Redemption in Indigo
by Karen Lord
188pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.82/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.83/5

Karen Lord’s debut novel Redemption in Indigo, a fairly short book partially based on a Senegalese folk tale, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won several other awards, including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, the Frank Collymore Award, the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award. It’s a wonderfully written, charming tale, although I really liked it instead of wholeheartedly loving it mainly because I did not think much of the second half was quite as captivating as the superb first part.


A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily. I am willing to admit to many faults, but I will not burden my conscience with that one.  All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing. [pp.1]

From the very first lines, it’s clear what to expect from Redemption in Indigo. This story, told as though it’s being orally narrated, is somewhat meandering and does not have a straightforward plot line that flows neatly from point A to point B (which is rather fitting considering much of the plot does revolve around the Chaos Stick). Every time I thought I had figured out the main focus of the book, it changed gears. At first, it seems as though it may be a lighthearted humorous story about how Paama discreetly makes the best of the unfortunate situations created by her foolish husband Ansige. After the third time she bails him out of trouble, she’s chosen to wield the Chaos Stick and it seems as though it may actually be the story of her learning to control this newfound power. Shortly after that, the indigo lord learns his power has been given to a mere mortal, and it seems as though it may be the story of his attempts to discover who has it and take it back. This ends up going in a direction I did not at all expect, and the indigo lord ends up being quite different from what I had anticipated from a character who had been explicitly stated to be the villain in this story.

At its heart, Redemption in Indigo is a mythical tale about humanity, chance, choices, and the fleeting moments that can have a lifelong impact. There’s more focus on storytelling than in-depth characterization, and I thought the straightforward style of a narrator speaking to an audience worked. For the most part I enjoyed the voice, but it isn’t particularly subtle since the narrator is very up front and open when providing commentary on the story a few times, including dissecting what it’s really about and the roles of various characters.

Though the characters are not incredibly well fleshed out, the main protagonist is wonderful. Paama is resourceful, compassionate, and dutiful, and some of my favorite parts were those in which she found solutions to the ridiculous situations Ansige got himself into due to his insatiable hunger. Three times she quickly assesses the situation and finds a way to present it that’s completely false but at least attempts to save her husband from appearing foolish (everyone comes to the conclusion he’s foolish anyway after he needs rescuing three days in a row but thinks well of Paama for her grace and tact when dealing with his unfortunate incidents). Paama always strives to do the right thing and is easy to like and root for.

The first half of the book especially brims with humor and wit, and I quite thoroughly enjoyed this part. Though the latter half remains well-written with some memorable and even humorous scenes, it’s more serious overall and I preferred the more lighthearted tone of the previous part. It worked quite well with the writing style and was quite vivid and engaging.

Redemption in Indigo is an enchanting, fairly short folk tale and a strong debut novel, though I did feel that the latter part of the book wasn’t quite as compelling as the superb first half. It’s not my personal favorite of Karen Lord’s books—that would be her thoughtful, engaging science fiction novel The Best of All Possible Worlds—but I found it very much worth reading and admired both the storytelling structure and Paama’s strength of spirit.

My Rating: 8/10 (averaged since the first half was a 9 and the second was a 7)

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is June’s selection from a poll on Patreon.


June has been a rather quiet month since there’s been a lot going on, including a two-week trip to Ireland. Now that I’ve returned and have had a bit of a chance to recover from the exhausting trip home, hopefully things will pick up more here, starting with the announcement of the June Patreon title (which I finished reading yesterday).

The June book selection, determined by the monthly book poll with one of the Patreon reward tiers, is a Mythopoeic Award winner. The options were as follows:

The book to be read and reviewed for June is…

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

A tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

A contemporary fairy tale that is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale.

This was the only one Karen Lord’s novels I hadn’t already read (and I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds) so I was excited about reading it! And now, I’d better get to work on that review…

Today I’m happy to share a guest post by author and futurist Brenda Cooper! Her novels include the books in the Silver Ship series (The Silver Ship and the Sea, Reading the Wind, Wings of Creation) and Ruby’s Song (The Creative Fire, The Diamond Deep). Edge of Dark, the first Glittering Edge book, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and is her most recent published novel—until tomorrow, which marks the release of the sequel Spear of Light!

Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper

By Brenda Cooper

So I was asked if I would write a guest blog about being both a writer and a futurist. I’m a technology manager, a working futurist, and a science fiction writer (and you guessed it–I don’t get enough sleep!). The future is always in my head, and science fiction, of course, is really a conversation about the future. One of the things I think about the most is the balance between technology and nature.

