Book Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
‘All teenagers have problems, but few of them can match those of Aislinn, who has the power to see faeries. Quite understandably, she wishes that she could share her friends’ obliviousness and tries hard to avoid these invisible intruders. But one faery in particular refuses to leave her alone. Keenan the Summer King is convinced beyond all reasoning that Aislinn is the queen he has been seeking for nine centuries. What’s a 21st-century girl to do when she’s stalked by a suitor nobody else can see?’
I wanted to like this book — the cover is stunning, and I liked that in a genre overflowing with vampire books, Wicked Lovely went a different way, but in the end I didn’t enjoy this one much. I know it’s a popular book and I can see why, but really, mostly Wicked Lovely just frustrated me.
Keenan, is the Summer King of the fey, weakened by a curse his mother, the Winter Queen, has placed on him. She is also responsible for killing his father, the previous Summer King. For centuries Keenan has searched for his Queen, but first she must pass a test. If she passes she will rule beside him, if not, she will be cursed to forever warn others against taking the test, until the next girl fails and takes her place.
I ended up with many questions regarding the fey. Why did the Winter Queen and Summer King have a child together? Is that tradition? If so, why is Keenan searching for a Summer Queen and not a Winter one? Why kill the Summer King and then curse her son? It’s all very vague and we never get a solid idea of what drives Beira (the Winter Queen) and why she does what she does.
The main issue I had with Wicked Lovely was that Aislinn (Ash) and all the previous girls over the centuries, have no choice over what happens to them. Once Keenan has chosen them, they begin to loose their mortality and have no resistance against his faery powers. Even if they decide not to take the test, they still become faeries themselves, forever bound to the summer court and Keenan. These girls are very much just pawns while Keenan and his guards whatever they wish and that really didn’t sit well with me. When Ash attempts to refuse Keenan’s advances, they actually have several conversations as to whether they should just force her to do as she is told, certain that she will ‘fall in line, like the rest of them’ eventually. This would be a fascinating portrayal of the fey, how they rule, how women are viewed in their society, if I could be sure that we are meant to dislike them. Too often, Marr seems to be trying to convince the reader that Keenan is a good guy — though his actions speak otherwise. Keenan is the self-pitying, tortured soul we have seen a lot of in YA paranormal fiction recently — usually as the ‘hero’. I actually think that this stereotype works perfectly for the Summer King of the fey. He is spoilt, vain and sexist. He claims he feels guilt, yet this never stops him from preying on the next young woman who catches his eye. Just don’t ask me to hope that Ash ends up with this guy.
Worse than the fey, though, were Ash’s human friends. Ash makes it perfectly clear that she does not like Keenan. He makes her uncomfortable (due to the whole stalking thing) and she wants nothing to do with him. Rather then stick up for her and tell the creep to get lost, her ‘friends’ dismiss her feelings outright, laughingly tell him to ignore whatever comes out of her silly little brain — say it’s probably just PMS (!!!??!) and proceed to plot with Keenan behind Ash’s back, forcing her into a corner until she agrees to go out with him. Who needs enemies eh? I actually wanted to throttle them.
I have heard people describe Ash as a strong, independent heroine. I would agree with this though at times she can be pretty passive (for example the way she lets her friends treat her), I can’t say I ever felt connected to her character, but she does fight Keenan’s more and more forceful advances and stands up for herself. She calls a lot of the shots in the end and the devil inside me is amused when I think of her bossing Keenan around for eternity then going off to do whatever the hell she wants — the guy certainly deserves it. Most importantly, I was impressed Marr didn’t go down the typical route of the girl falling for the supernatural guy just because he is ‘hot’. I’m extremely glad that Marr has her female protagonist fight for her freedom and recognise and value when someone treated her with respect and equality - that is definitely something we need to see more of in YA literature.
The one character I really liked was Donia, she was the most complex of them all – and I rather wish Marr had focused on her story instead. Falling in love with Keenan decades before, failing the test and so forever cursed to warn off other mortal girls from loving Keenan – this is a story I want to read. Her disdain and hatred towards Keenan felt realistic (and I loved her for it) but I was saddened by the way her story was concluded. I felt she should have been, and could have been, a far stronger character than that (though I shan’t say any more for fear of spoilers).
Seth was a nice guy, though a tad unrealistic at times — he doesn’t bat an eyelid when Ash tells him she sees faeries — but more importantly, he is very supportive of Ash. He researches faery lore, and does all he can to help her and be there for her, he trusts that she can handle herself, and gives her space when she needs it. They share a mature, equal, sexual relationship, (rarely seen in YA) and though he certainly doesn’t like the idea that Keenan is after her, he never once gets possessive and bans her from going anywhere without him. He trusts her. And though I can’t say that I ever really felt a spark between any of the characters, I’m glad that for once we get to read about a decent guy, who treats the heroine well and she appreciates this. Overall, I would have to applaud Marr for these qualities; unfortunately, I felt these important messages were mostly lost due to the sympathy Keenan generates. The women in this book still care for him, and help him despite his character, despite everything he has done to them. He is too easily forgiven. There was the beginnings of a redemption arc towards the end of the book, though it wasn’t quite enough for me, but perhaps this is something that is explored further in the later books.
I think I would have enjoyed this story more if it was made clear that the faeries are selfish, dangerous, oppressive, supernatural beings with sexist, antiquated ideals. My problem is that I couldn’t help feeling that Marr kept trying to persuade us to like Keenan in spite of all this. I’m still not sure if we were meant to root for him or not. Wicked Lovely certainly stands out from the crowd, in a genre where the love triangle is to often predictable and the mysterious, emo, supernatural guy always gets the girl, this made a refreshing change, and I enjoyed the fact that there were no vampires in sight. I just wish that Marr had focused less on the romance and more on the fey. We don’t go into much detail about their world which is a shame. Despite its qualities, in the end, there simply wasn’t enough of a plot here to hold my interest and I couldn’t connect to the characters, they felt under-developed to me. For a book that highlighted a lot of sexism in different forms, a more forceful feminist voice was needed. Sadly, Ash, for me, wasn’t a strong enough character to voice that opposition.
Recommended Reading Age: 16+
Not for me, but there are others who love this book — why not check out some of their reviews: