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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too
Torn up inside after her drug-dealer brother betrays her in the most horrible way, Leslie puts on a brave front with her friends, pretending her drunken dad isn't letting the bills pile up and hiding all her pain. Hoping to take back control over her body, she decides to get a tattoo, and picks out a special design at the tattoo parlor she often hangs out at...
Published on April 29, 2008 by TeensReadToo

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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Go Far Enough
Marr seems to fall into the same trap as she did with Wicked Lovely in ths book: she starts off with an amazing premise that starts a reader salivating, but somehow the book never really lives up to it. While I still enjoyed both books, INK EXCHANGE seemed to take Marr's tendancy to never live up to her premises to a new level. It's strange, because the book was good, it...
Published on August 15, 2008 by choco-goddess


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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Go Far Enough, August 15, 2008
Marr seems to fall into the same trap as she did with Wicked Lovely in ths book: she starts off with an amazing premise that starts a reader salivating, but somehow the book never really lives up to it. While I still enjoyed both books, INK EXCHANGE seemed to take Marr's tendancy to never live up to her premises to a new level. It's strange, because the book was good, it was an entertaining read, but it never reached my expectations. I've been thinking about why, and I've finally come up with a few ideas.

First off, I do love Marr's image of faerie courts as street gangs. It's definitely a fun contrast than what we'd expect from other more traditional novels. Yet Marr never seems to bring her magical gangs to life. We never get a full, detailed image of their world and have to glean anything we can from offhand remarks (like the constant half-allusions to the High Court). In fact, though Marr offers beautiful (and kind of purple) physical descriptions of her fey, they're too often not in a way that the reader can actually picture what they look or sound like (a voice being "as refreshing as a sip of the moon". Really?). But it's not just the fey themselves that feel vague; so do their struggles and their very relationships with other courts. Throughout the book, Marr talks about the idea of there being discord between the courts, but barely explains it and never goes beyond the surface. Everything about them just feels so very vague and unfinished. This is exactly how Keenan's predicament in Wicked Lovely came across. His father was mentioned, something about Keenan's power being reduced by his mother, but we never got a decent explanation as to why and how and where and when this all happened. A little detail goes a long way. A lot of detail goes longer.

The histories of her fey, their relatinships etc. aren't just throw away tidbits of information. Marr could have used the intrigue and complexities of her courts to make the story even better. I mean, she mentions the threat of war brewing in the near future, of warmongers trying to undermine the authority of their own royals, of pacts and emnities between courts. But in the end, it ends up being nothing more than talk. Even the encounters between the top officials of the Summer and Dark Courts never really get beyond gnashing teeth, threatening and magical manifestations of anger.

Instead of using these conflicts and allowing them to progress further to make the stakes higher and the story bigger and more complex, Marr simply mentions these conflicts in passing and instead focuses on the love triangle between Niall, Leslie and Irial. This is a huge mistake for a number of reasons. First, the love triangle felt forced. We're only told that Niall loves Leslie with all his heart from the get go, but we never really get a feel for why - except maybe because he's intrigued by her newly found status as a broken-bird, which she gained after being raped before the story started. His love for Leslie becomes even more confusing upon learning about Leslie herself. As a heroine, she doesn't feel like she has a fleshed out personality. The rape seems to be the only thing of note in her character. Of course, when one goes through such a terrible experience, that tends to take over much of who they are, but there'll still be shreds of that old individual left inside, struggling to reclaim dominance, and that's what makes a fictional character of that sort so compelling. The rape shouldn't have stopped Leslie from feeling like a real, three-dimensional character, but it did. If I can't feel anything for Leslie, how can I understand another character feeling for her so deeply and so romantically? In my opinion, love in fiction is only successful if it feels organic and natural. Leslie and Niall may have been sexy together, but organic and natural, they were not.

