Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr, Book 1 of the Wicked Lovely Series

Aislinn is a mortal gifted with the Sight. She can see Fairies. The invisible denizens of the fairy courts stalk humanity, playing tricks, playing games sometimes cruelly and maliciously. They’re not to be trusted, she’s always been told by her Sighted grandmother. Not to be trusted and always to be avoided. Especially as a Sighted mortal – fae have been known to kill and blind mortals with her ability.

Mostly she tries to ignore them – but 2 of them, Keanan and Donia, have started following her and paying far too much attention. Worse of all, they’re not just fae, but nobility of the fae courts and Keanan is determined to insert himself into her life.

Aislinn is reluctantly dragged into a war between the Summer and the Winter courts, with a future being forced upon her, playing a game she doesn’t know the rules of – where she has to decide what she wants and how much the fae are demanding she sacrifice. Especially with her grandmother’s warnings still loud and clear

The world is interesting – the fae always allow for vast variety and variations and even more here where we have not just the classic 2 courts so often seen in stories – but several courts all with their own fae, their own customs, their own nature and their own problems.

The idea of invisible fairies, despite being such a major part of faerie lore, is still not something that has been overly developed. And I really love the idea of the faeries being everywhere invisibly and how someone with the Sight has to negotiate through that world.

The battle between Winter and Summer is literally epic on a world wide scale –while at the same time being deeply personal. While the knowledge that Winter is slowly taking over the world and is eventually going to destroy life it’s still a very personal fight. Yes the world is in the balance, but it’s also a personal battle between Keanan and his mother with Donia dragged along. It manged to balance both epic and personal together extremely well.

Storywise, while it’s an interesting world with interesting characters it was faintly predictable. There was a twist in that Aislinn maintained her own demands as well as with Donia’s fate and it was certainly a fun, interesting story – but it was a story where the ending could be seen pretty early on and I didn’t think there was much maintained tension. It was fun and interesting – but, perhaps, not exciting and tense. I also feel the ending was somewhat anti-climactic and seemed to end too suddenly. The epic confrontation was too short .

I really like the character of Aislinn. She manages to be strong without being perfect and without being impossibly aggressive and ridiculously reality denying.  Nor does the world magically change to fit her because she has defied it.

She is faced with a deeply unpalatable situation – but it doesn’t go away just because she’s insisted it should. She doesn’t want to be a fairy or the Summer Queen and never once relents in this. She doesn’t like Keenan and doesn’t want him – no matter how many times he pushes her and tries to seduce her, she doesn’t melt to him. This is a wonderful change from a genre that has oodles of reluctant women who are finally brought round by the persistent, stalking, can’t-take-no-for-an-answer heroes.

But, at the same time, she is faced with an inevitable. She can’t stop it now it’s been started, the other choices are even less palatable (become the tortured Winter Girl or one of the sycophantic groupie Summer Girls) – she doesn’t weep or wail and she doesn’t demand reality change to fix her (and magically it does) like in so many books. She decides everything will happen  on her terms, according to her rules with strict limits of what she will and will not do and be and what she will and will not give up.

At the same time Aislinn can be weak, can be vulnerable, can be scared and afraid and lost and can seek comfort and reassurance and help – all without diminishing her strength. It just added to her humanity. All in all, she was one of the better characters in Urban Fantasy.  I think the counter of Aislinn and Donia made up for the fawning Summer Girls and showed a diversity and balance. There are elements I didn’t like still – like Niall making the point to Keanan by using Dark Fae to abuse a female sprite, and the seemingly pointless attack by the men on Aislinn (which seemed to bother Seth more than her) that I felt were just unnecessary

Sadly, outside of Aislinn’s excellent strong character, and Donia’s noble, strong, albeit self-sacrificing character, there wasn’t much in the way of other marginalised people - the whole cast was straight and white.

We also have a continuation of problematic mothers. Aislinn is an orphan and raised by her grandmother (like so many Urban Fantasy protagonists) as is Seth – and Keanan’s mother is, of course, the villain. How often do we see living, loving, capable mothers in Urban Fantasy?

All in all it was a good book and a great introduction to a new story. I’m really optimistic about the next book and the series