Review: Fragile Eternity

fragileeternityFragile Eternity is the third book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA fairy series. While it follows Ink Exchange, it returns to the unresolved threads of the first book in the series and revisits Wicked Lovely’s heroine (Aislinn) who was made into a Summer Queen at the end of the first installment.

After discovering that she is the true Summer Queen, Aislinn struggles to come to terms with her new fey existence, as well as with the fact that she has been thrown into a relationship with the seductive Summer King, Keenan. However, unlike Wicked Lovely, this book is not strictly Ash’s story. Fragile Eternity, in fact, follows the story of Seth, Aislinn’s mortal boyfriend. Though he does love her, Seth finds it hard to understand the new pressures on his girlfriend, and both find it difficult to deal with the fact that, while she is immortal, he will one day grow old and die. Seth is also troubled by the close relationship Ash has to share with Keenan, and becomes jealous of the powerful (and physical) bond between the Summer King and Queen.

As a central character, Seth is likable and sympathetic. However, for me, the ‘star’ of Fragile Eternity is, without doubt, Sorcha, the Queen of the High Court. The eternal and ‘unchanging’ queen, who is responsible for the entire creation of Faerie, is at once an imperious and threatening figure and a vulnerable and lonely woman. The choices Sorcha makes defy all human logic, but Marr’s writing skillfully draws us into the world of this frightening fairy, so we are able to have some level of understanding and sympathy. Fragile Eternity also develops the fairy world of the first two books, and explores the tricky relationship between the fey and mortal realms – as well as the dangers to be faced when the balance between these realms is disturbed.

Unlike Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, this book takes place mostly within the fairy world. The once mortal characters of the first two books are now embracing their fey identities. This shift in focus is interesting, and promises to take the series in a new direction. Fragile Eternity also ends with several storylines unresolved, pointing ahead to the final two books in the series.

This book is recommended for fans of YA urban fantasy, particularly the fairy novels of Holly Black, Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Need. It is highly recommended for fans of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.

Contains: some references to sexuality, death and violence (not explicit)

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

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Ink Exchange is the second book in Melissa Marr’s YA Wicked Lovely series. The first book in the series told the story of Aislinn, an ‘ordinary’ high school girl who is stalked by fairies that no-one else can see. Ink Exchange tells the story of Leslie, one of Aislinn’s school friends, who also becomes ensnared in the world of the fey.

Like the first book in the series, Ink Exchange is a rather dark tale. Just as Aislinn had been dogged by traumatic experiences in her past, so Leslie is struggling to come to terms with horrible memories when her story begins. However, in many ways, Ink Exchange offers a more disturbing tale. Having been raped by drug dealer associates of her brother, Ren, Leslie decides to get a tattoo in an attempt to reclaim her body and her identity. Unwittingly, she chooses a tattoo parlor run by a half-mortal, half-fey named Rabbit. The design she chooses is the mark of the Dark King Irial, leaving Leslie tied and drained by the fairy.

Meanwhile, Aislinn (now the Summer Queen) is keen to protect her friend without revealing her new identity, and sends advisor Niall to watch over her. Niall forms strong feelings for Leslie, and has his own past history with Irial as well, creating a complicated love triangle between the mortal girl and fairy men.

Leslie’s (literal and metaphorical) attachment to Irial is described in terms that seem reminiscent of drug addiction – reminding me of Holly Black’s book, Valiant, in which the connection between drug-taking and fairy magic is also explored. At times, Leslie’s fate seems so bleak that it is hard to imagine how she is ever going to come through it. However, the resolution of her story is one of triumph, not of suffering, and her final destiny is one of the most empowering I have read in a YA urban fantasy.

Of all the Wicked Lovely books, Ink Exchange is definitely my favorite. It certainly goes to some very dark places, and is quite an emotional read at times, but this is a strength, rather than a weakness. While Leslie is, for the most part, a victim in this book, the way this is handled (and, finally, dispelled) is excellent. Melissa Marr’s choice of how to resolve a love triangle (so common, now, in YA fantasy) is both bold and moving.

I recommend this book to fans of YA fantasy, though it is more suited to older teen readers. It belongs alongside the other Wicked Lovely books, and the YA books of Holly Black and Carrie Need.

Contains: references to sexuality and sexual violence, drug use and death

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

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Aislinn has the Sight. She sees faeries everywhere, and faeries are terrifying enough that she spends most of her life trying to make sure faeries don’t notice her. Unfortunately, she comes to the attention of the Summer King, Keenan, who must convince her to become his queen. Keenan is bound to play out a scenario set by his mother, the vicious Winter Queen, which requires the chosen girl to take up the Winter Queen’s staff at his request, at the risk of becoming her pawn.  Without the Summer Queen, the world will descend into a permanent, killing, winter. The last girl to take up the staff, Donia, must convince the new girl to reject the staff, but things are changing. Aislinn is different from the girls who have failed- she resists falling under his spell. And she has backup- a grandmother who also has the Sight, and takes the risk seriously, and Seth, a friend who lives in a steel train car where she is safe from faeries, and who is becoming much more than a friend.