But on top of that, Niall's love for Leslie didn't really add anything to the story. As a character himself, he was quite compelling, but all that didn't matter to Leslie's tale or the plot in the long run. By the time it was Irial's time to have his turn, Niall was all but useless. Even the heroic act he performed for Leslie by the end of the book could easily have been performed by Aislinn and Donia, which actually would have been a massively better choice; it would have allowed Aislinn to TRULY live up to her title as Leslie's friend and almost make up for her lack of action throughout the book. Plus, it would have shown Donia who was sorely missed in this sequel. Niall's journey felt so detached that I can only assume the only purpose for showing his journey was to set up the epilogue, which I'm assuming Marr aims to explore in later books. Symbolically and plotwise, Leslie and Irial's twisted relationship was far more important. Marr should have spent more time developing and making the most of the heroine's ties to the Dark King.

Marr's mishandling of her characters extends to the minor ones as well. So many times characters were mentioned at random, but never explored or used properly. Like the Death Fey at the diner, who was randomly focused on with much intensity and purple prose. She disappeared quickly and never made a second appearance. Then there was Rabbit's little sister, who ended up being far more special than anyone realized. Her appearances amounted to nothing. Then we've got Aislinn and Keenan, who could have been used to really flesh out the political conflict into this story and make it more compelling. They barely did anything. Finally, we've got the Dark Fey warmonger who Marr set up as this big bad threat. All she did was have a meaningless scrimage with Niall and toss a few scary looks here and there.

It was because of these misteps that the book started off strong but when downhill. There were so many great ideas that remained unpolished, so many potential conflicts and avenues for plot development that were ignored, so many great opportunities to take this book to the next level that were wasted. The book itself was definitely at the very least entertaining and it kept my attention. Marr has an amazing imagination and is capable of creating an interesting story that blurrs the lines between right and wrong. She's capable of creating something much better, but unless she attempts to make the most out of her ideas and capitalize on her amazing premises, her books will never be able cross that line from 'simply entertaining' to truly fantastic and, most importantly, memorable.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars no happily ever after here, May 5, 2008
I'm not ready to pass judgment on INK EXCHANGE. When I turned the last page and closed the book, I thought: this story is not over. Melissa Marr's first book set in the world of faerie, WICKED LOVELY, was self contained - and I'm not sure what, or who, the next book is supposed to be about. If INK EXCHANGE is supposed to be Leslie's whole story, I have to say I'm disappointed. But if it's the beginning of a series, I'm delighted.

INK EXCHANGE starts off with Leslie, the protagonist, getting ready to leave for high school while her brother smokes crack at the kitchen table. It's an early warning to the reader: this is an unrelentingly dark book. Leslie is living in a nightmare version of the human world, and it isn't long before she is unwittingly caught up in a nightmare version of the faerie world: the Dark Court. These solitary fey nourish themselves on pain, hatred, greed, lust, and just about any other ugly urge that man or faerie is capable of. They starve without this nourishment, and peaceful times are lean indeed.

Marr has set herself the difficult task of rendering these Dark faeries sympathetic to the reader. They are emotional parasites, and they literally thrive on suffering. Their King, Irial, shows us that at least some of these repulsive creatures are capable of great virtue: Irial is a devoted caretaker of his people, capable of true friendship, self-sacrifice, and sensitivity. It is moving when he exhibits these qualities, and then doubly repulsive when he sets them aside. Frequently, Marr follows the Dark faeries as they prepare for their hideous feasts - and then fades to black. But we can imagine how they must proceed, by watching how Irial treats Leslie - a girl he loves, and swears to protect. He treats her very, very badly.

I think Marr is a very talented writer indeed. Her worlds, both human and faerie, are gritty, alive, and feel very real. Her teenage protagonists are good kids who grow up too fast, and are wise beyond their years. This faerieland is no saccharine paradise for Tinkerbells and pretty princesses - profoundly alien, both gorgeous and hideous.

