Ink Exchange -- Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange is set in the same world, in the same city, as Wicked Lovely.  Those who have read the first book will recognize characters, but this is not a sequel to Aislinn, Seth and Keenan's story.  They are a part of it, but they are not the focus.  This companion novel belongs to Leslie, a school friend of Aislinn's, to Irial, the King of the Dark Court, and to Niall, who has been part of the Summer Court for centuries.

Ink_exchangeLeslie has always wanted a tattoo, but due to a horrific violation in her recent past, her want has become need.  A need to reclaim her body, to make it her own again.  None of the designs displayed in the front room of Pins and Needles call to her, though.  When she looks though the artist's private books, everything changes.  When she sees it -- eyes, wings, knotwork and chaos star -- she knows that it's the one, regardless of the artist's warning that the tattoo will "change things".

Leslie is unaware of Aislinn's involvement in the faery world -- she's unaware of the faery world altogether.  Not for long:

The past few days it seemed like people were behaving oddly--or perhaps she was just starting to pay attention to  the world again.  Perhaps it was a waking up from the depression she'd been fighting.  She wanted to believe that, but she suspected she was lying to herself: the world around her had become off-kilter, and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know why.

Like Wicked Lovely, the story follows multiple characters -- I focused on Leslie during my synopsis, but it would have been just as easy to focus on Irial, who, after the political upheaval in the first book, is looking for a way to keep his Dark faeries safe and contented without starting a war or on Niall, who is still trying to deal with his very dark past.

I liked it.  I wasn't as captured by it as I was by Wicked Lovely, in part because I never connected with Leslie.  While I don't consider that a flaw -- Leslie is so damaged that she'd hold herself back from herself, let alone anyone else -- it still made it difficult for me to care about her like I cared about Aislinn.  I felt for her, but that's not the same as connecting.  I also found it almost impossible to get close to Irial -- but again, for reasons that work within story line and character personality.

Wicked Lovely was dark, but Ink Exchange is much, much more so.  Leslie's past (and her future), Irial's present and Niall's past are part of that, of course.  The fact that the story centers around the Dark Court, whose culture and needs are very different than those of the Summer Court, is also part of the difference.  But pared down, faeries aside, it's a story about addiction, about choice, about betrayal and sacrifice.  I'll be interested to see what other Wicked Lovely fans think.