Book Review: Ink Exchange

• Ink Exchange •
by Melissa Marr

Much like its predecessor, Ink Exchange is all sensation and no substance.  Rather than using the book to improve upon the world of fey, Marr lets her impatience with topics already covered in Wicked Lovely rob Ink Exchange of any sort of depth, and the story becomes a flashily sensuous joyride that never dips beneath the surface.

Marr’s second book is a weaker carbon copy of her first, as if she’d merely traced over the lines of Wicked Lovely and inserted less compelling characters. Once again, a human girl is tempted by the king of a fey court who believes that she is destined to belong to him. Once again, she must find the strength to overcome his conviction and his deceptions in order to save herself. However, where Aislinn had a long-standing dislike of the fey and knew how to fight back, Leslie is little more than a “broken toy,” as the Dark King deemed her in the first chapter. Marr tried to give us a heroine who had seen and survived living hell, but Leslie falls far short of the task, and does little more in the end than give others permission to save her.

iebookUnlike Aislinn, whose Sight enabled her to see the invisible world of fey, Leslie is a victim of her own life and others’. Stuck with an alcoholic father and abusive brother, Leslie finds refuge in her friends and in the tattoo she chooses from Rabbit’s shop. Unfortunately, Rabbit is fey, and Leslie’s tattoo turns her into a siphon for emotions, which the Dark King uses to sustain his followers.

Without Wicked Lovely to bolster it, Ink Exchange has no history and even less complexity. The world of fey, so haphazardly described in Wicked Lovely, is even more scattered this time around. And, since we’ve already seen Seth struggling to accept the supernatural, Leslie’s reaction is an even briefer recap of his denial: little more than an impatient pause on Marr’s way to bigger and more dramatic things.

Throughout Ink Exchange, suspense is nonexistent. By the time Leslie’s life begins to change, we’re well aware of what’s really going on. Marr has little interest in hiding the puppets’ strings, as we’re given full access to all of the characters, human and fey alike. There are no surprises because there are no motives that aren’t described by the individual harboring them. At every step, we know what drives the Dark King, what haunts Leslie, and what choices those who love them have to make. Like Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange is more a melodrama about free will than a fantasy. Once again, human strength is pitted against the depravity of the supernatural, with expected outcomes on both sides.

Emotions run high throughout Ink Exchange, some well beyond the point of plausibility and into absurdity. A tense staring match between the Dark King and the Summer Queen is a melee of flame and shadow, which is enticing at first but quickly grows tiring as none of the fey can seem to have a conversation without setting something ablaze. Most of it runs past –- and through –- the heroine, who spends at least a third of the book as a magic addict and couldn’t be any less interested in heroics. Somewhere near the midpoint, Leslie’s usefulness disappears entirely, leaving others to bicker amongst themselves and coax the plot into action again.

Unlike Wicked Lovely, Marr’s second book has no clear goal and ends up being a showcase for uncontrollable and nearly poisonous emotions. The humans learn to believe in themselves, the fey learn responsibility and mercy, and attraction flows in every direction. A vaguely guilty read without the follow-through, Ink Exchange takes the first book’s strong points and inverts them, leaving us with a few hundred pages of angst but very little worth remembering.


Excerpt (p. 23):


Mine. The thought, the need, the reaction were overpowering. Her stomach clenched. She pulled her gaze away, and then forced herself to keep looking. She looked at the other tattoos, but her attention returned to that image as if compelled by it. That one’s mine. For a moment, some trick of light made it look as if one of the eyes in the image winked. She ran her finger over the page, feeling the slick-smooth plastic sheet covering it, imagining the feel of those wings wrapped around her — somehow jagged and velvety all at once. She looked up at Rabbit. “This one. I need this one.”


Rating: C-


ink exchange review melissa marr book review aydee


~ by AyDee on August 21, 2008.

8 Responses to “Book Review: Ink Exchange”

  1. I had to read this after this review. I didn’t find the first book so bad (well, compairativily to the rest of the YF out there – which says nothing, I realize.)

