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Book Review: Ink Exchange


Ink Exchange
by Melissa Marr

On the surface, Leslie seems like a normal teen, but she hides the truth of her life from her friends. Ever since her mother left, Leslie’s life has been difficult. Her father has basically abdicated responsibility for the family, and Leslie’s drug-addicted brother controls the house. Leslie tries to pay the bills when she can, and stay out of the way of her brother’s drug dealing cronies—especially since some of those cronies raped her with her brother’s permission for payment of his debt. Leslie lives in fear, but she’s determined to take control of her life. She decides to get a tattoo as a symbol, a promise to herself, and a way to reclaim her own body.

One of Leslie’s friends is Aislinn, the new Summer Queen of the faerie. But Aislinn is keeping her own secrets—she doesn’t tell Leslie about her new faerie life, or that her new friends are not human. Aislinn wants Leslie to have as normal a life as possible, so she has forbidden any of the faerie to reveal themselves or their nature to Leslie. But keeping secrets can have unforeseen consequences. Leslie doesn’t realize that her new tattoo will tie her to the faerie King of the Dark Court, Irial. Nor does she know that Aislinn’s friend Niall, who appears to show an interest in her, is really a faerie whose powers are devastating to mortals.

As Leslie becomes more closely tied to the Dark Court, she finds the darkness exhilarating and liberating. But the price that Leslie has to pay for freedom from fear may be more than she is willing to pay.

Ink Exchange is the sequel to Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, and if anything, I liked it even better than Wicked Lovely. It’s a very different book—much darker, for example—but I thought the writing showed more maturity and I found it a very compelling read.

Leslie is a difficult character to identify with, because she keeps her emotions so tightly restrained due to the devastating events in her recent past. But I think Marr successfully walks the line in portraying a character who is both “broken” and strong. But more interesting than Leslie are some of the faerie characters: Niall, who is tormented by his attraction to Leslie, knowing what will happen if he gets too close, and Irial, a reluctant Dark Lord who isn’t entirely evil in spite of the horrifying things he does. I love the duality in these characters, the yin and yang of characters who have aspects of both darkness and light. Irial cares about his people and feels a deep sense of responsibility. If he didn’t have both the darkness and the caring, he wouldn’t be as good a king for the Dark Court. And conversely, Marr shows the dark side of the Summer King as well.

One thing that upset me is that the Advanced Reading Copy I read is labeled for “Ages 12 and up.” I really don’t think that this is a book that most twelve-year-olds are ready to read. There are alcohol and drug use, reference to a rape in Leslie’s recent past, and some pretty horrifying deaths. I think it would have been more responsible of the publisher to label it as “Ages 14 and up,” knowing that twelve-year-olds who are emotionally ready to deal with such things would read it anyway.

Ink Exchange is scheduled for an April 29, 2008 release.

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