Monday, September 22, 2008

A Modern Day Faerie Tale

I haven't forgotten that I promised a follow-up to my post of Friday. I need a couple of more days until things settle a bit around here. I'm doing a presentation at work tomorrow for about thirty-five people, and I'm not quite prepared for it yet.

I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms over the last few days. I used the time to read an urban fantasy by Melissa Marr titled Wicked Lovely. Melissa is represented by agent Rachel Vater who mentioned the book on her blog, which is how I came to pick up a Young Adult novel.

Wicked Lovely is a creative take on the fairy kingdom. I'm always interested in world building. Two other urban fantasy writers who have built intricate Faerie worlds are Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher.

Although I gave up on Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake vampire series about six books ago, I still eagerly await her Merry Gentry series. The seventh book in Merry's series, Swallowing Darkness, is due out in early November.

LKH divides the fairy kingdoms into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, and Merry Gentry is the child born of both courts--her mother was High Seelie while her father was the brother of the Queen of the Unseelie Court.

Jim Butcher talks about the Summer and Winter Courts of the Sidhe. If I remember correctly, the two books of his that focus on Faerie are Summer Knight and Small Favor.

My understanding of Melissa Marr's world building from reading the first in the series is that she divides her faerie kingdom into three parts: the Summer Court, the Winter Court and the Dark Court. Faeries share the mortal world, unseen, playful--and often wicked.

Wicked Lovely is Aislinn Foy's story. Aislinn, called Ash, is a high school student who has always been able to see faeries although they don't know it. From an early age, Ash's grandmother taught her that her safety depended upon the faeries never realizing she can both see and hear them.

Keenan is the King of the Summer Court and son of Beira, Queen of the Winter Court. Centuries ago, the King of the Dark Court helped Beira bind Keenan's powers. He will only be free when he finds his Summer Queen. For nine centuries, he has been asking mortal girls to risk their lives in a test to see if they are the Summer Queen. None has succeeded. Each loser is condemned to become the Winter Girl, isolated and cold, until she can hand off her title to the next loser. As Beira's cold overtakes the earth, Keenan is becoming increasingly desperate to find his queen.

Early in the novel, Keenan focuses his hopes on Ash, who is both terrified and determined not to give up her mortal life--or her mortal friend, Seth. The unknown factor in the unusual triangle of Keenan-Ash-Seth is Donia, the current Winter Girl.

Wicked Lovely was released by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins. Wicked Lovely was the RWA 2008 RITA winner for Young Adult Romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, which is a very quick read. The two female leads, Ash and Donia, are engaging, independent and quick-thinking. Of the two male leads, Keenan's character is the better drawn. Impulsive, a bit arrogant and desperate, he feels guilt over Donia's fate, but is himself trapped in a world not of his making.

Seth is a cipher, noble and devoted to Ash. I would have liked to understand him better. He felt like a place holder to me rather than a fully-drawn character.

Beira, the Winter Queen, is a one-note character, much like the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz. Her role is menacing and her purposes, evil.

The King of the Dark Court is only hinted at, but I believe he plays the major role in Marr's second novel, Ink Exchange. I'll be picking that one up soon.

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