    I think a ‘c-‘ is too generous for this one. DX Honestly, it’s the same book, only worse. The whole romance between the ‘good’ fae and herself (I forget his name) is so silly. She falls into that camp where any inkling of desire = total and complete love. That doesn’t fly with me. And don’t even get me STARTED on the King!

    Gah! I want the time that I used to read the darn book back!

  2. To be honest, I gave it a D the first time, then felt bad afterward and upped it to a C-.

    Niall? Was that his name? That was absurd, especially since it didn’t go anywhere. The king was a worthless sack of worthlessness.

    I’m sorry I didn’t write a more scathing review so you wouldn’t have wasted your time. You should also avoid Ivy (Julie Hearn). I plan to review that one next, but this is a heads-up. Consider Feed (M.T. Anderson) for brain breaking; or Lavinia (Ursula le Guin) for an interesting and vaguely poetic stab at Aeneid fanfiction.

  3. I know! But, I think, what frustrates me is that the book *could’ve* been interesting, ya know? She had a wide range she could work with (I mean, with the interactions of the summer court, the dark court, and the King; that could keep anyone busy.)

    That’s kinda what truly bothers me about most bad fiction… it could be so much better, if only they spent some time on the plots and chara’s. They just get so pumped to push crap out and make money. I mean, look at Alice Hoffman. Her earlier books were okay. Maybe not great, maybe somewhat on the cheesy side, but as she got more popular and pumped out more books, they started going down hill ubber fast. Have you read her book ‘Blue Diary’? My god! How did that piece of… even get publish? Now, that’s a book the truly deserves a scathing review.

  4. I think Marr would have benefitted from throwing in a bit of espionage and treachery rather than relying on hot blood to carry the nonexistent story.

    I’ve never read anything by Alice Hoffman. Is Blue Diary laughably bad, or just plain old bad?

  5. She ain’t the best author. You’d probably give her a C or B on her other books. (I listen to a lot of books and I find it’s easier to be more easy on the authors that way (work thing), so I’m a bit more kinder.)

    I’ll admit I didn’t get far into the book, maybe that way the problem? I couldn’t stand it. She litereally wrote all in third person, past tense, with no action at all. It was like an, er, summery of events. Like:

    “Everyone knows when Ethan promises to do a job done on time, it’ll be done, for he’s a man of his word…”

    That doesn’t sound bad, all authors have bits of that. But it’s ALL like that. I quit after the first chapter, just out of frustration.

    I’m tempted to do a book review blog too. ;) It would, in the laest, give me an outlet for my bookie frustrations.

  6. Ouch. No wonder you stopped reading it. Looks like my library has a copy, though, and I do enjoy any excuse for a good scathing review. It’s literary masochism, I think.

    Oh, do it! Book blogging is fun, especially if you have a lot to say. And heaven knows it doesn’t require the most punctual updates *cough*. I recommend WordPress, obviously, but other blogging services have more interactive communities (LiveJournal, etc.). I guess it depends on what you’re looking for.
    UPDATE on Blue Diary– I lasted eight pages. When Hoffman wasn’t describing the brilliance of the sky or the brightness of the sun, she was giving us an unnecessarily intimate depiction of the man’s affection for his wife (scaring an elderly woman indoors with moaning is romantic?). Anyone else could have done that in a paragraph, maybe two. Not eight pages.

  7. Made it farther than I did, I think. XD I think that book deserves the “worst book written” award for whatever year it was published in (and probably three years after too, for good measure.)

    You know if you or I tried to publish that piece of drivel, we would’ve been blacklisted. They would’ve sent one of those wonderfully personalized “NEVER WRITE AGAIN” notes. XD

    It gets on me that an author who has written as many books as she has could allow such a piece of crap to be published. Ya know?

  8. I like to think publishers have a whole stack of “never write again” post-its just waiting to be used. Come to think of it, those would be fun for everyday use, too.

    Maybe quantity is inversely proportional to quality.

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