Title: Fragile Eternity
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: April 2009
Hardcover: 400 pages
Stand Alone/ Series: Book 3 in the Wicked Lovely series but also the direct sequel to book 1, Wicked Lovely.
Summary: (from amazon.com)
“Seth never expected he would want to settle down with anyone—but that was before Aislinn. She is everything he’d ever dreamed of, and he wants to be with her forever. Forever takes on new meaning, though, when your girlfriend is an immortal faery queen.
Aislinn never expected to rule the very creatures who’d always terrified her—but that was before Keenan. He stole her mortality to make her a monarch, and now she faces challenges and enticements beyond any she’d ever imagined.
In Melissa Marr’s third mesmerizing tale of Faerie, Seth and Aislinn struggle to stay true to themselves and each other in a milieu of shadowy rules and shifting allegiances, where old friends become new enemies and one wrong move could plunge the Earth into chaos.”
Why did we read the book: Because we absolutely adore Melissa Marr’s writing and this series. No brainer.
Warning: This is a review of an ongoing series, and as such it necessarily contains SPOILERS for the previous books (Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange). If you have not read these books or do not wish to be spoiled, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Ana: Fragile Eternity was high on my list of most anticipated reads of 2009. I fell in love with Melissa Marr’s writing and faery world in Wicked Lovely and never looked back ever since. That book had 4 main characters but only 3 of them had point of views. Seth was the character that was left out and even so, he was my favorite character. When I learnt that Fragile Eternity was to finally show his POV I was thrilled, excited, terrified. But Melissa Marr does not disappoint. Not only Seth was given the voice and life I hope for, she also takes the story into new depths. The world she created in these books? Simply awe-inspiring.
Thea: Like Ana, I too had Fragile Eternity as one of my most highly anticipated books for the year. I love Melissa Marr’s darkly beautiful world of faery, her complex characters and her flawless writing. While I preferred Ink Exchange to Wicked Lovely, I still was on tenterhooks to read from Seth’s point of view in this direct sequel to the first novel. And true to form, Ms. Marr delivers. Fragile Eternity is like the anti-Twilight; this is a thoughtful, sensitive book that is damn near perfect. I absolutely loved it.
On the Plot:
Ana: Where do I even start?
The plot in Fragile Eternity is absolutely brilliant. Melissa Marr takes what happened previously and expands her world exponentially adding several layers of complex storytelling. With the Summer coming and the Summer Court still getting used to their King being unbound and to her new former-mortal Queen , things are not quite as they should be. Ash, the Summer Queen refuses to be more to her King than friends and co-workers which weakens their court. The Winter Court is still powerful and balance must be reached at any cost. This is what is central to Fragile Eternity: the need for balance between the Courts that are important to the mortal world as well. The moment one of them is stronger than the other (as the Winter Court had been when under Beira), the repercussions to the mortal world can be dire, setting the world into eternal winter for example or into the darkness that the Dark Court can so easily spread. But luckily, the three monarchs, Donia, Ash and Niall are prepared to compromise as long as their respective courts are respected and strong. Unfortunately for them, there are lose ends – there is Seth, the mortal that navigates amongst all the courts being the beloved of the Summer Queen, friends with the Winter Queen who gave him the Sight (ability to see the fairies) and a brother to the Dark King, Niall. This is troublesome and potentially disruptive, especially to the Summer King, Keenan.
Then there is Bananach, a faery with loose connections to the Dark Court who is the embodiment of War and Chaos. Her foresight predicts coming war and her conniving, manipulative actions in Fragile Eternity are as important as the actions of her sister, Sorcha, the embodiment of Order and the Queen of the elusive, distant High Court.
For all its depth and extremely complex diplomatic and political entanglements, the themes can be (perhaps simplistically put) summed up as Love and Duty. Love permeates most of the relationships in this book: brotherly love like the one between Seth and Niall but also romantic love between Keenan and Donia, Ash and Seth. Even the fact that Niall loved Leslie and can’t forgive Keenan for his actions in Ink Exchange is essential to the way he acts here. But the fact that all of them are bound by duty and sometimes their love for their Court need to come first which adds conflict and a LOT of angst.
Plus, what makes this even more awesome? The fact that everything and everyone is so unpredictable. There is no easy way out for anything. Some of the characters can foresee the future and Melissa Marr goes beyond telling that there are several potential outcomes and possibilities by showing us how the threads change as the plot moves along. And the paths move and are reshaped in front of our very eyes – making clear that for all the strength and immortality these Kings and Queens have, theirs is still a very fragile eternity.
If this is not brilliant writing then I am a Hawthorn Faery.
Thea: What Ana said. The title of this book is brilliant and sums up the nature of Marr’s realm of faery – it truly is a Fragile Eternity in which these immortals reside. As with the other two books in the series, Marr writes a snarled, tangled mess of relationships and emotion – Ash with her refusal to become Keenan’s Summer Queen in full, fighting the strengthening bond between them and Keenan’s machinations; Donia’s weakened court and her inability to truly be with Keenan, her refusal to be taken for granted; Niall’s twisted emotions as new ruler of the Dark Court; the emerging High Court with the ever-unchanging Queen Sorcha; and in the middle of it all, the one lowly human, Seth. This is truly Seth’s novel, and, to the delight of countless fans (*cough* ahem, Ana! *cough*) opens up the narrative to his own thoughts and feelings. Seth is the lynch pin of this novel, the wrench in the clockwork that threatens to shatter the fragile balance of these immortals’ realms. Ash refuses to be without him, Keenan wants him out of the picture, Niall loves him like his brother and offers his protection, Donia feels for him, and Sorcha…well, that’s something you’ll have to discover for yourself.
I love these books for how complicated relationships are – in terms of characters and especially in terms of plotting. As Ana says, the concept of balance is of key importance to this book. With Donia, Niall and Ash & Keenan, the faery courts have finally been able to achieve something of a balance of power – but as with everything else in this book, it is a tenuous balance, a fragile balance. Add to the mix Bananach – chaos, war and death personified – who hungers to destroy the balance at any cost. The political machinations, the manipulations of Bananach, the tangled loyalties and relationships all come to a head in Fragile Eternity, and it is nothing short of impressive.
One thing you can say for Melissa Marr’s writing – it is refreshingly unpredictable. I mentioned earlier that Fragile Eternity is that anti-Twilight, and I stand by that statement. What I love, possibly the most of Marr’s books is that there is no need for a Happy Ever After. Reading Fragile Eternity, I was glued to my seat, unsure about how it was all going to end and thrilled that I had no idea what to expect next. Unlike other uber-popular young adult fantasy novels, Marr’s books stubbornly refuse to be homogenized in some bland, predictable romance. As Ana and I exchanged emails over this book, the common themes were “Oh my GOD I cannot believe that just happened,” “Oh my GOD what is going to happen next,” and “Oh my GOD I have no idea how this will all end for Seth, Ash and Keenan” (also, a few “Keenan must DIE!” emails were exchanged. More on that later). It’s nerve racking, but in an irresistible, intoxicating way. The most thrilling thing is that we don’t know if Seth and Ash are going to be able to make it work – just as it is possible that they do achieve a happy ending of sorts (as they did temporarily with Wicked Lovely), it is equally possible that some heartbreaking fate awaits them (as seen with the complex and dark Ink Exchange).
I still have no idea how it will all pan out…and I love the uncertainty.
On the characters:
Ana: There are several important characters in this book and I care (or at least want to know ) about every single one of them. From the disturbing Bananach, to Devlin, advisor to Sorcha, to all the individuals in each court. And of course Keenan , the Summer King and Niall, the new Dark King (I loved Niall in Ink Exchange and he is ever more awesome here)
But the four main characters this time, the ones that have points of view are: Ash, Donia, Sorcha and Seth.
I will start with the most important one in this book- Fragile Eternity belongs to Seth, in my opinion. Starting with the fact that we finally learn what moves him. In Wicked Lovely, he came across as steady-fast, calm, self-confidents and someone who was always there for Ash no matter what. I fell in love with him, even if a lot of readers thought him to be one-dimensional. I always thought he had a lot of potential. And god knows how much I like being right. Seth is suffering. He is a mortal in the middle of immortals. He is the most fragile of them all : he is going to eventually die. He is not strong. He can’t be what Ash needs him to be and she grows closer to the Summer King , his innards twist in jealousy and fear he will lose the woman that is most important to him.
He is important to Ash because he understands her in a level no one else does. He is never pushy and he is always prepared to give her space. What we did not know is that none of this comes easily. Not a single trait of Seth’s personality is easy for him to achieve – his calm, his understanding of Ash’s new circumstances, he must keep his temper in check always. What we also learn here is the depth of his love for her – which in some points, borders obsession, as it is difficult to tell where does Seth begin and end without his love for Ash. It is an all –consuming love that in some points bothered me for its sheer intensity. He is SO young. Surely Seth should have something else in his life that is MORE important than Ash.
But he doesn’t and this is what the choice he eventually makes a somewhat easy one. Did I like what happens? Yes and no. Part of me thinks he is simply weak. He lacks the strength that Leslie (Ink Exchange) had to walk away and do what is best for his mortal like. Part of me revels in the choice he has made – it is all about love after all and he knows what is important to him and who matters. He may be young but he knows he loves Ash forever. How can the romantic in me NOT like that. I also liked that this choice will come with consequences (and curses) that will probably set what is to come. And because it gives him a new direction in life. Yes, Seth as a mortal who had everything: money, peace of mind and love, lacked direction. The choice he made comes with attached Terms and Conditions, yes. But also makes him something else , something new and someone who matters. He was lost as a mortal, he has found his way now and in a way , one can even see how he was supposed to, from the start: it makes sense and it fits his character arc. We can almost say that Seth was meant to be like this.
Plus, dear lord, the man is kick-ass now. He is, has always been since book 1, my favorite character, especially now.
As for Ash, boy, is the girl in dire straights. Becoming the Summer Queen at such tender age and having to deal with manipulative faeries who are hundreds of years old and very used to their way of living is not easy. Then, the only person that she sees as her friend, fails her (or so she thinks) , what is one to do? At times, Ash comes across as too indecisive and too trusting but these are all hang-ups from her mortality and utterly understandable. She has a lot of growing up to do still – and a lot of important choices to make.
Should I go on? Because I can. Then you have the other two Queens: Donia who is trying to maintain her Court’s strength and at the same time have a relationship with her love – the King of the Summer Court. It is a tragic story, theirs. But will a lot of potential still. I love reading Donia and Keenan’s story and I loved the stance she took this time.
Then there is Sorcha, the High Queen of the High Court. The Court that has less contact with the mortal world and at first glance the one that has less impact in it. She is the Unchangeable One – the one that has always been the High Queen and will always be. I prefer not to talk further about Sorcha or the High Court – it would be too spoilery and it would diminish her presence and we can’t have that.
Lastly, Keenan, the Summer King needs to be mentioned. I detest the guy with the strength of a million supernovas. The guy is the only one without a moral compass – none whatsoever. He will do whatever he needs to, to get what he wants and he wants everything: Court, his Queen AND Donia. Every single character in this book has a moral compass of sorts. They all HOLD BACK: Seth holds back his darker, side. Niall does as well. Ash is holding back her Faery side to keep some of her mortality. Donia is holding back her utter coldness.
