Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange is a sequel, of sorts, to Wicked Lovely.  It’s a sequel in that the world is the same and so are some of the characters, but the focus is now on Leslie, one of Aislinn’s friends.  Unlike Aislinn, Leslie can’t see the fey; she doesn’t even know they exist. Aislinn has managed to keep her worlds separate – friends and school at one end of the spectrum and ruling the Summer Court at the other. But she’s not the only one living two separate lives. Leslie’s mother has left, leaving her alone with her alcoholic father and a violent, drug addicted brother. Leslie is strong; she’s trying to keep it all together and keep her friends from finding out just how bad things are. But hiding so much of her life means she’s lonely and frightened. She can’t talk about what’s really happening to her, and more than anything she wants it all to go away.  The one thing that’s keeping her going is the tattoo she’s been saving for. She’s already waited longer than she wanted to, trying to find the perfect image that would represent everything she is and everything she wants to be.  When she finally finds it, Leslie also finds a strength she didn’t know she possessed; the tattoo becomes a symbol of her freedom from pain and fear, and her entry into a world where she comes into her own power – but that power has a price.

Like Aislinn in Wicked Lovely, Leslie is an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances. She’s not a superhero and she’s not perfect. She makes bad choices and suffers the consequences. She struggles to do the right thing without always being sure what that might be.  She doesn’t really know what she wants; she only knows what she doesn’t want.

One of the things I love most about Marr’s writing is that there are no easy answers. There aren’t even easy questions. Leslie has enormous issues to deal with, and like any of us, what she wants most is for those problems to go away.  She wants no pain, no fear, no uncertainty – but what does it mean to actually get those things? To have your choices taken away from you?

Ink Exchange delves deeper into the world of faerie; we learn more in this novel about the history and arrangement of the courts and their rulers. Yet this is in no way a fairy tale, although it has the darkness of all true fairy tales. Leslie is not a helpless maiden waiting for the prince to save her; she has to find what makes her strong and save herself – and I love that. This isn’t a book about giving up or giving in, nor is it a story with perfect happy ending where good triumphs over evil.  Nothing is that simple in Marr’s world, and that’s what makes it so exciting!

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