Title: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
Length: 328 pages
My star rating: ★ ★ ½
Aislinn has been able to see fairies all her life. She fears and avoids them in accordance with her grandmother’s wishes, but the rules she has lived by fail her when a fairy man begins to take special interest in her. Though she tries to ignore his attention, Keenan—the Summer King—has other plans. He is convinced that Aislinn is the long-lost Summer Queen. Desperate to defy his evil mother, the Winter Queen, and come into his own, Keenan pursues Aislinn, even as she pursues a relationship with her mysterious friend Seth.
If you think that sounds like the recipe for a fairly common and uninspired YA fantasy novel, well—you’d be right.
I’ve been meaning to read Wicked Lovely pretty much forever. And now that I have, I can only really say, “Meh.”
The whole thing seemed supremely uninspired. Ms. Marr was writing about Faerie…so where was it? Where was the magic and wonder and otherworldliness? Because it sure wasn’t here in Bumfuck—sorry, Huntsdale—Pennsylvania. The fae (here “fey”) were funny-looking and invisible, but for all Aislinn’s fears and the “edgy” urban setting, they never seemed as menacing as Marr wanted them to. Nor is any explanation ever offered as to why the Summer Court would choose to settle in Huntsdale and not, well, anywhere else. Marr makes it clear that these are the fae of Celtic lore, so…why a suburb of Pittsburgh, the “Steel City”?!
The characters, too, lacked anything approaching a personality. Keenan has just the barest hint of one—he is Moody and Charming and Painfully Beautiful, otherwise known as the faerie version of Edward Cullen, right down to his “copper-colored” hair—and Donia has her moments. Our heroine Aislinn, though, reads like nothing but a wannabe Rose Hathaway or Katniss Everdeen. Marr even admits as much when describing Aislinn’s bedroom:
Aislinn retreated to her room and closed the door. It wasn’t a sanctuary. It didn’t reflect her personality… It was just a room, a place to sleep. …There were some things that mattered to her in her room … It wasn’t much, though, the proof of her personality in the room. (103-4)
Aislinn’s bedroom does not reflect her personality because she doesn’t really have much of one. And neither does her would-be boyfriend Seth, other than as the Good Goth Guy.
And don’t get me started on the other characters—Aislinn’s supposed best friends and her grandmother—because they are so empty and superfluous that it’s surprising they even have names.
Yep, real original. Especially since Donia is in love with Keenan, but also attracted to Seth, creating one big confusing love…square?
I signed up for a Faerie story, dammit!
The only thing that drove the plot along and kept me reading was the “is-she-or-isn’t-she the Summer Queen” thing, even though the answer is almost painfully obvious within the first hundred pages—meaning readers can spend the subsequent two hundred wanting to shout, “Get on with it!” at the sniveling, indecisive characters. Aislinn vacillates wildly between being terror-struck and helpless and then supposedly regal and badass. (Both Keenan and Seth describe her as beautiful, brave, and smart, but I saw no particular evidence of any of that.)
The matter of choice was frequently toyed with, too. Even when everyone pretended Aislinn had one—a choice upon which the fate of the entire world supposedly rested—no one did anything about it. Oh, sure, they had a big party and got Aislinn slaphappy and drunk one night. But we’re talking about faeries here. The ultimate tricksters! The fae characters—who should have been at least somewhat threatening or untrustworthy or somehow morally grey, based on the rules established by Marr—do nothing so much as stand around and fret. They discuss possible ways to influence, woo, or fool Aislinn into falling for Keenan, but they spend the majority of the book as passive worrywarts.
In other words, boring.
A lot of things could have made Wicked Lovely at least a passable novel, if not a really good one: compelling, well-developed characters; a consistent narrative structure; genuine dramatic tension; an actual attempt at world-building; better pacing; and more complex sentence structure (and better writing overall).
And if it was so impossible for her to give Aislinn some kind of personality, I think Ms. Marr would have been better-served to focus on the dichotomy between the Summer King and Winter Queen, given what happens in the epilogue.
For all its faults, Wicked Lovely is still better than some YA fairy stories—the Julie Kagawa’s insufferable, cobbled-together Iron Fey series, for instance, as well as Jenna Black’s Faeriewalker series—but that isn’t saying much. I doubt I will be picking up any of this book’s numerous sequels. I’m just not interested enough.