past and is redeemed/transformed by her love, or his love for her. Except that with Seth, the transformation happens off-screen, and is already over by the time the book starts, which is kind of anticlimactic.
Keenan, in contrast, seems like he should be a mysterious character – him being a Faerie King, and all – but just… isn’t. Instead, he’s somewhere in-between an unconvincing, stereotypically popular love interest and a not-particularly-threatening villain… I did enjoy the his warped relationship with his mother, the Winter Queen (during which he suddenly became the most sympathetic character in the book for a chapter or two), and the complexity of his feelings for Donia, and I also (usually) really liked him as an individual, but as a viable love interest for Aislinn, he just didn’t work.
… And speaking of Donia (which we weren’t, I know… but work with me here), she was probably the best thing about this book. She’s the Winter Girl, which means that she was once where Aislinn is now; being pursued by Keenan and unable to resist him, only to fail the test that would have made her his queen. So now she’s cursed, and she still loves him, but she also hates what he’s done to her, and how she’s now forced to be party to his doing the same thing to countless other girls. In short: She’s sympathetic, and complex, and really, really likeable, and a great friend to both Aislinn and Keenan, despite everything.
So, this is another YA book with a prominent love triangle, which I know a lot of people hate. I personally don’t always mind them, as long as they’re done well, but the love triangle in this book (between Keenan, Aislinn and Seth) is the kind that gets on my nerves. It’s completely unbalanced, and from the very beginning of the book, it was obvious who Aislinn would choose, which defeats the point of having a love triangle in the first place. However, I did like the way that Aislinn decided to make her choice, as it was very original, and really took me by surprise.
In regards to the specific pairs, I’ve already talked a little about my feelings on Aislinn/Keenan (unconvincing) and Keenan/Donia (heart-wrenching), but I should also mention that I did really like the relationship between Aislinn and Seth. There’s not a huge amount to say about it, since it’s relatively un-complicated, but I did think they made a very cute couple.
There’s not much for me to say about the world-building, as the story was almost entirely set in the real world, but I did like the way that Marr inserted faeries into everyday life: Them having their own club was a bit clichéd, but it was interesting how they seemed to be everywhere Aislinn went, living alongside humans, but unseen. I also liked the distinction that was made between the Dark Faeries and the Summer Faeries, and their behaviours, but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more of the Winter Court beyond Beira, Donia and a few traumatised pixies…
The writing was well-paced and very solid. I enjoyed how distinct the narrators’ voices were, and it did a good job of keeping me reading, even when I was tired, or knew I ought to be doing something else… otherwise, though, it was mostly unremarkable.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [3/5]
This review probably sounds quite negative, but I actually enjoyed reading this book a lot – it’s only in retrospect that I’ve picked so many holes in the story and characterisation… and a lot of the flaws are things that I’ve mainly picked up on because Ink Exchange (the sequel, which I’ve just finished reading) was so much better.
It definitely shows that this is a debut novel, but it’s got an interesting cast and premise, and the series seems to be picking up as it goes on, so I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.
Fans of Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, or A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. This series may also appeal to paranormal fans in general, though parts of the series (or at least Ink Exchange) have a slightly darker bent than Wicked Lovely.