Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales

Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales Volume 1 by Melissa Marr and Xian Nu Studio

There have been quite a few manga style adaptions of young adult books. I find the idea of reading original side stories set in an author’s universe more interesting than reading a manga adaptation of what I’ve already read. I’ve read the first three books in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series and mostly enjoyed them, although the third book teetered on the edge of being a little too emo for my taste. I wrote about Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange over on the Bureau Chiefs site. Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales features characters from the main books, but the focus is on a new character named Rika.

The Wicked Lovely series is an urban paranormal fantasy series. Keenan, the Summer King of the fairies has been on the hunt for his Summer Queen for centuries. He chooses his queen candidates from mortal girls. There’s a test they have to pass – if they grasp the staff of the Winter Queen and survive the ice, they’re his destined mate. If not, they’re iced over and turn into the Winter Queen, the Summer King’s most hated enemy. Rika is a mortal girl turned fairie by her experience being forced to serve as Winter Queen. She’s taken refuge in the desert, far away from Keenan. Her main distraction is watching a mortal boy – an artist and rock climber named Jayce.

Rika is careful to observe the usual fairy rules about contact with mortals and keeps herself carefully invisible. But the wild desert fey threaten Jayce and she intervenes in order to keep him from being injured. Jayce is mystified at the sudden appearance of a beautiful girl, and they have an awkward first date which consists of them wandering around a nearby town while Rika tries to fight off invisible assailants. Her one local ally is a faerie named Sionnach who seems to be pushing Rika towards the mortal for reasons of his own.

Melissa Marr excels at writing about romance in the initial attraction stage. Jayce and Rika meet, she bandages him up, and as they start talking to each other they share their interests in art and the desert landscape. The character designs fit with the slightly punked out sensibility of the Wicked Lovely books. Rika has pale eyelashes and a choppy bob, providing a contrast to Jayce’s dark skin and dreadlocks. The mischievous desert fey that harass the budding couple are drawn with lines of sand scattered across their skin. I found the story a little more interesting than the art, and there were a couple places in the book where I wished for better transitions between panels or across pages.

I think that fans of the Wicked Lovely series will enjoy this book. I’m not entirely sure how accessible it would be to someone who isn’t already familiar with Melissa Marr’s world. I found reading this manga to be a bit of a relief after Ink Exchange. The love triangle in the main series with Seth, Aislinn, and Keenan has just gotten a little bleak and depressing so I enjoyed being able to visit the Wicked Lovely world with some fresh characters who aren’t bogged down with the continuity in the main series. There are two additional volumes in the Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales manga series, the concluding volume comes out in February.

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