Aislinn is a strong protagonist. Caught in events outside her control, she uses her Sight, her knowledge, and her stubborn independence to shape the effect those events will have on her life. She is also loved, and believed, and Seth’s steadiness, resourcefulness, and support are critical to her holding on to her core. The resolution of events is surprising and satisfying, although it’s clear there are still dangerous conflicts ahead, and readers will be eager for the next installment. It’s difficult to believe Aislinn and her friends are teens, or that her Grams, who is portrayed as very strict, gives her the leeway to travel alone through some pretty awful urban areas, much less spend the night with Seth, who is several years older, but readers will forgive the dissonance that creates in favor of letting the story, especially the intertwined love stories of Donia and Keenan with Aislinn and Seth, sweep them away.  The first book in a series, Wicked Lovely is followed by Ink Exchange andFragile Eternity, but Wicked Lovely stands alone, and is clearly the standout of the series. Highly recommended for public library YA collections, and for high school library media centers, and for fans of urban fantasy.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Review: Made for You by Melissa Marr

20419003Melissa Marr’s latest is the magic-light tale of Eva, a southern princess (child of the elite in the tiny town of Jessup, NC) who after being struck by a car and left for dead finds herself with the unpredictable ability to read the deaths of people who touch her.

Even more disturbing is how many of her friends die at the hands of a serial killer, a maniac that has begun leaving messages through flowers and carved into the flesh of his victims.

The whole premise of Eva being a genteel, popular, universally loved southern lady almost ruins this book. But in the chapters where readers find themselves in Eva’s head (which is most of them) we learn she finds it just as repressive and ridiculous as I did when I read the back cover. Eva feels trapped by societal expectations, a note that rings stronger when a psycho-serial killer starts sending her messages.

Made for You is a great introductory horror novel for teens. There’s a lot of the creepy, stalky, murdery bits with stronger drawn characters. There is horror and gore here, but without the loving descriptions often found in adult novels. Definitely recommended for teen audiences, especially ones who already enjoy Marr’s other series.

Contains: sexual language, violence, murder

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Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

sunshineSunshine’s life is changed forever when, while out for a walk by the lake, she is kidnapped by vampires and left, chained to a wall, to be prey to an enemy they’ve captured and have been torturing. It’s a game, starve the vampire then leave him alone with a pretty young, innocent girl until he can’t resist.

But then, against all odds, Sunshine walks away.

If you’ve ever read a teen coming of age story that uses vampires and magic to propel the lead through the journey between child and womanhood, then you’ve read a book that was trying to be this one.

Vivid, beautiful and damn near perfect, Sunshine is a book not to be missed. Definitely a must have for teen collections.

Contains: Language, sexual language, violence

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Review: Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Deerskin_coverDeerskin is a fairytale princess, the daughter of the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms who married a great king and whose love was so legendary it eclipsed everything, including her own existence.

Admired and loved the king and queen were, but their story was so powerful no one else, including themselves, had much time or attention to spare for Deerskin. Then the queen becomes deathly ill and the king goes mad without her. People start to notice Deerskin a little more, including her father. The mad king declares that to strengthen his kingdom he will remarry the only woman who can compare to the dead queen, his own teenage daughter.

After a terrible night that proves he won’t be denied, Deerskin and her loyal dog Ash flee, wondering what kind of life a fairy princess raised both indulgently and neglectfully can have in the normal world.

But like all fairy princesses Deerskin has a fairy godmother who is more about enabling survival than happily ever after.

Deerskin is a dark high fantasy novel retelling of Donkeyskin. Similar to Cinderella, with all the horror of the Grimm tale. Deerskin is a dark, but beautiful read.

Highly recommended and no doubt with the popularity of books from vampire tales to stories like Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson Deerskin has a strong audience in teens too.

Contains: violence, incest, rape

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Review: Gotham Academy #1

tumblr_inline_ncpuapk9dh1ra5iejSoooo many questions left after this one. First, I love the cover and the very idea (A Gotham Prep School?) The execution is dark and creepy, a lot like Batman meets Hogwarts.

Olive is in her second year at GA and feels like an outsider after some yet-to-be-explained summer break events changed her perceptions of her life. She’s been saddled with nannying first year student “Maps”, who also happens to be the younger sister of her kinda-not-boyfriend.

I loved everything about this comic except it’s length. Grrr, Give me more! And my favorite bit was the feel that the ghost haunting GA is really Batman himself.

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Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

6763961For a book all about death, demons and soul selling, My Soul to Save isn’t that dark of a book. The second book in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, it again follows Kaylee, a bean sidhe (banshee) by birth who is quite new to her powers. Still sensitive to her habits of screaming uncontrollably when someone is about to die, and how that leads to time in mental wards despite that it’s completely normal for her, Kaylee is now in bean sidhe lessons with her boyfriend’s mom (an 80 plus year old bean sidhe) Harmony. She’s also finally living with her dad, who has sacrificed a higher paying job in Ireland for an attempt to raise his daughter.

