Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: Bought at a book fair (and signed by Melissa Marr!)
Cover: I really love all of the covers in this series and this cover is no exception. I love the usage of dark colors. I also appreciate that we get to see the ink on Leslie's back and the little wings sprouting out from it. The only problem with the wings is she isn't a fey but I love the way they look so much I'm willing to overlook it. This is my third favorite cover in the series.
First Sentence: "Irial watched the girl stroll up the street: she was a bundle of terror and fury."
The Mini-review: Ink Exchange takes wings of its own, set in the same addictive world as Wicked Lovely, but with even darker undertones.
Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of the faeries or their shadowy power struggles. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.
The tattoo does bring changes... not the kind that Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that bind Leslie to Irial, a dark and dangerous faery king fighting for the soul of his court. Slowly, Leslie is drawn deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resists its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils...
I've had this novel sitting on my shelf for quite a while because I kept telling myself I was going to buy the rest of the series before I read this one. I'm glad I finally gave up on that notion and dove into this novel. Ink Exchange is an exciting, dizzying and sexy follow-up to Wicked Lovely.
One of the main reasons I was hesitant to read this novel was because it switches main characters and in general, once I get to know a few people, I don't really want to switch pace and read about a minor character in the last book. I was really interested in Aislinn's transition and wanted to know more about that and the tenuous agreement her, Seth and Keenan finally agreed upon in the last book. But in this one, I am pushed into Leslie and wow did I love it!
The last novel did a wonderful job setting up this dark world that these characters lived in and this novel really focused on that initial darkness by giving us some really dark characters. Leslie is a girl broken in the beginning of the novel, desperate to try to claim back her body, which up until a while ago she thought would always be solely hers. Her solution is to get ink but she doesn't realize until it's too late that she will lose even more. I love that Leslie was tough. For me, Aislinn acted sort of tough but she never really walked the walk when it came down to it. It felt like Leslie could take care of herself. I grew increasingly frustrated with Leslie's unwillingness to let anyone in and confide about the horrendous things that happened to her but I understood fully why she felt that way and respected her for it.
Leslie's carrying a pretty heavy burden so we need some pretty dark guys to really amp up this secret world. Enter two faeries of the Dark Court: Niall and Irial.
Niall turned his back on his true court a long time ago and pledged his allegiance to the Summer Court but as he falls deeper in love with Leslie, he's wondering if he truly made the right choice. I loved Niall in the beginning, who despite being frustrated with himself, at least tried to make choices for himself. He was damaged, tough and alluring but as the book continued he became more broken. As a result, (for me) he lost that sexiness in being able to decide for himself and just started wandering. I really didn't like how he didn't do anything the second half of the book and when Leslie does finally find him he claims he'd been watching over her. Even if that's true, why didn't we, as readers, see this because we did follow him too? I just found that to be a weak excuse.
Irial was a really interesting "villain" in the sense that he didn't really want to be. In the first novel, we learn that the Dark Court is bad news and they sort of are. But in this novel, we see why they are the way they are and how some of the court understands that there must be light in order to create darkness. Irial's struggle to find a balance between what his court expects and what he wants is one of the most fascinating aspects of this novel. Plus, I read him with an Irish accent which is just sexy so I was putty before we even got to know him.
Ink Exchange is full of sensual images and metaphors and some of the scenes are VERY racy because it lingers in the shadows. I think that's one of the reasons it feels so gritty and almost unreal (it might have something to do with being about faeries, if I'm being honest). Marr showed a great understanding for the tattoo artist and a real love for the act of tattooing ones body which is really refreshing.
I do wish that the writing was a bit more clear. Sometimes I found myself re-reading conversations to make sure I understood what was actually happening and I was a bit fuzzy on how the magic actually worked which hindered my enjoy just a little. This could have been the very large gap between reading the first and second novel but I still feel I should have had more of an understanding as to what was happening to Leslie. It was all a little vague.
Regardless, this is a gritty dark fairytale that will grip you until the very last word. It's sexy, intriguing with just the right amount of danger and wonder. I highly recommend this novel!
Here's a Wicked Lovely trailer since Ink Exchange was never created: