Darkest Mercy
by Melissa Marr
(Harper, $16.99, PG) ISBN: 978-0-06165-925-6
****
The nearly-overwhelming conclusion to Melissa Marr's fabulous teen-oriented urban fantasy series, Darkest Mercy finally brings together a majority of the accumulated characters and ties or cuts the remaining dangling threads. In a series that has generated a great deal of questions that more often than not went unanswered during the course of a given novel, that's a good thing. The bad thing? It makes for a choppy finish, considering that there were four previous books, each focusing on a different romance and aspect of faerie political intrigue.

Bringing all of the loose threads together provided readers with the sort of story that keeps your head spinning. Yes, sometimes that was just the overwhelming nature of the sacrifices each character is forced to make paired with Marr's excellent touch with characterization. Other times, however, switching back and forth from one main character to the next to the next to the next ... well, that part got a little old.

When Darkest Mercy opens, Keenan is still MIA much to the irritation of the two most important people in his life, his Summer Queen, Aislinn, and his beloved Donia, the Winter Queen. Ash isn't happy to be ruling the court on her own so soon after becoming a faerie, let alone a queen of them. Donia, though she wants the Summer Court to be strong for the approaching war with a faerie called Discord, is mostly disgusted with Keenan's apparent lack of good judgment.

Meanwhile (and there are a lot of those, so hang in there), Keenan is actually off recruiting allies of the solitary fey, faeries who don't owe fealty to any court. Aislinn, still torn about whether to follow her heart or do the best thing for the court, sends word to Keenan that she's willing to consider fully becoming his queen. Of course, Seth, the boy she loves who has recently become a faery himself and is now heir to a crown in his own right, returns just then, shortly followed by Keenan.

Irial, the former king of the Dark Court, dies of the poisonous wound inflicted at the tail end of Radiant Shadows, and the current king, Niall, flies completely off the handle: even Seth, whom he has considered a brother, is not saved. In fact, when Seth tries to intercede for everyone's good, Niall has him put in a cage for treachery.

The much-heralded war, led by a rampant Discord with a much bigger following behind her than even Seth foresaw, happens out of the blue. Discord is one of the few characters who doesn't have a voice in the novel, so when she attacks, it comes as a surprise not only to the unprepared characters. Havoc is wrought, but in the end, much is learned and everything losses included closes into a full circle.

Personal problems have run rampant throughout the series, carefully mingled with individuals' desires to do what's best for their respective courts, and Darkest Mercy carries said issues to their messy results. It is not a comfortable novel, though fans of the series will approve the ending. Darkest Mercy is not the place to start; if you haven't read Wicked Lovely and those that follow it, leave Darkest Mercy on the shelf until you do. Though the novels are written for teens, the political plotting and the twisted natures of the relationships cannot be understood through one book alone.

--Sarrah Knight


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