It should be obvious by now, but the Wicked Lovely series has absolutely become one of our favorites. From book one, we both fell in love with the beautiful writing, the characters, the difficult situations, and the impossible decisions that made the series so complex and challenging. While we've liked some installments better than others, the entire series has been interesting and well-done, so we were eager to see how Marr would bring it to a close. Having read it...we;re of mixed feelings. There are some things that we were disappointed with, and some things we just didn't like, but most are more a reflection of our personal tastes than any technical flaw of the book itself.
Also, big-time SPOILERS for the series, including this book's ENDING.
Let's start with the good stuff, though. As usual, Melissa Marr's writing is fantastic. Every time we open a Wicked Lovely book - whether we ending up totally loving it or not - it's like a breath of fresh air, like we can relax and finally truly enjoy a book without forcing ourselves through it. And as usual, even when action isn't moving the story along, the story is still interesting. The best part of the Wicked Lovely series has always been the fairy politics, so it's interesting to see the maneuvering going on here, between the Winter, Summer, and Dark Courts, and Bananach. It's also nice to see Aislinn and Donia getting along again, and most of the petty in-fighting that plagued Fragile Eternity going away. The book truly begins to feel epic when the three Courts come to align themselves against a bigger threat.
As usual, the characters were a huge draw. Donia has officially earned a place on our "favorite female characters" list, not just for her strength, but also for her respect for herself. I mean really, how many YA heroines do you see turn the man they love away because it's not right for them? Not e-fuckin'-nough. We liked that Donia could weather his loss and still stay cool-headed enough to reign over the Winter Court like a boss. It is only for Donia's sake that we appreciate Keenan not dying, because in truth, Donia was the one we really wanted to get her happy ending.
But even Niall and Irial, not previously our favorite characters, took the opportunity in Darkest Mercy to grow on us. We enjoyed their portrayals, the devotion they showed one another, and the complexity in their characters. They're not great guys, but they're not monsters, either. They're just human- er, fae. You get the idea.
We liked that, in the end, traditional roles seemed, for the most part, reversed: Aislinn has to run off to rescue an imprisoned Seth, who has to sit the final fight out because he needs "protecting". Aislinn ended up doing most of the day-saving, which was sweet, and when all was said and done, three out of the five courts had female monarchs wielding power solo. Even with guys available to co-rule, none of the women ending up being compelled to take a "King" and share this power. It was pretty awesome.
While the final fight between Bananach and the courts was not especially intense, we did appreciate the lack of the celebration of death in general. Even when it's the "evil" fairies who are falling, none of the characters revel in their defeat, and most genuinely mourn the fact that they have to kill at all. This, along with the genuinely sad deaths of a couple of side characters, does managed to lend the book some of the emotional weight that we'd been wanting. Unfortunately, for us, it wasn't enough.
Story-wise, we did have a few problems with Darkest Mercy. First and most obviously: Keenan, WTF? The entire series' conflict has revolved around the Aislinn's inability to chose between the man she loves, and her King and the welfare of her court. After all the fucked-up stuff that happened in Fragile Eternity, we had assumed that the if the circumstances could be changed, they would have been - after all, that's when shit really went to Hell. BUT APPARENTLY THIS IS NOT SO. Apparently all along, Keenan'd had the secret option to relinquish his status as Summer King and become a Winter fey, that he could - and by all logical standards, should - have used to end everyone's misery several books ago. Why didn't he? It's not like anything has really changed in Darkest Mercy to "inspire" this decision. He knew he was in love with Donia from the beginning, and while we understand his love for his court, he's always trusted Aislinn, right? And he's always known Aislinn was torn between him and Seth. So why wait so long to issue this ultimatum, or to act on it like this?
Which isn't to say that giving up Summer wasn't a kinda big deal for Keenan, but it wasn't his life, which was kinda what we were expecting. It wasn't even his immortality, which would have made his hesitation more understandable. It was just his kingship.
To be completely honest, this felt like a cop-out. Like the rules were changed mid-game. Keenan's ability to just give up his kingship is something we've never heard anything about in any of the previous books, something he's never even indicated as an option. Now all of the sudden, the conflict that's plagued us for two whole books can just be solved with a kiss. It's that easy.
And to be honest, our biggest problem with the book was just that: everything fell into place too easily...
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