I burned through them all so quickly that I'm massively behind in singing their praises. After much deliberation, I've decided that each novel in the series should get its own post because each is different enough in plot and character that I have to separate them for my own sanity. If I didn't, I'd be like a six-year-old: "And then...and then...and then...and then..."
DISCLAIMER: I may get a few details mixed up between the novels as I go. That's what happens when you read five books and then sit down to write about them two weeks later. Oh, well.
- Controlled writing. Ms. Marr is a writer. There's a distinction to be made: Mellisa Marr = Writer; P. C. Cast/Daughter Cast = hacks. As I read WL, I smelled stuff, heard stuff, felt stuff--and each sensory detail I devoured actually meant something. Before writing WL, she had taught community college for 12 years (my sister in pain!), so she knows how to weave a metaphor, knows what story is, is conscious of pace, and knows how to use a goddamn comma. When I sit down to read a novel, I don't want to feel like I'm reading a giant e.e. cummings poem.
- Characters. While the novel stays true to the parapseudo formula, each character is unique enough that I don't feel like I'm reading Jane Eyre for the 35th time. Everyone has a great juxtaposition of characteristics. Aislinn = reckless/cautious. Seth = independent/protective. Keenan = conniving/sentimental. Nial = tortured/vengeful. Irial = sadomasochistic/romantic. You get the idea. Donia = lost/transformative. There's really a reason to both hate and love each person/fairy.
- Conflict. Aislinn couldn't be more teenagerly perfect. She's got boy problems, friend problems, family problems, sexuality issues. The only thing missing is insecurity over her belly fat or a dying dog. Keenan's in quite a bind, and readers will find that they want him to win, even at the cost of everyone else losing. Seth is being set up for the loss of a lifetime (or so he thinks), and he's gotta deal with massive disappointment on the tail of fighting for his penetration rights. The conflicts deepen and resolve seamlessly; great forethought on the author's part makes this possible, as without proper plotting, it could be a nightmare.
- Cunnilingus. That's right. Oral sex. Teen girls do that, ya know. And they like it! Bravo, Ms. Marr.
- Tainted fairy tale. Whereas Holly Black's Valiant doesn't actually play too much with the fairy tale conventions, WL is a near-perfect modernization of the traditional form. You could hold it next to many of the old Germanic and Scandinavian tales, and it would fit right in. There are royal beasts, fantastic realms, natural magical forces, light/dark powers, humans manipulated by hidden creatures, and all the other good stuff that we dream about and fear when we're kids. WL could easily be the story a dad tells his kids in parts as he tucks them in at night or a campfire story that has everyone running off to cower and/or have sex in their tents.
- Feminist themes. The feminine powers balance the masculine powers at almost all levels. I'm not talking about Aislinn's need to be loved making her a weak character vs. sex-charged men feminism. I mean the feminine and masculine on equal fields of power, control, respect, desire, conflict. Love it.
- Point-of-view slips. Overall, the omniscience is controlled remarkably well considering how many heads we flit between. Sometimes, though, perceptive shifts threw me off. For example, if we're in ABC's thoughts, we flip to DEF's eyes for just a second to comment on ABC's posture. And then back to ABC again for the rest of the time. It can be distracting and a cause a re-read, which I hate doing.
- Thoughts intertwined with prose. This is Ms. Marr's signature (as I'm fining out while reading Graveminder, her new novel). I don't like to harp on a writer's style--especially a massively great author--but the way thoughts mingle with regular stuff is weird. The character will be noticing something, and then an italicized line will appear--a thought. Example: "The duck saw the piece of bread floating. It had been so long since Ducky had gobbled up a piece of food. My stomach aches for nourishment. Ducky charged up his webbed feet and dashed across the pond."
- The fairy kingdom's name. Faery. Huh? Fairies are from Faery? That's like saying people are from Person. It annoyed me almost as much as "poopy" from The House of Night series.
- Research. Obviously the author knows her stuff. But I want to know it, too. What's a rowan? What's a Scrimshaw Sister? There's other stuff, too, but since I never really knew what it was, I don't remember now what it was called. I love an author who researches, but as a reader, I don't want to take time to look it up myself. Context lets you figure it out to a certain extent, but I'd like some history (especially since in later installments lineage and culture seem to matter so much).
- Freaky character names. Bananach? I eventually just called her Banana as I read. Yeah, and is her name Banana or War? Depends on which sentence you're reading, I guess. Aislinn? Is that AYslinn or EYEslinn? And how is her nickname Ash? Why not just always call her Ash? And then among all that are Seth and Leslie, which makes the name thing even more of an issue.