Harper Collins 2011
Darkest Mercy is the fifth and final book in the Wicked Lovely series - if you haven't read the previous titles then this review may contain spoilers.
All is not well in Huntsdale – at least not for the wide variety of Fae who have chosen this particular part of America to put down roots. Inexperienced Aislinn rules the Summer Court alone, unsure of her co-regent's whereabouts; Dark King Niall is overcome by grief at the loss of an old friend, plunging his Dark Court into confusion and violent disarray; Sorcha and the High Court remain cut off from the mortal realm in an effort to curb her newly found and rather overzealous mothering skills and the newly formed Shadow Court remain with her. Donia, Winter Queen, watches situations unfold about her but longs for her lost love while Seth waits and watches, watches and waits as future threads unspool before him. Meanwhile the living embodiment of War gears up for battle and Death stalks the increasingly unstable streets. With everything to lose, each character must act carefully to protect not only the fey under their care but the future of Faerie as a whole.
It's hard to talk about any of the (many) characters in Darkest Mercy without reflecting on the Wicked Lovely series as a whole as the character development over the course of these five books has been exceptionally well written. The series doesn't have a main protagonist, but started by telling the story of Aislinn, a mortal with the Sight who reluctantly became Summer Queen at the bequest of her co-regent Keenan. She's a great character who has grown and changed tremendously yet believably, torn between what she wants for herself and what has become her duty. In Darkest Mercy she truly comes into her own and it is a pleasure to read. Her relationship with Seth, always tenuous, continues to be questioned. However, for the first time they seem to be on an equal footing - rather than co-dependent or imbalanced by mortality (or immortality for that matter). Seth is pretty fascinating – certainly the most introspective character and also the only one continually able to see the bigger picture (literally), he walks a fine line between the various Courts, always believing in the better nature of the Fey whom he has come to think of as family.
Niall is another interesting character. In previous books, I've found him to be hugely sympathetic yet somewhat slippery – his dark side always lurking behind a calm facade. In Darkest Mercy, the calm facade has pretty much disappeared and he spends much of the book in a shadowy tornado of grief. The fact that he's hearing voices (or one voice in particular) doesn't help much. His complete imbalance makes the Dark Court the perfect starting point for Bananach's takeover. Bananach kind of rocks – it is always a pleasure to read a character who is just bad to the bone and War, or Discord or whatever it is she actually is has no redeeming features. She's also delightfully insane and completely unpredictable. Adding further darkness is Far Dorcha, or Death, and his body-snatching sister, Ankou. These two characters add a further depth to Darkest Mercy's mythology and were welcome additions to the whole crazy mix.
Completing the cast are Keenan and Donia. Their stories, both individually and together provide the heart of this story and to say too much would be to spoil things. However, Donia remains one of the strongest characters in the series and Keenan the most conflicted. Keenan's story, in particular, lies in pleasing symmetry to Aislinn's and certain twists and turns genuinely surprised me.
As the last of the Wicked Lovely books, Darkest Mercy completes what is by far the strongest fey series available on the YA shelves. Mellisa Marr's storytelling ability and world building are unmatched in books of this type. The world that she has created is deeply visual and extremely dark – providing the reader with a vicsera of blood, passion, love, life and death. Yet the series is not without heart and certainly not without beauty as the story swings between the writhing vines of Summer and the cool, calm confines of the icy Winter court. In Darkest Mercy Melissa Marr has created an intricate world and drawn many, many threads to a truly satisfying conclusion. However, while satisfying, I would like to think that there may be more stories to emerge from this world – the ending is not quite a happily ever. Already it is possible to imagine the Courts teetering on the brink of some new battle – after all, Discord still roams, Seth still sees and they all, being fey, are sure to still plot. And what of the Shadow Court? Barely seen in Darkest Mercy, I sincerely hope that Melissa is holding them back for another day. With storytelling of this standard, I'll be waiting with bated breath.
Darkest Mercy is available now. Many thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy to read and review.