INK EXCHANGE was hard to put down, very compelling, but I wonder what will happen next.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, April 29, 2008
Torn up inside after her drug-dealer brother betrays her in the most horrible way, Leslie puts on a brave front with her friends, pretending her drunken dad isn't letting the bills pile up and hiding all her pain. Hoping to take back control over her body, she decides to get a tattoo, and picks out a special design at the tattoo parlor she often hangs out at. Unbeknownst to Leslie, that tattoo is the symbol of Irial, the king of the faerie Dark Court, designed to allow him to filter the unpleasant emotions that feed his court through her into him and his people.

As Leslie finds her vision changing and her feelings shifting in unpredictable ways, Niall, a faerie of the Summer Court who has always admired her, steps in, hoping to help her and keep Irial away. He has his own tangled feelings about Irial, whom he once counted as a friend. But as Leslie sinks further under Irial's thrall, enjoying the escape from the hurt and fear she'd been living with, only she can decide when to pull away--or whether she would rather stay with him, after all.

INK EXCHANGE is a darkly imaginative novel set in the same world as Marr's first novel, WICKED LOVELY. Readers will enjoy exploring the lives of some of that novel's minor characters and seeing more of the shadowy side of the faerie courts. They may find Leslie, Niall, and Irial less engaging than the spirited and perhaps more sympathetic narrators of WICKED LOVELY, but the trio still make for a fascinating "love" triangle as each deals with conflicting emotions and tries to decide what is right both for him or herself and for those who are counting on them.

The imagery is striking and evocative, and the politics of the different faerie courts is intriguing to explore. A great book for dark fantasy fans.

Reviewed by: Lynn Crow
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Should start at the end., June 1, 2008
It's an interesting concept, unusual even for a fantasy novel: a certain type of Faery feeds on the emotions of others, particularly the darker emotions, anger, fear, lust, envy. In order to make as much of these emotions available for consumption as possible, these Faeries foment unrest amongst their kind; but of late, the long-standing war between the Winter Court and the Summer Court of the Fae has ended, and the resultant peace has left these poor dark Faeries starving. As it turns out, they need an intermediary in order to feed upon the emotions of humans; there must be a human focus for the emotions, which can then be funneled magically to all of the Faeries through their king. The means by which this human's emotions can be focused and channeled? A tattoo, using for ink the Faery king's blood and tears. The Faery's magic allows the tattooed human to sense the emotions of others, and the Faery king to absorb those emotions through her, and then dole them out to his subjects, like a mother bird with a craw full of worm. This is the Ink Exchange: Faery blood for human fear.

Unfortunately, that concept is the best thing about the book. The plot, if diagrammed, would look somewhat like a topographic map of the US: a great Adirondack peak of interest in the beginning, followed by an absolutely flat plain lasting for far too long to permit a traveler to maintain sanity, let alone interest, and ending with a soaring and majestic peak tailing off into a forgettable lump of an epilogue that should have broken off in an earthquake long ago. (I don't really hate California.) Actually, the book would have been far more interesting if it had begun where it ends: the last quarter of the book is an absorbing depiction of the temptation of emptiness, and examines the morality of sacrificing others to protect or please yourself. It would have been much more enjoyable to explore the aftermath of that sequence than the lead up. As it is, the characters are flat or stock, the descriptions of the Fae are confusing and incomplete, and the prose leans heavily toward the improbably purple ("The wraith's voice drifted over the air, as refreshing as a sip of the moon, as heavy as churchyard soil on his tongue."). The best I could say is that the novel has unrealized potential.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than the first, June 20, 2008
Out of Melissa Marr's two books, I prefer Ink Exchange to Wicked Lovely. Why?

1. The protagonist, Leslie, is far more vulnerable and interesting to work with. I think that the way Melissa Marr uses Leslie's vulnerability is truly interesting. Especially since all Leslie wants is not pain or fear, which makes her easily manipulated by the Dark King of the Dark Court, Irial.

2. Rather than hating one man and loving another like Aislinn does in Wicked Lovely, Leslie lusts after two equally interesting characters. Niall is a Gancanagh, a faery who is irresistable to humans once touched. Niall struggles with his love for Leslie and his powers as a Gancanagh, because he doesn't want to harm her like he harmed other mortals. I don't, however, like how Niall's love for Leslie sprung out of practically nothing.

