Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review - Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 24th, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 325 Pages
Challenge: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Leslie has had a tough go of things lately. Tough might even be too nice of a word. Her mother split, her Dad is mentally gone, if physically there, and her brother Ren is into drugs and consorting with the worst type of lowlifes. Her best friend, Aislinn, has a weird threesome going with Seth and Kennan and has taken to keeping too many secrets. But who's Leslie to judge, she also has her dark secrets, horrors that happened because of what her life has become that she'd rather forget. She has one remaining hope, one thing that will keep her going till she's able to head off to college in the fall, a tattoo. If she can just find the right ink to adorn her body she can reclaim it as her own and move beyond the something that happened. But all is not right at the tattoo parlor... the proprietor, Rabbit, is having bizarre back room dealings with dark faeries for nefarious purposes. Leslie is destined to be a victim once more... the tattoo that calls to her happens to be the mark of the king of the Dark Court of fairies, Irial. Because the secret her best friend Aislinn has been keeping is that fairies exist, and she is the Queen of one of the four courts, the Summer Queen. Aislinn thought she was keeping Leslie safe by holding out on her, by having her guarded unknowingly. But things have a way of becoming complicated, especially when her guard, Niall, is falling for her, and he has a past relationship with Irial, who he forsook for the summer court.

Things start to become more dangerous and more inevitable once Leslie's inking has begun. With a mixture of dark blood, tears and shadows, Leslie becomes slowly entwined with Irial. But a simple ink exchange binding a mortal to a king for the purposes of sustaining his people has the unintended effect of making Irial care for Leslie. Victim she might be, but Irial wants only the best for her, as does Niall. But is it too late? Could Leslie stop the process before it is complete? Her new feeling of empowerment and the control over her own life might all be an illusion, feelings lent from Irial, and not her own. In trying to feel safe and protected she has placed herself unwittingly in the worst type of danger. Aislinn's codling of her friend helped to create another horror in order to assuage her guilt over not being their before. But things will of course get far worse before there is any chance of them getting better.

Looking back on my previous review of Wicked Lovely, I said what this series needed to hook me was a darker edge... well I sure got it! Leslie is a far more compelling character than Aislinn ever was. For all Aislinn's "problems" with fairies, she had a relatively easy life. Leslie has not had this easy life, her encounters with humans are far worse than what Aislinn has had to deal with... she was made queen after all! Whereas Leslie and her dark past attracts the worst kind of fairies who desire to use her as their conduit to human emotions. She is turned into the very thing she abhors most, a junky and a drug source in one. The two things that destroyed her life in the first place she unwittingly evolves into. In an effort to escape, and who wouldn't want that after what she's been through, she destroys herself more. For a time I was very worried that Leslie would have no redeeming quality, that she wouldn't be able to reclaim her life and her body, that her descent into debauchery would continue. I, of course, should have had more faith in the author. A helpless female is all well and good just so long as she isn't that by the close. I enjoyed this darker tale in Marr's world of fairies, a sort of depraved version of Labyrinth, with the Goblin King being played with equal elan by Irial and Niall... at times the boy's seemed more stilted and less engaging than Leslie, but soon all was well and the story kept the pages flying. Final verdict... the next book is near the top of my to be read list, and I'm far more optimistic after reading Ink Exchange than after reading Wicked Lovely... I think this series has the potential for hooking me yet!


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