Joy thought her life was hard enough already – her mother left after having an affair, her brother, the one person she can properly confide in, has gone away to university leaving her alone with her Dad, who tries but is still caught up in his own problems. That was before the night at a club when a boy tried to blind her by stabbing her in the eye. Since then she’s been seeing . . . things. Flashes in the corner of her eye, strange messages she doesn’t understand, creatures coming for her.
The boy who tried to stab her, Ink, reveals he is in fact a faerie, and tells her that she has been marked as one of his lehmen – a messenger, servant, and, sometimes, lover. Now Joy is caught in a world of monsters and magic, between those who want to use her to get to Ink and those who want the fey to dominate the human world.
Young adult books about the fey are often hard to get right: the juxtaposition of unearthly, immortal, magical creatures against human teenagers in the modern day world is difficult. Some are written beautifully, and manage to explore the fey world in great detail, but others unfortunately (like many YA fantasy books) end up using this magic as a set up for a predicable romance between annoying characters, wasting the great ideas that were made to sound so much bigger in the blurb. Sadly, Indelible was the latter of these books – another case of great ideas, poor excision. This had the potential to be a very interesting book, but not enough focus on the magic, with a brief explanation as to how the magic worked which barely made sense, and unlikeable character, ruined it.
The few faerie creatures who did show up, like Filly the viking warrior woman who loves battle and Aniseed the villain who believes in fey supremacy, were interesting, but not featured anywhere near often enough. In fact, Aniseed, who was meant to be the main villain, wasn’t even mentioned by name until about three quarters of the way through the book. The odd messages left for Joy, before she understood what was happening, were quiet creepy and created a fair bit of tension as she didn’t know where or when the next one would come from, but this seemed to be dropped far too quickly once Ink was properly introduced. Joy’s job as messenger as a whole was overshadowed and all but forgotten in exchange for the romance and parties with Ink’s sister, Inq. Which leads to another huge problem: why on earth would you name two of your main character Ink and Inq? It’s confusing and comes across as lazy.
None of the characters were likeable. Joy was unbelievable selfish: with every problem that occurred, including ones that were nothing to do with her, Joy’s first thought is “this make it so much harder for me!”. For instance, when her brother tells her he has discovered he is gay, her first reaction is to become angry and upset at him for hiding this information from her. This, and many other similar instances, made her sound like a spoil, bratty child. Inq was just as petty and annoying, a girl who thought of nothing but her own wants and needs, even if that means pulling people away from their lives, just so she can party, with no notice. Ink was bland and boring, making him a very poor romantic interest. Other reviews have mentioned his ‘slowly learning to become human and feel love’, but I personally couldn’t see it. Using contractions in your speech and obsessing over the shape of ears doesn’t make you human, or particularly interesting to read about. The stereotypical idea of a girl ‘curing’ a boy, and teaching him to love is both patronising and stupid.
The worst part of this book, however? It was boring. So boring, that had it not been an ARC, I would have stopped reading about half way through. I was not impressed in the slightest by Indelible.
 Examples of good faerie books are Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series (YA), Malissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series (YA), Seanan McGuire’s Tody Daye series (adult), and Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series (YA).(less)