The Faerie World of Melissa Marr

wicked lovely by Melissa Marr

I have had my eye out for this book for a while now. I had read glowing reviews. I knew it was a hit with the Twilighters. I liked the look of the cover. (bit girly, you reckon? Yeah maybe).


But it was elusive.


Then, suddenly, from nowhere, it was everywhere. As well as its companion novel, Ink Exchange. A cynic might start looking around for a third book. It’s not like there is a sudden influx of prior books, just before a new one is released. Is there? Or that they all have brand new covers? Oh no, I am not bitter (much).


But, moving on. I quickly snaffled up the pair. And read them. Did I devour them? Pretty sure that’s not the word.


These books are as far from the Twilight books as you can imagine. Not a vampire in sight. In Marr’s world we are surrounded by faeries. We may not see them, but they are able to influence us, and enchant us, tease us and manipulate us.


Aislinn is the main character and she has the Sight. She can see the faeries all around and has spent her life pretending she can’t. She can never relax, can never let her defences down. And most of all, she knows never to run. They love to chase. And catch. Ash knows all this from her Grandmother.


But the novel is not only told from Ash’s perspective. We are also shown Keenan’s point of view. He is the Summer King who has been cursed, and cannot rule entirely until he finds his Queen. There are many rules, many complications and he has been waiting for centuries. Can Aislinn be the one?


To complicate matters, Aislinn is very quickly falling in love with the steadfast, loyal (very human) Seth. Can she ward off the advances of Keenan? Look, the plot is not the most important thing about these books. (which is funny that I have spent so much time talking about it, considering in most of my reviews I don’t usually touch upon plot very much). But because of the beautiful way that Marr writes, the focus is very much on the language, on the mood she creates, and on the intense interactions between the characters.


Marr builds up the situation to breaking point. When we think there is no way for her characters to go and they appear to be back up against a very nasty wall, then and only then, does she offer us a solution. Not just a solution, but a completely and utterly realised compromise that allows all the characters to hold their heads up.


I know that I don’t usually go on like this. And I still have two books to go. Oh, did I not mention that the third one has appeared on bookshop shelves? Sorry, my bad. (It did. Yesterday.)


Ink Exchange is set in the same world. inkexchangeAislinn, Keenan and Seth all appear. As do other minor characters in Wicked Lovely. But the main character this time is Lesley. This book is much darker, and more grim. Lesley lives a lonely sad existance.  And she has lost contact with her good friend Ash. What she doesn’t know though, is the King of the Dark Court, a faerie called Irial has picked her, and it will take all her strength, and some desperately needed help from her friends for Leslie to find her way back and find herself.


Again Marr focuses on the the way the characters want their lives to be and the way they are. She shows the importance of choice and the need to take responsibility and the way we need to reach out to our friends.
Although this was harder to read, I liked the development of some of the minor characters – Niall is a curious creation. We want to like him, but he such dark thoughts and urges. But I guess that is something else Marr wants us to think about. The flaws we all have, and how we have to work to overcome them. We must put aside our selfish thoughts and put others first.


I am in the middle of the third one. We are back to Aislinn and Seth. The book is not the last, so I am expecting it to leave me impatient for the fourth. I think I can see where its headed. I know Seth has some serious decisions ahead of him. Maybe he needs to spend some time with Bella.


I initially said that Marr’s books are nothing like Meyer’s. I stand by that. But in a way, all YA has a similar undercurrent. The angst is explicit. The longing for identity and to belong is paramount. The characters seek, sometimes not even sure what they are looking for. And as readers, we go on this journey, looking for our own answers.

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

There are now four books in this series, with the latest, Blood Promise, only just released last month. Richelle Mead has other series as well, but it is this one that has been such a big hit, on the back of Twilight. As well, the author has been in Australia promoting the latest one, so this has been a coup. Stephanie Meyer come to Australia? Not likely (I know because we asked her).

Vampire Academy

These are the first 3 books. The first one was published in 2007. The next two came out in 2008, probably 6 months apart. Now the fourth one, and two more already anticipated in 2010.

