Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange

Where Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely left us mesmerized by a unique take on fairies, enticing body art, and a strong female protagonist (as well as strong female villains who were, in fact, scary), her Ink Exchange novel in the same series simply fell short and instead seemed to deliver the opposite—the tale of a fragile girl whose friends not only know about her suffering and fate, but also fail to disclose any of it to her, offer any compassion toward her, and simply leave her a tragic victim. (Spoilers ahead.)

Like Wicked Lovely, we have the same faery realm portrayed in the novel, only with an even darker court. Powers, rules, and especially the way the faeries look and act are all as compelling as ever. In fact, her whole “ink exchange” idea—an act in which a human is imprinted with a faery’s symbol as a tattoo and then used as a sort of energy lightning rod for him and his court—is a brilliant notion. It just didn’t feel as successfully carried out as her first novel.

In Ink Exchange, the protagonist is a rape victim, something that seems to be taken lightly. Though it’s mentioned repeatedly, her friends—who all know about it even without her telling them, somehow—don’t even seem to give a damn, which is very frustrating for the reader. How can we care about this girl—who is kept rather one-dimensional throughout the novel for us as it is—when her own friends do not?

An interesting love triangle of sorts exists throughout the book, but it’s a bit unbelievable. The faery we’re sort of rooting for, of course, does not get her in the end, but experiences a fate he does not like one bit; with his considerable skills and age, it’s also strange to begin with that he even finds himself in love with this teenage girl. It’s almost creepy—faery or not—in the same way an old man lusts after a teen girl he finds online. There’s even a chapter where the two lounge around doing nothing but talking and playing video games, which not only seems out of place in the book, but also in character.

I really wish this story had been more developed, and that the main character had been given more strength and more of a proactive role in her own life than she seemed to have been given, because the rest of it was there, at least compelling me to read to the end—amazing fantasy, dark, even morbid storylines, and an other-worldliness that Marr has shown much skill in developing. I’ll read the next series installment, Fragile Eternity, because I do enjoy her writing; I only hope that it’s stronger than Ink Exchange.