Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales. Volume 1: Sanctuary

After my first read through of this manga, my initial thought was ‘what the hell?’ After a second read through, my thought was ‘Uhhh….’

Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales: Sanctuary (so good they named it three times!) is a sort of manga add on to the novel Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. I haven’t read the book nor have any intention to, but it’s gotten very positive reviews and a dedicated fanbase, so I’ll assume it’s pretty good. That said, this is the age that gave us the Twilight fangirl…

This manga apparently focuses on characters that were only mentioned in the novel and the script was written by the same original author. Apparently, each of the novels is about a different character, which I’m not sure I’m a fan of. There’s nothing worse than getting really attached to a great character then opening the next book in the series and finding out that you’re not following them anymore.

The story of Desert Tales, from what I can tell, is this – A girl named Rika is watching a sensitive artist called Jayce who she is in love with, but he can’t see her because she’s a faerie. Don’t bother asking me what that is because the manga never explains.

Despite the confusion, the opening is rather sweet, but unfortunately it spirals quickly into just plain weird. Some other kind of faerie called Keenan arrives for what is supposed to be an exposition scene yet explains nothing. I hate clunky expo dumps but exposition should at least explain something! Also, Rika’s emotions make her seem almost bi-polar in this scene. One moment she’s all sad and mopey, the next she’s angry and then she starts this weird laugh for no adequately explained reason. But Keenan can make chairs out of sand, that’s really cool!

All I can gather from the backstory is that Rika was once human and she and Keenan were lovers. She screwed up some kind of ceremony which made her carry ice in her body and now she has to live in the desert because iron and steel are poisonous to her.

Or something.

That’s the first major problem with this manga – Nothing is explained properly! Maybe people who have read the original book will understand it, but those who haven’t are left completely stumped. I’ve read plenty of other ‘tie in’ mangas that made sense to those who haven’t seen the original material and may even inspire them to check it out. This one just alienates a huge chunk of potential readership. It’s almost no wander Tokyopop has gone out of business.

But anyway, back to the story. After her uber emo moment, Rika spots Jayce and his friends climbing up a cliff. After a storm. With no harnesses or protection.

And their stupidity is rewarded. Some creatures called the desert fey appear and again no explanation of who they are or what they’re doing there. I’ll just assume they’re the evil faeries. They cause Jayce to fall but Rika catches and saves him. Somehow this means that Jayce can now see her.

Wait, what? How does that work? Why didn’t she explain that before? Why didn’t she make herself visible before now? And why did the desert fey try to kill Jayce anyway? You can see the frustration I get from reading this.

After that it picks up a bit because there’s a scene where Jayce is shirtless. Then again, if I wanted hot shirtless men then I could just read yaoi instead. In fact, why aren’t I reading yaoi right now?

By this point, the manga is just coming up to the halfway mark. That’s the second major problem with this manga – The story takes for-fricking-ever to tell anything. So many of the panels seem unnecessary and others just make no sense to me.

The only other option would be to admire the artwork, but it’s not exactly spectacular. There’s some nice panels of the desert and the shirtless scene I mentioned. But other than that, there’s nothing particularly interesting to look at. The dyed parts of Jayce’s dreadlocks make him look like he has branches coming out of his head!

The rest of the book shows Rika trying to protect Jayce from the desert fey without revealing her identity or being poisoned by metal. The first half was confusing but in the second half the story runs all over the place and I can barely tell what the hell is happening. The romance scenes between Rika and Jayce are very sweet and tender. Yet in a surprising change from the rest of the story, the romance progresses awfully quickly which just feels unnatural.

There are a few nice moments and you do feel a lot of sympathy for Rika, but otherwise the art is average, the characters are underdeveloped and the storytelling is downright terrible. The worst offender is a double page spread with word bubbles that just repeat the dialogue that has just taken place.

The manga does contains an extract from another of Marr’s faerie novels and although it’s not the best prose ever or the type of thing I would read, it’s much better than the manga. It shows that the author is very inventive and her storytelling style does work in novel form.

The only people I would recommend this book to are those who have read the original novel and have never read a manga before. I don’t condone Melissa Marr for trying her hand at manga, admittedly I’d like to do it myself someday, but I think she should stick to a medium that she is good at.

My verdict – 3 out of 10