Monday, September 21, 2009

Ink Exchange

Last week was the kind of week that required some escapist fiction at the end of the day. I also find that kind of fiction easier to read in small bits, which is all I have sometimes, in between all the other stuff I've got to do. Speaking of which, Walker's MRI results came in and there's no news. That's good, because it means I can worry less that he'll hurt his growth plates if I let him play soccer with his age group team. It's bad, because it means there's no quick fix for it. His patellar tendon is overstretched and painful because he's been growing fast, and that may last for a while. The doctor did say that if the pain is still as bad when the season is over and he's rested it for a couple of months, then we could try immobilizing it for a couple of weeks in January. Immobilizing a knee involves a brace so the knee won't bend, and getting around on crutches. Sounds hard in an Ohio winter and while attending a multi-level high school. But the doc says that can relieve the stress on the tendon enough that it doesn't hurt the same way afterwards.

At any rate, I was reading Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange this week. It's the second in a YA series that began with Wicked Lovely, which I read and liked, but not enough to write a review. I went on to read Ink Exchange on the recommendation of J. Kaye, who said she liked it even better than the first one. I have to agree. The first one was fun, but the second one was a bit more interesting. And you don't have to have read the first one to enjoy the second.

In Ink Exchange, Leslie, one of the ubiquitous sexually abused teens populating current YA fiction, decides that getting a tattoo will make her feel better about herself. But she goes to a tattoo parlor run by a half-breed faerie, and he gives her a special tattoo that connects her psychically to the King of the Dark Court of Faerie, Irial. There's a love triangle between Leslie, Irial, and Niall, the Gancanagh who was formerly attached to the Dark Court but left to join Keenan's Summer Court.

The story becomes, to some extent, about all three of the would-be-lovers' capacity for self-control, not to mention self-abegnation. We don't hear as much about Irial's struggles for control as we do about Niall's:
"If Niall kissed Leslie, pulled her into his arms and let himself lower his guard...she'd be his, willing to press her body against his, willing to follow him anywhere. It was both the temptation and the trouble with mortals. The caresses of some faeries, Gancanaghs like him and like Irial once was, were addictive to mortals. Irial's nature had been altered long before Niall ever drew breath. Becoming the Dark King had changed him, made him able to control the impact of his touch. Niall had no such recourse: he was left with memories of mortals who'd withered and died for lack of his embrace. For centuries, those memories were reminder enough to restrain himself. Until Leslie."

Of course we hear the most about Leslie's struggles. When she looks at Irial, she sees a now-traditional-supernatural-bad-boy:
"Her mind flashed odd images--sharks swimming toward her, cars careening out of control in her path, fangs sinking into her skin, shadowy wings curling around her in a caress. Somewhere in her mind she knew she needed to step away from him, but she didn't, couldn't. She'd felt the same way when she'd first seen him: like she'd follow him wherever he wanted. It wasn't a feeling she liked."

But Irial, the Dark King, is interestingly complicated and turns out to be not entirely uncaring--as fey, especially "dark" fey and especially royalty, are traditionally depicted, manipulating mortals for their own amusement. Ink Exchange depicts a world in which mortals and faeries have a strong emotional impact on each other, and as any mortal knows, the strength of an emotion can be difficult to judge, and the strength of a painful emotion can be the most difficult for the sufferer to judge.

The escapist appeal of Ink Exchange, for me, included a feeling of relief. Because I'm no longer a teenager, with overwhelming emotional choices to make every day. Because even though I always clap for Tinkerbell to recover, I don't think fairies are at all interested in my life. Because when I finished reading and put the book down, all I had to do for Walker to make the pain better was hand over an ice pack.


Amanda said...

Hi Jeanne! I only skimmed through this because I haven't read either book yet, but I plan to read the first soon. AFterwards I'll come back because it looks like you had some interesting discussion about the intricacies (sp) about the themes.

Betty said...

I listened to Wicked Lovely earlier this year and enjoyed it quite a bit. I'll have to add this one to my list as well. :-)

Jeanne said...

Amanda, I thought the first one was worth reading mostly to get to the second, but plenty of people disagree--and they're happy because the third goes back to the characters from the first book.

Betty, this one would be fine out loud. There is one laugh-out-loud line that I decided not to pick on, where the summer Queen has dolphins breaching in her eyes, but mostly the writing is tolerable enough to listen to.