So while I love to read fantasy, I rarely encounter what I consider to be really excellent and likeable/believable tales about faery. Sure, I’ve read Holly Black’s faery novels: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. Her books take a modern girl who is actually a faery child that was switched with a human child and describes how she lives among iron in the human world. (I just didn’t like these because of their content.) I’ve also read Maggie Stiefvater’s Ballad and Lament, both of which are great but are more otherworldly and have very Gaelic/Scottish influences. They would be wonderful reads for around Halloween time.
Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is not along the same lines. I think she takes a more classic approach to tales of faery queens and faery courts and makes them seem almost timeless with their passing influences to our human/mortal world. She really takes you deep into the faery realms and faery politics, but she also does a great job of making the faeries relatable to humans, having close resemblances to human emotions, feelings, and desires. If you have read or liked the medieval tales of faeries, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Edmund Spenser’s The Faery Queen, this is so much more up your alley. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can just pretend you didn’t read that and continue to the reviews.)
Aislinn believes she is just a regular teenage girl. Only she can see faeries. Her grandmother has taught her that if the faeries know she can see them, terrible things will happen. Aislinn must not attract their attention at any cost. This isn’t a problem until Aislinn meets Donia and Keenan, who present themselves as regular mortals interested in getting to know her.
Keenan is the Summer King, ruler of one of the four courts of faery who is held in thrall by his mother, Beira, the Winter Queen and Irial, the King of the Dark Court. His father, the former Summer King, was murdered centuries ago by Beira, and the Summer Court is helpless to stop the power of the Winter Court unless Keenan finds his missing Summer Queen. For centuries he has looked and looked, wooing many mortal girls to find his true queen. The mortal girls who love him must take a test, either become Summer Girls and part of Keenan’s court but fail the test to determine whether she is a the Summer Queen or become the Winter Girl, doomed to be a pawn of the Winter Queen, scorn Keenan and discourage his future mortal paramours, and be in perpetual icy pain until the next unfortunate Winter Girl. Donia is the current Winter Girl and though she loves Keenan, she must dance and play the game as all faeries must. She must attempt to drive Keenan away from Aislinn, because even she feels that this girl is different, as does the evil Beira.
But Aislinn wants nothing to do with any faery. She only wants peace and to continue being with her best friend, Seth. But once Keenan has marked her, she is on the path to becoming faery, whether she wills or no. With Seth’s help, Aislinn finds out Keenan’s identity, but not before she is targeted by Beira and has attracted the attention of innumerable faeries. Aislinn has a choice to make and already she has much to lose…
As the second book opens, we follow Leslie, one of Aislinn’s best friends who’s been abused and had a hard life, with a mother who abandoned her, a father who drinks and beats her while not providing anything by way of living, and a brother who uses her as payment for drugs and tries to drug her. Leslie is tough and used to providing for and protecting herself from her family. With so much pain and struggle in her life, she wants a tattoo that represents all the hardships she’s been through yet still shows she’s beautiful and strong. She doesn’t know, but the tattoo she chooses draws her closer to the realms of faery.
She doesn’t know Aislinn is the Summer Queen and Keenan is the Summer King. She is even fascinated with Aislinn’s friend Keenan’s “uncle” Niall (pronounced NIGH-ALL), who is also a faery. Niall is just as fascinated with her, but so is another powerful faery. Irial, the Dark King finds Leslie to be mesmerizing and instructs an associate of his Dark Court, Rabbit to allow ink exchanges, blood transfers that will give the Dark Court power by tying them to mortals to be used as magical power food. Leslie unknowingly picks the perfect tattoo, a tattoo that will bind her to Irial and enslave her within the twisted pleasures of the Dark Court. Leslie has a choice to make. Will she depend on herself and possibly die from her choices or will she turn to Niall and Aislinn for help?
With the growing imbalance among the courts of faery, Seth feels his mortality and vulnerability more than ever. He’s the boyfriend of the Summer Queen (Aislinn), the friend of the Winter Queen (Donia), the almost brother to the Dark King (Niall), and the rival of the Summer King (Keenan). At any minute, any one of them could accidentally kill him and create war between their courts. Seth, because he loves Aislinn, pursues a quest to become faery which leads him to the High Court, ruled by Sorcha, the faery embodiment of Truth and Reason who also controls the entire existence of Faerie. Sorcha’s antithesis and sister, Bananach, is the embodiment of War who constantly works to destroy the faery courts and create chaos among the worlds of faery and mortal. When Bananach brings Seth to Sorcha, desiring to kill him or manipulate her sister, Sorcha chooses instead to give Seth the option to become faerie, and not just any faery, but one powerful enough to withstand the struggles within the courts. All of these secrets, however, are kept from Aislinn. When she finds out Seth has left, she assumes he has left her and their love, creating more discord and more potential for chaos. Life, love, and peace are all so fragile that they can be broken so very easily…
In another break from the saga that is Aislinn, Seth, and Keenan, this book features Ani. Ani is the half-mortal daughter of the Gabriel, the leader of the Hounds, the Dark Court’s band of hunters. Gabriel’s (for every leader of the Hounds becomes either Gabriel or Gabriela) are not supposed to sire children with mortals, so Ani’s very existence is forbidden, not to mention the existence of her half-brother, Rabbit, and sister, Tish. The High Queen, Sorcha, decreed that Ani was to be killed, the act carried out by her “brother” Devlin. When Devlin turns to follow his Queen’s orders, his friend, Rae, asks him to grant her a third and final wish–to spare Ani. This act changes Devlin’s future forever, and Rae knows it.
Ani, however, has drawn the attention of Devlin’s and Sorcha’s sister, Bananach, which is not a good thing. Bananach wants to create as much discord and chaos as possible so that she can start a war against her sister. She confronts Ani and commands her to kill Seth or Niall or her own life is forfeit. Devlin cannot just stand aside as his two sisters fight over the Hound girl. He steps in to throw his lot with Ani’s, changing the course of Faerie forever. Will they survive against all Logic (Sorcha) and avoid being the pawn of War (Bananach)?
The series ends with Darkest Mercy. The leader of the Death Fey walk the streets of Huntsdale. Bloodshed and death are imminent. Irial hangs on the edge of life, Niall is driven mad, Keenan is missing, and Bananach is tirelessly plotting for more ruin. At least Faerie is stable, with Devlin and Ani ruling the Shadow Court and balancing Sorcha and the High Court. But Seth is not out of danger yet, and Aislinn and Donia are not faring well either. In this final installment of the Wicked Lovely series, all conflicts come out into the open and it isn’t clear who will triumph in the end…
All in all, this was a pretty great series! Happy reading!