We are already surrounded by, dependent on, entertained by, and frustrated with technology. For most of us, all of those states happen every single day, and our future is going to be even more full of machines. It’s going to be replete with robots and smart objects, webbed with connectivity, and full of energy. This brings me pleasure. I’m an early adopter, and often fascinated with new things–for example, I was a Google Glass Explorer and I’m already wearing Fitbit’s Blaze, their newest fitness watch.

In spite of my fascination with technology, I love sitting on my back porch and listening to the aspens rustle in the breeze or the owls calling across our ridge in deep and profound conversation. Sometimes I just need the connection to reality that I feel when digging my hands into the soil, when grit is running up under my fingernails and the rich scents of decay and growth surround me in the garden. Maybe that’s not in spite of technology, but because of technology.

Our future depends on both of these states.

We need technology to manage an increasingly complex world. There will be over 8 billion people by 2025. Our lives will depend on technology to grow, inspect, and distribute food, to create clean water, and to provide medical care and medical advances. Technology will tell us about storms, diseases, innovations, and ideas. We will depend on technology to help us save the natural world. Drones will monitor elephants to protect them from poachers, sensors will identify toxins in the sea and track predators like wolves and tigers, and multi-layered real-time mapping will describe the effects of climate change on plants and animals. Technology will help us re-wild and detoxify the planet. With it, we will be better able to manage the boundaries between wild places and the fabulous cities of the future.

Helping to protect wild places may be technology’s most important job for the next fifty years. If we fail, we will probably lose many of our most important species, including icons like elephants and also less visible but more important parts of the food chain such as bees. We need wild places to grow and pollinate our food, to create our oxygen, and to purify our water. Even more, we need the wild to feed our soul. Study after study has linked time in nature to how good we feel and how healthy we are.

So these are the things that live in my head and that show up in my stories and articles. Linkages between machines and people, sensors and nature, and the present and the future.

As a writer, I want these stories to help people think about the critical complexities of the future. As a futurist, I want to encourage conversations about what we are creating. The future doesn’t happen. We make it as we talk about it, worry about it, and tell stories about it. I’m not alone, and there are other working SF writers who are also futurists. The most famous are almost certainly David Brin, Vernor Vinge, and Greg Bear. Others include Ramez Naam, Madeline Ashby, Tobias Buckell, and Karl Schroeder. I hope that we future-obsessed science fiction writers are creating fiction that entertains and starts conversations.

Brenda Cooper
Photo Credit: Tim Reha
Brenda Cooper is the author of Edge of Dark, Book One of The Glittering Edge series; The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, Books One and Two of Ruby’s Song; and the The Silver Ship series. She is the author of Mayan December and has collaborated with Larry Niven (Building Harlequin’s Moon). Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional with a passionate interest in the environment.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This past week brought one book by an excellent author, but first, here are some recent and upcoming posts.

Last week I reviewed the May Patreon book, The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson. It was beautifully written and interesting, but it also took forever to get to the main story and was tedious to read at times.

Tomorrow there will be a guest post about writing and futurism by Brenda Cooper.

Now for the recent arrivals!

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2) by Kate Elliott

Poisoned Blade, the sequel to Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel Court of Fives, will be released on August 16, 2016 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Court of Fives (excerpt) was a 2015 NPR Best Book of the Year and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award. A prequel novella about Jessamy’s parents, Night Flower, was also released in ebook format late last year.

I loved Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy and definitely want to read this series!


In this thrilling sequel to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating young adult debut, a girl immersed in high-stakes competition holds the fate of a kingdom in her hands.

Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives–the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos–the prince she still loves–is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion…. She must become a warrior.

Additional Book(s):


Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy award-winning writer Kij Johnson’s debut solo novel, The Fox Woman, was first published in the year 2000. It’s based on the traditional Japanese fairy tale about Kaya no Yoshifuji and incorporates the author’s research on Heian-era Japan and foxes. Though artfully written, I have mixed feelings about The Fox Woman, which is good story hindered by its slow pace.

The tale of The Fox Woman is told by alternating between the journals of three unhappy individuals: Kaya no Yoshifuji, his wife Shikujo, and an unnamed fox simply called Kitsune. After Kaya no Yoshifuji is left with no position at court following the New Year’s appointments, he and his family return to the country estate they left behind years ago—a move that upends all three main characters’ lives.

Shikujo fears foxes: they are evil in all the stories and she’s haunted by her own secret memories of one from their time living on the estate years ago. However, Kaya no Yoshifuji delights in them and spends time watching them, painting them, and writing poetry about them. When Shukijo notices her husband’s preoccupation with the foxes, she is alarmed; when her husband refuses to destroy the foxes that get into their storehouse as anyone else would, she is terrified.