The only one that DOESN’T hold back is Keenan. He totally embraces who he is – good and bad. Part of me thinks, well, this is awesome. Another part thinks he just takes the easy way out , he doesn’t have to control or fight internal struggles like everybody else, he tries very little in a halfhearted attempt to give Ash space, for example. But I kind of understand where he is coming from – out of all the characters, he is the only one to have been born a monarch. He was bound and cursed for hundreds of years by his mother and now that he is finally free, the idea of limits, of holding back must be terrifying to him. Sometimes I see him as a spoiled, arrogant little boy that needs to grow up, even though he is 900 years old. Still, all of his arrogance will surely be his downfall.
Still, the Dark Ana would very much like to see what would happen if all of them stopped holding back: what would be like to see the Dark King, the Summer Monarchs and The Winter Queen in all their glory? I suspect, terrifying and utterly cool.
Thea: I have to agree with Ana; Fragile Eternity is truly Seth’s book as he is revealed much more to readers. In Wicked Lovely, he’s almost too good to be true: he listens to Aislinn, he unquestioningly supports her and protects her. And, when Ash becomes faery as the Summer Queen, Seth loyally stands beside her, never pushing or demanding anything, simply understanding that she has to be with her King and partner. In Fragile Eternity this cool, collected facade cracks, as we see that Seth isn’t some zen master angelic boyfriend – we see his (perfectly understandable) jealousy and insecurity with Keenan and Aislinn’s relationship. We see his frustration with being the fragile mortal who constantly needs the protection of other fae, vulnerable even to Aislinn’s embraces as she is so much stronger than he is. In other words, Seth finally became real to me as a character in this book, much more so than he was in Wicked Lovely.
Ana mentioned Seth’s all-consuming love for Ash, and to a certain extent I agree that this is true and maybe a bit unsettling. Seth loves Ash and will do anything for her, will take whatever time he can with her. But I disagree that he pegs his self worth on Aislinn, or that he is obsessed with her. What separates Seth from the Bellas of the world and what endears him to me so much as a character is the fact that he makes a decision. If he was just the cookie-cutter-too-good-to-be-true-dream-boyfriend, he would let Ash continue to use him as her mortal lifeline. He would be perfectly content with sitting on the sidelines, being there only when Ash needs him, quietly accepting that she and Keenan will be together once he dies. Instead of being this passive sort of character, Seth evaluates his options and makes a conscious decision knowing full well the consequences of his actions (if not fully envisioning the scope of those consequences). Is his decision the “right” one? Is it pretty and perfect and clean cut? It’s irrelevant – what matters is that Seth, right or wrong, takes control of his life and acts for himself knowing that he will have to live with the consequences. THIS is what is missing from so many young adult novels, and this is what sets Seth apart from the throng of passive heroines who expect their lives to end happily no matter what stupid decisions they make.
Marr’s characters are her greatest strength, and Fragile Eternity is her best work to date. Everyone, from the chaos-craving Bananach to the ordered regal Sorcha, is completely, wholly believable as characters. They are not “good” or “bad” – they simply are. Even Keenan, for all his scheming and douchebaggery is simply who he is – a King dedicated to his court and who will do anything, even to manipulate his queen or kill her human lover, to strengthen it. I love that while there is a tender love story here between Aislinn and Seth, these books are certainly not romances. At all. Keenan isn’t motivated to be with Ash because he loves her. Rather, he is motivated to get Seth out of the picture because he needs Aislinn to fully come into his power. It’s the same motivation in his interactions with Donia or Niall – Keenan is singular in that he thinks almost exclusively about himself as Summer King. As with the countless girls he used to unlock his bound powers, Keenan has no qualms about using mortals and fae to achieve his own ends.