3. Irial, the King of the Dark Court, is also very interesting. He struggles with the loss of Niall as his successor of his throne, as well as his affections for Leslie. I prefer Irial over Niall, because in his own way, Irial is more affectionate yet kingly at the same time. (He reminded me a lot of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow in the way he referred to Leslie as "love.")

4. I didn't like, though, that there was a love triangle in Ink Exchange almost identical to the one in Wicked Lovely. (Ink Exchange=Irial, Niall, Leslie; Wicked Lovely=Aislinn, Seth, Keenan.) But, this love triangle was far more interesting, especially since the two faery men had a very rich, intricate history. Not only that, they were both faeries, rather than mortal vs. faery.

The reason why I gave it three stars out of five would be more because a lot of the issues that were brought up were skimmed around, as previously written in an earlier 3 star review. It had great potential, but I would say was only good.

Overall, it's not only a good read, but also mysteriously addictive. I liked it, and I think a person looking for entertaining nonfiction will, too.

Happy reading!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused?, June 4, 2008
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Overall, I liked the book; however, I felt it was rather confusing to read and it wasn't written as well as Wicked Lovely. Wicked Lovely assumed you didn't know about the faery world and you learned about the Summer and Winter Courts as Aislinn gathered information, but not much was known about the Dark court. As I was reading, it was written as if the reader should already have information about the Dark Court (which I didn't). It was like it started in the middle of a story and I missed out on the first/important part of it.

With that said, after muddling through the confusion, I did like the book. I felt more for Niall's character than for any other though. The pain of wanting to be with someone and not being able to and then ultimately being forced in a position where you didn't really want to be (though you knew you belonged) and being forced even further away from the person you loved. Sad, very sad.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite As Good, June 29, 2008
I had thought maybe it was just me and my own inability to get into this book. I loved Wicked Lovely and had high hopes for Ink Exchange. Maybe this is the downfall of this book; it just didn't live up to Wicked Lovely. It seems, after reading several reviews here on Amazon, that I'm not alone in my feelings for Ink exchange: It was good, just not as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Leslie, friend of Aislinn from Wicked Lovely, wants to retake control of her life; her mother's left, her father might as well have gone for all the attention he pays the family, and her older brother is a drug dealer who has allowed his friends to use Leslie. In getting a tattoo, Leslie feels she will be regaining her sense of self by taking back her body. Unfortunately, Leslie doesn't realize that the tattoo she's chosen will tie her to the faery Dark Court and will enable Irial, the King, to use her as a conduit for emotions to feed his court. Niall, friend of Aislinn and Keenan, is told to protect her but he finds himself falling in love with Leslie and unable to save her. In the end, Leslie must learn how to save herself, of course.

I liked Leslie and had sympathy for her plight but I was terribly let down by Aislinn's unwillingness to intercede enough to save her friend early on. I loved Niall and could feel his frustration, and I surprisingly liked Irial as well. However, the plot is fragmented with too many characters and unexplained events and ties. I understand that it is a faery court, but I just couldn't believe that the ultimate solution to Leslie's problem was solved so easily really, and I found her rejection of Niall unfulfilling. While I can say I enjoyed this book, I wasn't rivted to it and kept feeling that something was missing. I needed more explanation, more excitement; I was too let down with both Aislinn and Keenan. While I would still recommend this book, I hope the next book set in this faery world has a more compelling plot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marr Definitely Expands Her Skills As An Author!, May 6, 2008
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"Ink Exchange" portrays the development of Melissa Marr as an author. While I was somewhat disappointed with the conclusion of "Wicked Lovely," "Ink Exchange" was successfully conclusive in that the characters showed signs of growth. The storyline continues from "Wicked Lovely," and is vital with regards to the history Marr does not delve into.

