Wicked Lovely–A Review
Hardcover, 328 pages
Before I get started, let me get one thing out of the way: I know I’m not the intended audience of Wicked Lovely. It is published under the HarperTeen imprint, signalling that I am at least a decade past the intended audience. That being said, I did find a lot to like about Wicked Lovely. And the parts that I didn’t like as much I can probably chalk up to being “features of the genre” that would probably go over better with the intended audience.
I appreciate that Marr did the research into the folklore of the fey and did not just make up mythos to suit her story. I like that while focusing on the love triangle (because there always seems to be love triangles in these types of stories), she did enough to build up the intrigue of the Fairy Courts that the love story isn’t the only thing to drive the plot.
That being said, I tend to roll my eyes at stories where the plain ordinary girl suddenly has every suitor coming out of the woodwork to woo her, especially when she seemingly does nothing but be a thoroughly unpleasant person. Even in my beloved Southern Vampire Books I find the fact that pretty much every man within the 20-40 age range who meets Sookie is in love with her tiresome sometimes. (The overt focus on all the suitors was part of the reason Dead as a Doornail is my least favorite of the series so far). However, at least with those books a) I can see what all these people see in her to some extent and b) there are other factors at play that get explored in the later books.
In Wicked Lovely, you have Aislinn who is your typical meek high school girl, being pursued by the two “dreamiest” men in the book–her longtime friend/reformed rake Seth and Keenan the Summer King. However, the pursuit of Aislinn is part of a far bigger story. Beira, the Winter Queen and Keenan’s mother (a role that was meant for a Hollywood Grande Dame who feels like chewing scenery–paging Susan Sarandon/Narissa) does not want to lose her power, even if means plunging the world (aside from the Western PA city of Huntsdale) into eternal winter. Narissa/Beira long ago set up rules and rituals that Keenan must follow to fully realize his powers as the Summer King. As for Seth, the book established early on that he and Aislinn have been friends for a long time and that the increased fairy threat is relatively new. So I can buy that over time he could start to see her as something more and be in love with her, even if she’s drippy and whiny through the major chunk of the book.
The other main player in all this is Donia, the Winter Girl who Keenan thought should be his queen and the one he is still truly loves. However, Donia was not the Chosen One and when she tried to become the Summer Queen, she turned from human to Winter Girl instead. Now she has to play a complicated game where she needs Keenan to find the Summer Queen to break the spell, but at the same time wants Keenan for herself, but at the same time is threatened by Beira to make sure Aislinn never goes through the ritual.
The middle section dragged a bit, focusing on how much Aislinn did not want to be Summer Queen and how she’s still running scared from everything. As realistic as it would be considering the circumstances, it was tiresome to read. But thankfully Aislinn finds her strength. More than finally facing her fate, she manages to negotiate it on her own terms once she realizes what’s at stake.
What makes Wicked Lovely work is that it the human scale (Aislinn trying to come to terms with her fate) and the larger scale (the fate of the fairy world) intermingle nicely. With the exception of Aislinn’s “girlfriend speaking”* high school friends,** the characters are either fully realized, or have hints of depth that will likely be explored in later books. You care what happens to them because they are people, not plot devices. At the same time, the love triangle does not become a Romantic Plot Tumor, threatening to overshadow all else in the story. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of a courtship and a chase before it just becomes tiresome. Thankfully, that point is resolved in this book in a satisfying way, leaving the next books in the series open for other stories that could exist in this decently built world. Hence the reason Ink Exchange has been added to be TBR list.
* By “girlfriend speak” I mean that painful slang that writers use to allegedly make women sound more realistic but rather makes them sound like parodies. Reliance on terms such as “girl” and “hottie” are indicators that we are in girlfriend speak land, but much like porn, you know it when you see it. Err…read it.
** Who basically are indistinguishable, except for Rianne who has a disconcerting tendency to refer to men as “tasty morsels” and other food related bits of objectification.