Since Ana has already said it all in terms of the characterizations in this novel, I’ll just talk briefly about one last thing, and subject of more emails between Ana and myself. As Ana mentions above, Keenan is different from any of the other main characters because he was born into the role of monarch – and I think this goes a step further. Keenan also is the only one of the main characters who has never been human, who has never identified with humans, and has never cared for humans. This is what separates him from Donia, who after all was a human girl that became Winter Girl and then Winter Queen; Aislinn, who clings to her mortality as a lifejacket; even Niall, who is not mortal but who has spent ages atoning for his uncanny effect on humans, and comes to grips with his heartbreaking love of the very human Leslie. These characters are perhaps more relatable to readers because they do show compassion and have a glimmer of humanity, no matter how powerful or truly fae they are. In contrast, Keenan is wholly, unwaveringly fae without even a veneer of humanity. It doesn’t excuse his actions, and like Ana I detest Keenan’s manipulations – but I love that he is a beautifully written character.
This is why Melissa Marr is so damn good – these characters are brilliant, nuanced and utterly real.
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating:
Ana: Fragile Eternity is more than a worthy addition to this incredible series.
I think in the end, when all five books are written it will be clear that Wicked Lovely was foundation, groundwork, substructure whilst Fragile Eternity is the superstructure, the ground floor, the essential design point that will give form and direction to the final edifice of this series. Everything that matters was set in motion here and I can not wait to see what happens next. And please, give me more Seth.
Thea: I adored Fragile Eternity. This feels very much like the middle novel of a trilogy, and it is. Middle installments are always my favorites: The Empire Strikes Back is the finest of the Star Wars films; The Two Towers is the absolute best of Lord of the Rings; Aliens is far and away the best in the saga. Well, now I can add Fragile Eternity to that esteemed list. I cannot wait to see how the final book (and the next companion book) stack up – because it’s nigh inconceivable that she can top this fantastic, seductive dark gem of a novel. Bravo, Ms. Marr. Bravo.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Ana: Melissa Marr writes each Court with a lot of details. From the place they inhabit , to the members of the court. How they affect their surroundings differently and how they affect mortals – with the levit of summer of violence of the Dark Court. I particularly love to read how each character has shifting eyes. Yes, eyes. Don’t they say that eyes are windows to the soul? Well, in the Wicked Lovely series this is truer than ever. Each monarch or powerful Faery carry the power of their Courts in their eyes.
For example, Bananach, the War and a foreseer sometimes carried stars in her eyes :
“Her dark eyes glittered with a sprinkling of stars, constellations that sometimes matched the mortal sky. Today, Scorpius, the best that killed Orion, was in the center of Bananach’s gaze. “
Niall’s eyes had abyss in them sometimes. Ash and Keenan carry summery things in them like: “endless blue lakes” “The sun was rising in the oasis” or “in his eyes, waves crashed against a deserted beach under a perfect sunrise”.
Thea: You can also check out the first seven chapters of Fragile Eternity online HERE!
Thea: For those who are unfamiliar with the series, here’s how it goes in order.
- Book 1: Wicked Lovely – with main characters Aislinn, Seth, Keenan and Donia
- Companion Book: Ink Exchange – set in the same universe but following different main characters Leslie, Irial and Niall
- Book 2: Fragile Eternity – again following Ash, Seth, Keenan and Donia, with Niall and the introduction of the High Court
- Companion Book: Unnamed – set in the same universe but following different characters
- Book 3: Unnamed – the conclusion of the story following Ash, Seth, et al
AND to add to that, Melissa Marr also has a Manga series in the works! These stories are set in the same Wicked Lovely universe, but again are following different characters. The first manga, titled Desert Tales, follows Rika, a former Winter Girl.
You can check out the first few pages of the manga by using the widget above, or visiting the Harper Teen website HERE. Desert Tales is out on April 21st, as is Fragile Eternity.
Ana: 9 Damn Near Perfection. And on my top 10 of 2009.
Thea: 9 Damn Near Perfection – Ditto.
Reading Next: Starfinder by John Marco
Tomorrow: Melissa Marr and a special article on writing Fragile Eternity which she aptly titled: Writing Seth’s Book. You can’t miss it.