Book Review: “Wicked Lovely” by Melissa Marr

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Welcome to Huntsdale, an American industrial city in decline. Factories are decaying. The streets are getting meaner. Even the Catholic prep students are deep into the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll scene. And the town is infested with faeries.

Yes, faeries: magical beings, most of them unseen by mortals, some wearing glamours that make them look human. They range from impossibly beautiful court faeries – members of either the Summer, Winter, Dark, or High Court – to bizarre and grotesque creatures combining features of man and beast. They treat each other savagely, and they play tricks on unsuspecting mortals, who can’t see them. Mostly.

Aislinn can see them, though. So can her strict and protective Gram, who has taught her the rules of dealing with these fair folk, so long of life and so short of pity. The rules are: Don’t look at faeries. Don’t answer when they speak to you. Don’t run from them (for they love the chase above all things). Do nothing to attract their attention. Besides these, and the fact that they are allergic to iron, Aislinn has nothing to protect her when, in spite of all her precautions, a couple of court faeries start paying particular attention to her.

The gorgeous Keenan is, in fact, the King of the Summer Court. Because of a magical binding placed on him by his evil mother, the Winter Queen, Keenan has spent most of the past millennium searching for Miss Right, the girl who can set him free. When he chooses Aislinn as his next candidate, he pursues her relentlessly. And there is so little she can do to resist, as her very mortality is slipping away.

Soon Aislinn must face a terrible choice between being one of Keenan’s immortal bimbos and the endless, bitter cold of becoming the Winter Girl. Unless she is, after all, the true Summer Queen. Yet she doesn’t want that, either. Irresistable as Keenan is, the boy Aislinn wants is the very mortal, down-to-earth Seth, who lives in a train and collects tattoos and piercings.

The choice couldn’t come at a worse time, just as Seth and Aislinn are ready to accept their tender feelings toward each other. Yet choose she must, or the Winter Queen will suck all the life out of the world, beginning with Huntsdale. Throw in the little detail that the Winter Queen is prepared to take lives to prevent Aislinn from becoming Summer Queen, and you’re set for the long buildup to a huge climax.

The author of this dark, gritty, romantic fantasy laces it with quotes from scholary authorities on faerie lore. In the Harper Teen edition’s “Extras,” Marr also provides a hard-rock play list to go with her tale. Teen girls should especially enjoy the way Marr depicts the conflicting emotions swirling inside Aislinn. Parents and delicate readers should beware of the book’s mature themes and sexually-charged situations, playing out in a teen scene and a faerie world that has little by way of moral scruples. For this is a faerie tale that inhabits the shadowy side of our age; and it is the first book in a series that continues with Ink Exchange.