But no one approves when Kaylee discovers and decides to help a pop star (and ex-girlfriend of her boyfriend’s brother) who has sold her soul to hellions and only has four days before she dies (and her soul is sentenced to eternal torture for the hellions’ pleasure). While bean sidhe do have powers, and can walk into the demonic Netherworld, they aren’t exactly big guns there, their powers put them directly in opposition with most of the Netherworld creatures and Kaylee herself is so new at being a bean sidhe she still smells like the packaging.

My Soul to Save is off beat compared to the larger slice of urban fantasy YA books out there. No vampires, no teen family angst, no torn between multiple boys, popularity issues, etc. Kaylee has a pretty good head on her shoulders. She’s clever, sweet and smart. Her biggest failing is not using the knowledge of the adults around her and instead trying to do everything herself. While Vincent does imply that asking for help might not have gotten the plot resolved, one can’t help seeing how Kaylee does put herself in incredible danger, out of not just naivety, but at times a refusal to believe things are as dangerous as they are. To Kaylee this adventure is dangerous, but something she has to do. To the adults, and even the more knowledgeable teens, Kaylee’s actions are DANGEROUS. The difference leads to readers wondering if Kaylee just doesn’t understand, or isn’t listening about the danger she’s putting herself in.

In a way this is the opposite of many UF tales, where the tension and danger are part of the story drama. Kaylee ends up with a very white knight feel, noble, but mere steps away from being high -horsed (if she developed a chip on her shoulder, or had the thought of her actions making her better than the people around her) or naive to the point of stupidity (if she doesn’t learn anything from her very close brushes with death in this book). Overall there’s a feel of idealism to Kaylee and this series that will appeal to readers who might be tired of dark, nihilistic paranormal adventures, but there’s also real danger which will appeal to readers tired of convenient plots or fluffy paranormal worlds.

The Soul Screamers series is different from the popular styles today, so readers really should take advantage of Vincent’s free prequel novella on her website before deciding whether to continue the series or not. The books are good, but are poised to shift the focus of what’s popular in the YA genre rather than following or expanding current trends. As such readers stuck in the popularity mindset might not find the Soul Screamers as appealing at this point, but the writing and story are there and quite enjoyable.

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Review: Runaways volume 2

43612On the run from their murderous parents (who framed them for the murder) teens Alex, Chase, Gert, Karolina, Molly and Nico have tons to learn. They aren’t exactly close friends, they have pretty…,um, classic views of superheros and villains, no clue about their own abilities and there are dangers other than The Pride out in the streets they’re trying to save.

Reading Runaways v 2 and New Mutants v 2 back to back was a bit jarring because while New Mutants is busy and chaotic Runaways is in it for the long haul. There is a lot more time spent building up these characters and the full extent of their situation (and toying with their hopes via a cameo from street-rats-turned-superheroes Cloak and Dagger).

Irritatingly enough there seems to be more readers don’t know than they do know. Including that there’s a mole inside the teens’ haven feeding The Pride information.

I like the stories so far, and especially the kids. They seem to have good heads on their shoulders and a practical, if naive, view of their situation. And I love the sly stabs at other current popculture icons. Definitely fun.

Recommended for comic fans.

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Review: New Mutants volume 2

downloadPoor New Mutants. Professor X just “rescued” them from their homes to train them to control their mutant powers and their first field trip finds them lost in the Amazon, taken captive by a secret city modelling itself after Rome and battling it out in the Colosseum. All alone, with no adults to depend on they have to face down a murderess sorceress, the family of one of their team mates setting them up to die, the dark demonic secret of another teammate and being kidnapped by a rival mutant school.

The issue with graphic novels is that these tales were originally published across monthly issues, and in this case, under multiple titles. Pieces of the story are missing because they appeared in X-Men titles. The two cons combine to make this novel…a bit of a mess. There isn’t a overarching plot, unless you think of the New Mutants as a bunch of kids trying to have their coming of age stories, while being constantly sidelined by secret organizations, demons and adults who are too busy to really seem to care.

That is actually a pretty interesting aspect of these tales. The New Mutants consistently find that they cannot trust the adults around them, not even Professor X. Some adults, like Sunspot’s dad and Emma Frost seem to be outright toying with them and plotting their deaths for the most dramatic effect. This theme is reinforced when it’s the students at Frost’s Massachusetts’ Academy who help them escape.

Marvel missed some chances here, but of course the 80s weren’t really a time of long term story arcs. The New Mutants does offer a uniquely diverse character base for its time period. And, of course, there’s the delightful utter lack of Jean Grey-based story lines.

Recommended for younger teen comic fans.

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