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Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
I love stories about the Fae. Dark, dangerous, decidedly inhuman Fae. Like vampires and werewolves, urban fantasy has a tendency to soften the edges of the Fae, to make them work within a mortal framework. Not Melissa Marr. I am in the middle of reading Fragile Eternity, the third book in the sequence, and her ability to keep the often poisonous bite to all things Fae makes me so very happy.
In Wicked Lovely we are introduced to Keenan, the Summer King who has been searching for his Queen, leaving a trail of mortals who didn’t fit the position in his wake. He is beautiful, charismatic, and Fae to the core. We see how manipulative he can be as he works to win over the one he is convinced is to be his queen, disrupting her mortal life without hesitation. The sheer depth of his lack of anything resembling human ethics or morals is more apparent in Ink Exchange, but it shines throughout Wicked Lovely in his single minded determination to get what he wants. And he wants Aislinn, who has lived her left trying to ignore the Fae she sees with her Second Sight. Who has a life and loves that will be turned upside-down under the full force of the Summer King’s attention.
In Ink Exchange, the focus shifts to Aislinn’s friend Leslie who is desperate for a change, for control. When she chooses to get a tattoo made up of dark wings and enthralling eyes, she catches the attention of Irial, the Dark King, who will use her to feed his starving court. As with Keenan, we see hints and echoes of what can almost be a human concern, but it is ultimately overwhelmed by the inhuman Other that they are. The struggle between Fae and mortal sensibilities comes to a head in Ink Exchange, and spills over magnificently into Fragile Eternity.
The books are written for anyone who ever dreamed of the Faeries coming to take them away, and were properly terrified by the idea. They are rich with a beautifully skewed romance and contain such a sharp edge of emotion that they appeal to audiences far beyond the young adults they are marketed towards.
Face Off by Mark Del Franco
I will continue to rate these highly by virtue of the utterly fantastic world build. I read and read and I still want to know more about Fae politics, and how they are dealing with being thrust into the human world, and how the humans are coping. It seems an overdone, trite concept, but trust me when I say this is a singular world/series.
The plotting and the scheming in Face Off was good, though I did sort out the overriding threat long before the protagonist did, which left the last chunk of the book less interesting than it could have been, but it was still executed very well.
The second Laura Blackstone novel lived up to the expectations of the first, and moved a bit more towards a more typical urban fantasy with the development of her love interest. The character still remains intensely interesting on a psychological level- having one person pretending to be so many conflicting personas at once leads to interesting contemplations on issues of the self- and Laura does go through some changes in this book. And they are good changes, ones that further the character, and I am interested to see where they take future books.
Del Franco’s Connor Gray books remain a better series in my opinion, but the Laura Blackstone books are still a very enjoyable read. You get an inside view of the Guild and InterSec workings you miss from reading Connor’s point of view. Both series work together excellently to flesh out the magnificent world Del Franco has created.
If you are looking for unique urban fantasy, give either of these series a shot. They are well worth it.
Skin Deep (The first Laura Blackstone novel)
Unshapely Things (the first Connor Grey novel)