Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely is the story of Aislinn, who at 17 is still at school and still under the house rules of Grams, her grandmother. Aislinn was born with the Sight, and what she sees of the faerie world is never reassuring. The grotesque fey, or faeries, as they are called, are disturbing, and Aislinn has to keep a firm rein on herself. Grams also has the Sight, and she has impressed on Aislinn that "if you run, they'll chase you".

Aislinn's best friend is a young man named Seth, much tattooed and pierced, whose parents have gone away on a charitable venture. Seth lives alone in a converted train, and the iron carriages are one place where Aislinn feels safe. As the story opens, the pressure is increasing, as Aislinn sees more and more fey. One is a beautiful boy named Keenan, another, a girl whom Aislinn calls "Dead girl".

Aislinn's struggle with Grams' rules, her confused feelings for Seth and the tension of pretending she doesn't see the fey makes an intriguing opening for this novel. Soon, we are introduced to Keenan, who is the Summer King, to Donia, the Winter Girl, and the ghastly Beira, Keenan's mother, the Winter Queen. For nine centuries Beira has held Keenan's full power in check, and the stalemate will continue until he finds and claims his queen. The rules of the game are complex, and the consequences frightening. For the girls Keenan courts there is no way back to normal life.

The game for high stakes plays out as a romance, but unlike many such books this is not another version of Tam Lin. The ending is tightly plotted and satisfactory, and the characters well-drawn.

Three things I found disconcerting. One was the American setting. The author's style is quite British, and every time a reference reminded me that this is not set in England or Ireland it jolted me a bit. I wonder if the edition I read had been Anglicised.

Another thing was that one of the stakes was for the survival of the world; if Beira wins the game, the Earth will sink into endless winter. In these days of global warming it is odd (to say the least) to contemplate the threat of a contemporary ice age!

Finally, the use of "fey" and "faerie" as nouns bothered me, as I think of them as strictly adjectival. I would use "fay" and "fairy".
Despite the quibbles, I enjoyed this very much. 4/5.

If you have read this book, please leave a comment.


Melissa Marr said...

Thank you for your response to the text. I enjoyed reading it.

I'm not prone to responding to opinion things (as they are not mine to comment upon), but I can answer the Anglicisation question :)

RE: "I wonder if the edition I read had been Anglicised."
The book was co-acquired in the US & UK. In the UK edition, spelling, idiomatic or colloquial phrases, & any slang are adjusted for the UK; in the US edition, these are adjusted for the US.

I hadn't realized it until I started this, but I tend to use a mix of the two sets of rules in my writing & speaking. Both US & UK copyeditors change my "non-standard" elements. All of these are word level changes though--smallish tweaks. (Although admittedly, I called upon friends with teen relatives in England for appropriate slang substitutions to give my editor.)

RE: "The author's style is quite British . . ."
I think the things we take in filter into the words we put out.
My area of academic study was British Literature. Pre-writing, I taught university literature.

But for one grandparent, my family is Irish & Scottish (Great-Grandmother Rose was an Irish citizen who spoke Gaelic/Irish), so my grandparents & parents were pretty influenced by that.

Btw my family & my pre-writing career, I guess a bit of British & Irish textual influence was mixed into me. . . and I'm grateful for it.

with regards,

Allison said...

I also found the "world sinking into winter" a bit strange in an age of concern about global warming and I found that it was a theme that was unevenly discussed. It almost seemed like an afterthought since the effect on the world mostly wasn't mentioned (or at least, I never strongly felt that the world was at stake).

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I found that the writing felt awkward around the topic of sex. I wonder if some of it was a feeling of responsibility on the part of the author towards the intended audience. It's hard to put my finger on what jarred exactly because it wasn't that I felt that someone behaved out of character, it's more that what was in the text (e.g. the whole scene with Seth's tests) and how it was written, occasionally felt awkward to my internal voice. Does that make any sense?