Wicked Lovely is a YA urban fantasy debut novel by Melissa Marr, who is now a New York Times bestselling author. Currently, Marr has two other books that take place in this world, Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity. Fragile Eternity, the direct sequel to Wicked Lovely, was just released on April 21.
Most humans do not realize faeries exist and spend time in the mortal realm, but seventeen-year-old Aislinn has always been able to see faeries just like her mother and grandmother. Aislinn’s grandmother has taught her that she must never reveal that she can see the faeries by staring at them, talking to them, or attracting their attention in any way. However, Aislinn cannot help it when she captures the eye of Keenan, the Summer King, who has spent centuries searching for the Summer Queen and thinks Aislinn just might be the one to fill this role.
Only by finding the Summer Queen can the rule of Keenan’s mother, the frosty Winter Queen, end. Every time Keenan selects a girl as a prospective queen, she is forced to make a choice – either become part of a harem of his “Summer Girls” or take the test to determine if she is indeed his Summer Queen. If the girl does not pass the test, she is forced to bear the chill of the Winter Queen until another girl comes along and fails the test – and she must tell the new girl not to trust Keenan even though this girl’s failure could be her salvation.
As Aislinn is pursued by Keenan, it threatens her budding relationship with her old friend Seth, who has been in love with her for a long time. Will she succumb to the charms of the Summer King and leave Seth behind?
Once in a while one of those books comes along that on the surface really sounds like something you would like, but for some reason (or several reasons) it just doesn’t work for you. Maybe it’s just not what you’re in the mood for or maybe it just doesn’t click with your personal taste. Wicked Lovely was one of those books for me. At first, I thought maybe it was just because it was written for younger readers but I’ve read plenty of books intended for young adults or even younger audiences that I’ve enjoyed – the works of Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book all come to mind. I suppose it just wasn’t my type of book.
After hearing so many good things about this book, I sought it out at my local Borders and read the two page prologue. The description of a girl failing the test for Summer Queen very much intrigued me and I wanted to know more about Keenan, his quest to find the Summer Queen, and why he was so desperately trying to find her (the dazzling cover may have had some influence as well). It sounded disturbing, but the rest of the book never lived up to that expectation for me. I did find it creepy that Keenan was going around spying on girls and convincing them to love him (especially when at least some of them were only teenagers) and that some of those girls ended up as part of his harem, but it never really seemed all that dark to me. Perhaps that was at least partially because I never cared at all about any of the characters other than Donia at times so nothing that happened ever impacted me on an emotional level.
The characters did not have much depth – most of them had one or two personality traits and other than that seemed fairly interchangeable. The two main human characters, Seth and Aislinn, seemed far too perfect. Seth used to sleep with every girl he could find but now he’s devoted to Aislinn and has eyes only for her. There’s no conflict there – he just seems to exist to dote on her and please her, which makes him very dull to read about. Aislinn is beautiful, smart, and has a special ability that sets her apart from others. She is pursued by Seth, who is of course gorgeous, and Keenan, who is also gorgeous in an other-worldly way. There are a couple of instances where I found myself cheering her on for her strength and feistiness, but for the most part, she seemed very bland.
The fae tended to be more interesting but not enough to make up for the rest of the lackluster cast. Keenan’s actions were motivated by his desire to do what was best for his people by overthrowing his wicked mother, which actually made him seem a little too good and human for a corrupt fae to me. (I love to read about the more amoral fae that seem truly inhuman, such as those in Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series.) The only character I ever felt sympathy for was the current Winter Girl, Donia, who truly loved the Summer King but now held herself apart from him after being hurt by his pursuit of many other girls throughout the years. The Summer Queen was a disappointing and unconvincing villain – she was very evil for evil’s sake and she never scared me. In fact, she often seemed rather silly and over-the-top.
One quibble I had with this book was that I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief over the matter of Aislinn hiding her ability to see faeries for all those years. The very first chapter shows Aislinn hanging out in a pool hall having fun until the fae come in. She gets this look on her face that the humans around her recognize as meaning she’s going to leave. They don’t know why she looks that way, but they’ve seen it often enough to know what it means. Yet the faeries don’t get suspicious when she suddenly loses concentration on the game she’s playing, consciously does not look in their direction, and leaves every time they show up? I suppose they’re used to remaining unseen and maybe they are too busy reveling to notice this pattern.
The first 80 pages or so were very difficult for me to get through, but it was a short book so I persevered. It did get better after that, but it still never connected with me personally so I mostly read it so I could cross it off the to-read list and move on to something else. I do seem to be in the minority for not loving this book so be sure to check out some of the other reviews below.
Wicked Lovely had a couple of good moments, but mostly it did not jive with my personal taste. I will not be reading the rest of the series.