21) Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Reading this marks my exit from reading long overdue loans and my entrance of the Hugo Awards’ voter packet: this is the first thing I have read for the Campbell award. It’s a fairly short novel (half the length of Of Blood and Honey, the other novel in that category), but I found myself getting thoroughly drawn into the story and the world that was being described; I definitely recommend giving it a read.
It has an interesting narrative which started out somewhat jarringly but soon morphed into one of the reasons I got so hooked. We follow the story of Paama, starting with the tale of her husband Ansige, who is a rather tragic fellow who has been ruined by his gluttony. She leaves him and he travels to her village in order to try to get her back, which takes up the first chunk of the novel. This didn’t really initially grab me, and indeed it wasn’t until he was essentially out of the picture that interesting things began to happen.
The first signs of the fantasy elements marked the graduation of the plot from a state of pleasant but rather uninspired to very engaging and entertaining. The introduction to the djombi, the god-like creatures in the novel, was gradual; first the presence of two shadowy strangers was hinted at and then they were slowly introduced. I liked their interactions with Paama, which took place mostly at the start; as we continue, her experience of the djombi is with one particular one, which provides a very interesting journey (and also links to the scene in the prologue, which was cool).
I liked the way in which the djombi possessed people: It makes more sense than most methods I’ve read about. The narrator tells us that the djombi have a different set of magical skills to the humans in the tale that can command magic; although both the djombi and the humans appear to have specific, preset skills rather than having access to a whole host of abilities. I quite liked this sense of limitation, although I would have liked to see slightly more of the Sister who dreamed, since she was cool.
I liked the characters that appear through the novel but I wasn’t as invested in them as I might have been. A character called Kwame, who is a tracker, is introduced some way through the plot: I didn’t really connect with him enough, and so when it’s mentioned that he died at the end, I wasn’t upset by it. Having said that, given the detached and fleeting way in which the news was delivered, I did rather wonder whether I wasn’t supposed to have formed an attachment. There is an epilogue that provides an extra scene that contains him, and I didn’t really understand why it hadn’t been placed in chronological order instead of being placed after the main story. I think that would have enhanced the plot somewhat.
I hope the other Campbell nominees are as well-paced and enjoyable as this was!