Callista 's Reviews > Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
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's review
Nov 04, 11

bookshelves: fairytale-myth, paranormal-sexy
Read from October 17 to November 03, 2011

** spoiler alert ** An oddly unsatisfying book, even for the second of a five-book series. Even darker than the first book, to the point of being almost depressing.
It was interesting to see a different side of Leslie, who seemed like a shallow flirt in Wicked Lovely (#1). The silliness is really just a façade; the poor girl is dealing with PTSD, basically, because her druggie brother slipped something into her drink and allowed his dealer and other druggie friends to rape Leslie to pay off a debt. Leslie wishes her fear would go away and thinks that getting a tattoo will help her start taking control of her life. But her wish goes terribly awry. She is betrayed by one of the few men she thinks is safe and trustworthy, the tattoo artist Rabbit. He's actually half-faery, and the tattoo ink contains faery tears and blood that link Leslie to Irial, king of the Dark fae court. Their connection enables Irial to filter others' emotions through Leslie, feed off them, and share that energy with his court. Leslie becomes one of the things she fears most: an addict. She becomes hooked on Irial's presence. Plus, once Irial takes control of her, Leslie can't feel emotion for more than a second or two. She's only a funnel for other people's emotions, and she blacks out when it becomes too intense. Even though Leslie finally breaks her ties to Irial and resumes a regular life, I was disturbed that she seemed to have Stockholm syndrome. I wanted her to be angrier at Irial. Some might say she takes the high road by recognising that he couldn't change his nature, but he doesn't deserve it.
Irial isn't a likable character or even a love-to-hate-him villain. Like the first book's Keenan, he has all the negative fey attributes, but he's even more twisted in his appetites. The parts of the book told from Irial's point of view often felt like too much telling, too much repetition. While there are glimmers of something approaching decency in Irial when he lets Leslie go, there isn't enough change in him to mean much.
Leslie also catches the interest of another faery, Niall, who once was close to Irial but was ill-treated by him. Niall switched sides to the Summer Court and has been Keenan's confidant for centuries. I liked Niall; he's a tortured soul. He's trying to make up for his days with Irial and all the mortals he's destroyed. He's addictive to mortals, which undermines his wish for a relationship with Leslie. While I do think Leslie and Niall have real affection for each other, it's tainted by his nature and Niall's and Irial's rivalry. I was disappointed that Irial makes Niall the new king of the Dark Court, even though Niall doesn't want it. It's partly because Irial thinks he's become too weak to remain king, but it's also to keep Niall away from Leslie. I'd hoped that somehow Leslie and Niall would overcome the fey problems and find a way to be together, as Aislinn and Seth did. But I suppose it's good to break the pattern and have Leslie stand on her own instead.
While I was glad that Leslie manages to get free of Irial, it seemed to happen too quickly and easily. There's a lot of build-up to the completion of the tattoo. It made sense that Leslie's days with Irial would be mostly a blur, but there should've been more to the exit strategy. Niall just suddenly has the solution. The author doesn't show Niall struggling to find it. It makes sense that Aislinn, the Summer Queen and Leslie's friend, and Donia, the Winter Queen and Aislinn's ally, would gladly hand over the necessary things to break the power of Leslie's tattoo; but Niall should've encountered some kind of resistance from Keenan, the Summer King.
As I was reading the first half or so of the book, I kept wondering why no one seemed to have a clue what Irial was up to, why Aislinn didn't have the guards keep closer tabs on Leslie, why Niall or Seth didn't suspect something. Then it occurred to me that Keenan didn't care what happened to Leslie and maybe Aislinn and Seth, new at dealing with the fey, couldn't know all the players. As it turned out, Keenan knew what Irial was planning and let it happen, out of curiosity about how it would affect the faery courts; and he played games with Aislinn and Niall, keeping them clueless until it was too late. (That bastard!)
As with the previous book, my favourite parts of this story involved Seth, Aislinn's mortal boyfriend (and Keenan's rival). He's in a terrible situation, but he's trying to make the best of it. And he's a good friend to Leslie, even though he's ultimately powerless to stop Irial's scheme.
I'll read the other books in the series because I'm worried about Aislinn and Seth and I'm curious what will become of Leslie and Niall.
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