Friday, July 23, 2010

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Published: June 2006 by HarperTeen
Word Count: 73,426
Series: Wicked Lovely series, book one
Source: audio book

My Grade: A-

Synopsis from GoodReads: Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.  Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything. Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.

What I love about this book is that Melissa Marr has done her homework. Her plot, fairies, and other supernatural elements are all based on authentic Celtic fairy tradition. I know this because I have done a fair amount of research into this subject myself, and Marr starts each chapter off with a relevant quote from a primary source, many of which I have read. She takes these gems of Celtic folklore and reinvents them in a fresh, urban, and unconventional way I never would have thought could be done without feelings cliché or old-fashioned. Here is one example, from the beginning of chapter 29:

" 'Their favorite camp and resting place is a Hawthorne tree, which is sacred to the fairies and generally stands in the center of a fairy ring.' -Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland, by Lady Francesca Speranza-Wilde, 1887." (disc 8)

Marr does an excellent job of creating the otherworldly nature of the fairies:

"He stood there as he truly looked, not wearing his glamour. Warmth rained over them, as if sunbeams fell from his hair. Warm honey pouring slowly over her. She gasped, feeling like her heart would burn out from racing so fast. The warmth rolled across her skin until she was almost as dizzy as she'd been when she'd danced with him. Then he stopped it, like turning off a faucet. There were no breezes, no waves, nothing but his voice." (disc 6 tracks 17-18)

Marr also employees good storytelling techniques, like in the below passage, where she uses description and imagery to build the tension leading up to Aislinn’s decision to grasp the Hawthorne staff and ascend to her position as Summer Queen:
 “The rustling of trees roared around them like a waterless storm, like voices crying out in a language she couldn't remember." (disc 8)

What I didn’t like:

The main protagonist, Aislinn (pronounced ASH-ling), is a character that is hard to characterize. Her disposition swings from timid and uneasy to resolute and authoritative. The author even describes her as intimidating at one point as seen through Keenan's eyes.

Wicked Lovely sounds like an enticing title, but it could also be construed in a contrived or dirty way. Even the cover art looks overtly sexual and makes me a bit embarrassed to be seen with it, like I'm scuttling around with contraband erotica, when really, this book is nothing of the sort. So, the title and the cover art could have been toned down a bit to make it appear a little more age appropriate. I really like the title of the third book in the series, Fragile Eternity. That title evokes a nostalgia and yearning worthy of a fairy fantasy novel.

The central conflict is compelling and the story's steady pace keeps up the interest level, but I don't know if I  liked the frequent 'head-hoping' as it's known in the writing community. On almost every occasion a scene would start with one character's point of view and then switch to another's halfway through - not going back over the same action but continuing the action, now following the thoughts of the other character. I realize the author does this to give the reader perspective and to provide character development and insight, but ultimately this technique just makes the action choppy and I am left feeling I only have a superficial understanding of the characters' motives, beliefs and feelings. Maybe I am hyper-aware of this storytelling method because I have paid attention to it in order to improve my own writing. I know I never thought about it when I was a teen. I just enjoyed the story. But then again, I didn't read much pop fiction in high school, and the few I did I don't think I liked much. That isn't to say this whole book is just fluff. It's not - but it is an indulgence. However, I tip my hat off to the author for her unconventionality. It is an unlikely story, and it goes in a direction you don't expect at the beginning. At the start, you feel like you've read this book before. Normal girl meets supernatural boy (be he vampire, werewolf, fairy, wizard or whatever, take your pick). There are only so many places this premise can end up, right? Wrong. Melissa Marr shows us a completely different way of doing things - maybe a more modern and less romanticized way, but different nonetheless, which I for one wasn't expecting.

Find it on Amazon: Wicked Lovely

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