I have resisted these from the beginning. Haven’t wanted to buy TOO many Twilight rip offs. But who is ripping off who? It’s difficult to know. But my resistance was weakened when someone handed me a copy of the fourth one for free!! Come on people – it was free!


So I went and bought the other three and got stuck into them. First thing to know? This is a vastly different take on the vampire universe than Stephanie’s Meyer, which, as I have said before, isn’t a bad thing. In this world, there are two types of vampires – the Moroi (the goodies) and the Strigoi (the baddies). Plus there are people like Rose. Our main character is a Dhampir – Half human, half vampire, dedicated to protecting Moroi from Strigoi.

Mead’s universe is detailed and consistent. If I have any complaints it is that she seems not to trust that we have read the previous books. The books suffer from too much repetition of both the way the world works and of the narrative. Might be why Blood Promise is so thick.

Rose is feisty, a little bit whiny, but also strong and fearless. The books do a good job of slowly revealing their hidden depths, so they build nicely to climactic ends. Each one deals with its own mystery, its own villain, but as we go through them, a bigger picture emerges, and this layer within a layer makes them that bit more subtle and complicated than the Twilights.

Also, even though we have Rose’s perspective, there are many male characters around her, and instead of the romance driving the narrative, these arevery much the other way around. Rose and Lissa (her charge) are often in danger. This is what moves the book forward. And the romance is on the side – Who does Lissa fall for? How about Rose? Who isn’t falling for her? So in this other significant way, the VA books distinguish themsleves from Bella & Edward.

I will be putting them on the shelves next term. If they seem to appeal to you, seek them out. Then tell me what you think.

Measuring up by G J Stroud

measuring upMeasuring Up is Gabrielle Stroud’s first novel, and she does a pretty bung up job of it (that’s good just in case you aren’t sure). The main character, Jonah (known as ‘Feet’), is in his last year of high school, is a mad keen surfer, and is secretly mad keen on one of his best friends, Mel.

The book follows him through this last year of high school. There are of course many issues he has to deal with, relating to family and friends – both good and bad.

What I liked best was the authentic voice of  Feet. He sounds like a real boy. I may be wrong – perhaps they don’t think like this at all. But I think may be they do. The book moves quickly and is packed full of incidents.

I recommend it.

Is YA too grim?

I found this link. I find this discussion very interesting and never ending. It seem everyone has an opinion and they are always extreme.

There have been a couple of books this year I couldn’t finish because I just found them too harrowing. Kill the Possum was such such title. The Knife of Never Letting Go was also very intense and confronting. (I am yet to take on the sequel).  I did actually manage to get through that one.

But as a teenager, I devoured all of Robert Cormier, and if you have ever read The Chocolate War or The Bumblebee Flies Anyway you will know they are not easy reads either. Maybe it’s something about being young that makes living on the edge, reading about extreme behaviours, seem so dangerous and exciting.

Someone said to me yesterday, ‘Realistic is mutually incompatible with YA fiction’ which is interesting in itself, but in this context, a lot of authors who write the gritty stuff would argue that’s why their material works and is popular with kids – because it resonates with them. For me it was the case of the opposite. Cormier’s books presented a side of life I would never experience, so I was fascinated with these views of teenage terrorists, drug addled bullies and mentally disturbed boys.

I wonder what you think? Is there such a thing as a book that’s TOO dark? And this is in a realistic sense, not in a Lord of the Rings Sauron type way, with exploding volcanoes and fiery dragons. This is about teenagers facing situations in their life that could actually happen.

(If you are interested, here’s a list of titles, just off the top of my head):

Crossing the Line Di Bates
Sleep Rough Tonight Ian Bone
Night Train Judith Clarke
Dogs Bill Condon
Before I Die Jenny Dowham
Surrender Sonya Hartnett
Marty’s Shadow John Heffernan
Brown Skin Blue Eyes Belinda Jeffrey

Dreamrider Barry Jonsberg
When the Hipchicks went to War Pamela Rushby
Broken Glass Adrian Stirling
Our Little Secret Allayne Webster