I read this book in day, because it's beautiful, it's compelling and it's simple. It's unfortunate that I have to state that I really did like the book, but what follows is likely to make some people conclude that I didn't enjoy Fragile Eternity. I did—I just wanted something else from it.
Part of why I read Melissa Marr is because we tell stories in different ways. Our focus isn't the same, and I find her to be like a perception check. Very few authors can tell a story the way Marr does as well as she does.
I tend to forget that I have to give her novels 100 pages to get started. Allow me to clarify—I do not mean this a complaint. Just an observation that she is not someone to read when you want to hit the ground running. Marr books are much smaller. Quieter. They weave around you. Gently. Carefully. Sweep you away when you aren't looking—and it's an admirable skill.
Fragile Eternity faced an uphill battle with me as its reader before the book started. Going in with a disdain for Keenan and a mild dislike of Ash, it falls on Seth to carry the story for me. He does, by the way, brilliantly. If Ink Exchange is the novel that made me love Niall, then FE is the one that makes me love Seth. He has a depth to him—the kind that Niall and Leslie have. A complexity of emotion and experiences that make these characters more appealing.
It could be because I look at the books from an older perspective that I find Aislinn too simplistic in Fragile Eternity to be a satisfying speculative protagonist. As a romance heroine, she might do better.
Which is the issue I have with this third novel. (It's romance-focused, which I suppose you could argue all Marr's books are.) Reader attention is shifted onto the love quadrilateral of Donia/Keenan/Aislinn/Seth. This dynamic is necessary to get to the interesting things—it is really Ash's behavior that provides the motivation for Seth's character transformation. However, in order for Seth and Niall and Sorcha goodness I had read through scenes and scenes of Aislinn waffling between Seth and Keenan.
Her indecisiveness isn't frustrating on its own. I mean, she's not quite 18, and I expect a certain level of emphasis on her relationships given the kind of story FE is. But as an older reader, I see how Keenan treats her as unacceptable. It frustrates me that time and again she makes excuses for him. The girl that Ash was in Wicked Lovely has been replaced by someone who chooses to surrender to her circumstances instead of make her own way.
Seth set out on a quest for his lady love while she remained in her tower and awaited his return. Only the quest provides him with experience and understanding that puts him on a different maturity level than his love who has stayed home. (Like if he'd backpacked across Europe.)
So at the end of the novel I'm left feeling that Fragile Eternity Ash doesn't deserve Seth's love or sacrifice because they're no longer emotional equals. I can only hope that Future Novels Ash will grow into the kind of woman who can have a happy-ever-after with him.