Kaya no Yoshifuji’s fascination with the foxes is mutual: Kitsune has been watching him ever since the family returned and disrupted the lives of her own family, who had been living in the abandoned home. Kitsune longs for the human man so much that she learns to cry, and when she discovers there is fox magic that could make her a human woman, nothing will stop her quest to have Kaya no Yushifuji for her own.

The Fox Woman is a beautifully written book that’s a fairy tale complete with magic and Kami as well as a reflection on the human condition. Each of the three journals that comprise the novel contain elegant, graceful prose (and occasionally poetry although the humans tend to be better at it than Kitsune!), but each has a voice that fits the character. Kitsune’s journal is the least conventional; she hasn’t grown up with human social conventions and this shows in her narrative and her attempts (and failures) to understand being human.

Although Kitsune’s journal is often the most fun of the three, I thought Shikujo was the most interesting character. She tries to be a proper woman, but her appearance of perfection and lack of openness cause problems; likewise, her pillow book is the account that feels most distant and veiled by formality. Her tale is a journey of self-discovery, and she seemed the most changed by the end.

Kaya no Yoshifuji is the least interesting of the three characters, and I could not for the life of me understand why everyone kept falling in love with him. After he learns he has no position at court, he gives up, goes back to his country estate, and is miserable all the time. His narrative is filled with melancholy and pomposity as he wishes he could still live in the now and be excited by new experiences like his son. He doesn’t tear down the spiderweb in his room since the spider has been there longer than he and feels sorrow thinking of his son being “here in this spiderweb of circumstance” (pp. 34). The web and its inhabitant are mentioned frequently in his sections, as well as statements such as “being lost in the despair of adulthood” (pp. 38) and other gloomy thoughts on the meaninglessness of life.

Such a cheerful fellow, that Kaya no Yoshifuji.

Although these three perspectives are masterfully done and I appreciate the skill that went into giving them distinct personalities, sometimes these journals are a little too realistic in that they discuss minutiae only interesting to the one writing it. Early sections of the book mention repairs to the estate and Kaya no Yoshifuji going down a foxhole to find nothing, as well as other details that ring true as being part of one’s own writings but are not terribly interesting for others to read about. Kitsune doesn’t even become aware of the possibility of using fox magic to turn into a woman until about a third of the way through and most of the first half of the book is rather tedious.

Although the second half is far more engaging than the first, it is also occasionally bogged down by boring sections. I had very mixed feelings about the ending, which contains some lovely writing but also has a frustrating lack of closure. I suppose that makes sense since it’s more about the individuals and how they grew over the course of the novel than the plot, but although a lack of resolution doesn’t always bother me, it did in this particular case since it was so focused on these three and then left their fates up in the air!

The Fox Woman is a book that I appreciated more than enjoyed. Artistically, the prose is gorgeous with three narratives that suit the main characters supposedly writing them. Unfortunately, the journal structure can be a little too true to life, focusing on details that are not particularly exciting to read or overwrought, melodramatic reflections (in the case of Kaya no Yoshifuji). Although I found the overall story and the voices interesting, I can’t say it was a particularly entertaining novel; however, I’ll remember it at least a little fondly because at least it stood out as stylistically different.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was on my wish list, and I received it as a Christmas gift.

This book is May’s selection from a poll on Patreon.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week brought two books that sound quite interesting, but first…

In case you missed it, I posted a review of Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis, an enjoyable historical fantasy set almost entirely within the Eszterháza Palace in Hungary in 1779, last week. It was a lot of fun to read!

I’m now working on a review of the May Patreon selection, The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson.

Now for this week’s books!

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate will be released on August 16 (trade paperback, ebook). Although I don’t see it listed yet, I assume there will also be an audiobook since there is an audiobook edition of the first book in the series, The Fifth Season.

N. K. Jemisin is one of my favorite authors, and Hugo and Nebula-nominated novel The Fifth Season is a brilliant, well-written, unique book (my review). It was one of my favorites read last year, and due to that, The Obelisk Gate is one of my most anticipated releases of this year.


The second novel in a new fantasy trilogy by Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Award nominated author N.K. Jemisin.


The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

From Under the Mountain by Cait Spivey

From Under the Mountain (Guerline Cycle #1) by Cait Spivey

From Under the Mountain was released earlier this year (trade paperback, ebook). An excerpt is on Goodreads (the “Preview” link below the cover).

I read some of the beginning and found the portion I read and Guerline quite intriguing.


As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.

But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.

Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.

Darkly cinematic, From Under the Mountain pairs the sweeping landscape of epic fantasy with the personal journey of finding one’s voice in the world, posing the question: how do you define evil, when everything society tells you is a lie?