The Faery Queen
A Young Adult Novel
By Melissa Marr
HarperTeen. 328 pp. $16.99. Ages 12 and up
Melissa Marr adds elegantly to the sub-genre of Urban Faery with this enticing, well-researched fantasy for teens. Wicked Lovely takes place in modern-day Huntsdale, a small city south of Pittsburgh whose name evokes the Wild Hunt of mythology. High school junior Aislinn and her grandmother have followed strict rules all their lives to hide their ability to see faeries because faeries don't like it when mortals can see them, and faeries can be very cruel. Only the strongest faeries can withstand iron, however, so Aislinn prefers the city with its steel girders and bridges. She takes refuge with Seth, her would-be lover, who lives in a set of old train carriages.
But now Aislinn is being stalked by two of the faeries who are able to take on human form and are not deterred by steel. What do they want from her?
One is Keenan, the Summer King, who has been looking for his Queen for nine centuries, bound by the rules and rituals that govern his quest. The other is Donia, a victim of those rules, consigned to the role of Winter Girl when she failed Keenan's test, yet still in love with him. Certain that Aislinn is the woman he must marry, Keenan shows up as a charismatic new student at her high school, unaware that she sees his true form. He's determined to court her and is puzzled by her rebuffs. Suddenly, none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe is working anymore, but things aren't going as Keenan expects either. Both will have to change, make startling compromises and enlist surprising allies if they want to break free from the wicked game that has ensnared them.
Their greatest challenge will be to avoid the fatal traps laid by Keenan's mother, the Winter Queen. She will lose her power if Keenan finds his mate, and she will do anything to stop this. Unfortunately, she's a little too over the top to be totally threatening, a campy version of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen -- part Disney witch, part Endora in "Bewitched." But this didn't stop me from devouring the book.
Marr creates a fully realized world that conveys the details and the politics of faery life. The suspense remains taut, as the point of view shifts between Aislinn, Keenan and Donia, allowing the reader to develop sympathy for all of them. Marr's lyrical language and sensual imagery capture both the confused emotions and the physicality of adolescence.
The romantic scenes are delicious. The fantasy of being pursued by two young men is alluring in itself, but when one is a pierced and tattooed sexy outsider and the other is a blindingly beautiful King of Faery, how much better can it get? Halfway through the book, I knew which characters I wanted to end up together, and that made me read greedily on. Readers will beg for a sequel.
-- Annette Curtis Klause is the author of several books for teens, including "Blood and Chocolate" and "Freaks: Alive, on the Inside!"