The Indigo King has high aspirations that it sets up in terms of character and a large plot canvas, but doesn’t really meet them, though it is a solid work of fantasy. It’s major flaws are in its construction: a picaresque pastiche. The pastiche part is a myriad of legendary and mythological sources.
On the surface, one might expect such a all-encompassing field of sources ranging from Arthurian legends to Greek mythology to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain (to name only some) would offer up a rich tapestry of fiction. But the opposite is true — we tend to land on these like a rock skipping across water and so we never really feel present in the mythology; they’re never around long enough to awe us.
The picaresque structure of The Indigo King, set up via a multi-faceted quest that has the heroes popping a set number of times through a magical screen into various times and places in order to fulfill a quest, only adds to this feeling. Just as we’re never fully immersed in any particular mythology or legend, we’re never present long enough in any single time or place to get an emotional attachment to it. It’s the difference between spending two weeks in Ireland or taking a two-week tour of all of Europe with one night in Ireland, one in England, one in France, etc., watching the countries go by through a bus window rather than really experiencing them. One wishes the author had chosen half the source material and a quarter of the plot movement (at the most).
The plot itself has some problems of logic and arbitrariness, and once we’re out of the Winter Kingdom (the strongest setting in the book and one we’re in and out of far too quickly), there’s little sense of suspense or danger due to some weak description, the aforementioned popping in and out, and some odd author decisions (many exciting scenes happen offstage and some scenes involving giants, ripe for tension and danger, are bled dry of either due to how they are handled).
The Indigo King is an easy, effortless read, with a bit of mystery and enough winning moments to keep the reader going forward, and there is one particularly emotional scene toward the end, but in general, by the end, one is pleased at finishing the book but I’m not sure one will remember much about it. It isn’t a bad book by any means, but it doesn’t enthrall, awe, or inspire. Which is too bad because it seems it could have.
The problem is, there’s so much good fantasy out there that it’s hard to recommend a book that is just solid. Therefore, I’d say save The Indigo King for when you’ve exhausted some better choices.
The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica — (2006-2013) Young adult. Publisher: The Imaginarium Geographica “What is it?” John asked. The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow. “It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.” An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams. Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds. And in the process, they will share a great adventure filled with clues that lead readers to the surprise revelation of the legendary storytellers these men will one day become. An extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery, Here, There Be Dragons introduces James A. Owen as a formidable new talent.