"Ink Exchange" focuses on Leslie who is a friend of Aislinn (the Summer Queen). From the beginning of the story, Marr is not hesitant in describing that Leslie has been damaged both physically and emotionally. Leslie, wanting to regain control (at least of her body), decides to get a tattoo not realizing this particular tattoo will take away any potential choices she would make in the future. Thus, the battle between the Summer Court and Dark Court intensifies.

Again, development of characters and of the author's skill to illustrate the story/characters is intense. Marr does a superb job of telling a wonderful tale of escaping fear/pain and the consequences of doing so. Should you choose to read this story, be sure to read "Wicked Lovely" as Marr does not focus on reiterating the events from the previous book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Addictive Read, May 2, 2008
Invisible to humans, a world of fairies coexists with ours, a world in which shadows and light, summer and winter must be carefully balanced to avoid war and chaos.

Now, after centuries of searching, the Summer King has found his Queen and made peace with the Winter Queen, upsetting the precarious balance. Without war to feed on, the feys of the Dark Court are fading. To save them and still avoid resorting to open violence, the Dark King must bind himself to a human girl and steal her emotions he then will channel to his court. But for his plan to work, the human must choose him, or at least his essence symbolized in a tattoo design.

Abandoned by her mother, and set up by her brother to be raped as a payment of sorts for his drug debts, Leslie is barely surviving in the human world. Her anger, frustration and despair attract the attention of the Dark King, and when she decides to get a tattoo as a first step in reclaiming her life, and chooses the Dark King symbol, her fate is sealed.

Sensing something is wrong with Leslie, her best friend Aislinn who is the new Summer Queen sends Niall to protect her. Not a smart choice as Niall has fallen in love with Leslie. Niall is a dark fey whose touch is addictive to humans, and although he fights his feelings for her, he eventually gives in.

Before their involvement can evolve further, Leslie gets her tattoo and the blood of the Dark King mixed with the ink binds them together in an indissoluble bond. Leslie's wishes that her pain disappears are fulfilled in a quite literal way, as Irial steals her emotions, but in the process he takes her will as well.

Irial's plan works at first as his feys grow stronger with the girl's negative feelings, but other feelings, unknown to him, also flows into him, feelings of love and longing, he can't control. The Dark King knows that humans bound to feys do not last forever and that Leslie's days are counted. Forced to choose between chaos and his love for his human girl, Irial hesitates.

Ink Exchange's bittersweet ending works in several levels, without being totally satisfying as several threads are left unresolved. For instance, at one point, Leslie crashes a drug dealer's wrist but never again is this mentioned. Half way through the book Irial learns that Ani, one of the half-fairies Leslie has befriended, has the unheard of ability to feed in human emotions and realizes she could have been the answer to his Court's predicament. An interesting alternative that is not discussed further.

Also we know Niall's touch is addictive to humans. This gives Niall and Leslie's relationship an edge, a fear of consequences to come that never materialize. And the love triangle between Leslie and the two feys is not so much resolved as dissolved.

But even with these flaws, Ink Exchange--like the drugs Leslie's brother crave, like Niall's touch --makes for an addictive read that leaves the reader wanting for more.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good beginning, very disappointing ending, waste of time, August 30, 2008
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LunarKat (san francisco, ca) - See all my reviews
This book was a big WASTE OF TIME. Warning: SPOILERS. The "heroine" was drugged by her brother & raped by his drug dealers, which of course, makes you sympathize with her and hope that she can overcome her problems and take charge of her life. She does none of this. She is getting a tattoo which is causing her to see a fairy realm, which is cool, but she doesn't even know what's going on until the last 5 chpts of the book (I'm thinking, finally!) but all that happens is that she willingly becomes some sexy fairy guy's sex slave. O_o I am not kidding. Through the whole book something will happen when her tattoo is finished and that's what happens. In the last chapter, she decides to leave him (but he could have easily made her stay -_-) & goes to college. The end. She didn't deserve what happened to her, but clearly she is a stupid girl who lets men run her life. She certainly didn't do anything to prove otherwise.
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Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely)
Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely) by Melissa Marr (Paperback - March 31, 2009)
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