A Series That Thrills Me...The Wicked Lovely Books by Melissa MarrI'm really enjoying the recent books published dealing with the fairy realm. It's just a wild guess, but I think the popular response to all the vampire books has given authors and publishers permission to take a walk on the wild side and go a little darker when it comes to fairies. This has placed stories out of the Tinkerbell genre and right where they belong from a literature and myth perspective - in very dangerous territory.
I don't know why I haven't blogged before on fairy books that I've loved, but suffice it to say that I'm fixing this now. Melissa Marr leads the pack (in my heart) in this respect of all things fairy - her books are dark and sexy with great characters and a subculture that knocks your socks off. With the latest installment of the Wicked Lovely series here in the form of the book Radiant Shadows, readers have gotten an even more compelling novel that will leave them craving more. HarperCollins has been a great publisher for her since I love the way they don't hesitate to plug their video booktrailers. Hopefully they realize they hit the jackpot with Melissa since she is such a social network maven with her great blog and Twitter posts that brighten everyone's day. Check out the Radiant Shadows booktrailer to get a sense of what I mean.
So what is the Wicked Lovely series, exactly? (We all know booktrailers leave a great deal unsaid.) Wicked Lovely was the first book in the series (and I'd recommend reading them in order just to catch all the character development) which introduced us to an unnamed gritty city in which Aislinn, a young teenage girl, lives with her grandmother and desperately tries to have a normal existence. Rather a challenge, considering that she can see fairies. I gather this is quite a talent considering that no human is supposed to see a fairy unless that individual fairy wants to be seen. She catches the eye of Keenan, the Summer King, who has been trying to find a queen for his court for centuries, a development that does not thrill Seth, Aislinn's edgy boyfriend. Keenan is not without emotional baggage either, and his former girlfriend, Donia, not only still loves him but might be the heir to the Winter Court, which would mean she would be set in polar opposition to him in the fairy power play.
And so starts the series, which basically hovers around the conflict and complications of the interaction between the fairy realm and the human world. The second book, Ink Exchange, while still showing us the lives of the previous book's characters, is much darker. It deals with Aislinn's friend, Leslie, who has suffered at the hands of her brother's drug dealing friends. She decides to get a tattoo from local artist, Rabbit, and ends up bonded to the king of the Dark Court, Irial. This places her in another kind of hell as she physically needs him to live (and he needs to use her as a conduit to give dark human feelings and emotions to the fairies of his court so they don't go out and try and make them happen on their own). Through sheer chutzpah and the help of some sympathetic fairies, she manages to forge a new life for herself, although the fairy players in this game do not remain unaltered by their experience with her.
Just when you thought the first two books were exceptionally well-written and things couldn't get better, the third book, Fragile Eternity, knocks your socks off. Focusing on Seth, who is still in love with Aislinn despite her recent ascent to Summer Queen, this novel explores the bargains intelligent mortals are willing to make for love. Taking him to the fairy realm, Seth follows his heart and causes some rather important players in the fairy world to feel tied to his cause. The price he has to pay is a large one, but he might actually cause a shift of power to take place as important fairies decide to back him and give him access to what he most desires - Aislinn. But things aren't so simple as Aislinn doesn't know anything except the mortal love of her life has disappeared and her Summer King is willing to help her believe that Seth may have abandoned her cause in the hope that she will turn to him for solace.
So now we come to Radiant Shadows, the second to last book in the series (don't you love that the trailer drops "penultimate" on you? Way to keep it classy, HarperCollins!). We are introduced to two of the best characters in the series (who knew?) Ani, tattoo artist Rabbit's sister, and Devlin, the brother and assassin to the High Queen. Devlin has only disobeyed his sister once, when she ordered him to kill Ani and her sister as children, and now the girl he thought was human has turned out to be the half-fey daughter of Gabriel, leader of the Hounds. While Ani wrestles with her fairy and mortal desires, Devlin must wrestle with his desire for her and the knowledge that something more important is taking place as Ani attracts some powerful attention. What is her significance in the fairy world and how can the two of them help restore order to a world threatening to come apart?
The final book, Darkest Mercy, is due out in 2011 (*frustration*) and promises to bring all these characters and plot lines together. With another writer I might be nervous about their ability to thread all these strong individuals together coherently, but not Melissa Marr. I have a feeling she will not disappoint!