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REVIEW: A Wind Out of Indigo by Callan Primer

Dear Callen Primer:

Thank you for sending me your book for review.  I really liked the idea of this book as pitched in the review query and initially I was very excited about where the story was going.  Alice Standish, former mistress of the King, is kidnapped and brought to the palace.  Either marry Louis Montanero, the margrave and Warden of the Night or suffer dire consequences at the hands of the new Queen, Marie, who is now Queen of Day but cousin to Louis.  Some of the lowlanders still chafe under the King’s rule and look to Louis as the acceptable heir to the throne.  To disqualify Louis in the eyes of his people, Ned, the King, and the Queen ask Alice to marry Louis because under lowland law, a king cannot marry a slave born woman.

A window out of IndigoIn exchange of the marriage, Alice gets Ned to agree to repeal the Pursuit Clause.  It used to be that prior to the treaty between the lowlands and Highlands, if a slave of the North stepped a foot on the soil of the South that she or he would be free.  The Pursuit Clause gave the slave owners the right to pursue their quarry into the south.

Alice was a slave until Ned and his troop of men came stumbling through her orchard. She fed them and he took her up and carried her off.  Despite their 10 year relationship, Ned and Alice did not love each other and Alice gladly let him go when he needed to marry to secure the crown.  All this is interesting. Unfortunately, it is not what the story is about.  Instead, the story’s main thrust focuses in a magic in the southern fens but we aren’t introduced to this issue until about the 30% mark of the book.  I think that the story gets lost in the attempt to make a rich and complex world.

The problems were in both the big and small details.  Alice is a former slave and there are some strains of the slave issue that follow her into the south but there is no explanation of who were slaves, how they were freed, what role they played in the south versus the north.  Slaves seemed to be accepted in the south by everyone.  The highlands were bright sunlight and day filled. The lowlands were dark, an eternal night. Why?

There were airships and a new gasworks plant.  The gasworks plant processed oil and created diesel.  Where was the rest of the manufacturing that would go along with that?  Why was the gasworks, the only one, not creating a stronger foothold of power for the south?

There is such a strange amalgamation of landmarks such as the men wearing kilts and the use of Highlands v. Lowlands suggesting an alternate form of Scotland.  Yet, there are ice walls to the north and other references that might make one think of the Netherlands.  There was a mix of surnames from Indian to Japanese to Korean/Chinese.  There is Standish, Louis Monatero, Janey Li, Abel Wahid, Kai Sung, Rafe Tokami.  Surnames provide a lot of cultural and regional placement.  If this was a full on fantasy, then the use of existing landmarks confuses readers.

The world building in the story is dense with little dialogue or character interaction throughout the story.  The latter half of the book moves at a much faster clip and I couldn’t help but wonder if the story began at the wrong place.  The pace of the story was slow, without anything really happening until about after chapter 8.  Up until that point, Alice travels from the Highlands t o the Lowlands and settles into her home.  There are a host of new words thrown at the reader and new meanings to existing phrases such as “For a fire marriage to become permanent, the couple had to live together for a year and a span, or have a child together.  Otherwise, it could be asserted by one party just leaving.”  Asserting means to leave the marriage, but I’m not certain the exact meaning or why the word “asserted” was used. I point this out as an example of how word choices made the book less accessible and slowed down the pace at which the book moved.  I had to re-read words several times to gain their meanings.  I wasn’t even sure what a span was.  I did a word search after multiple appearances but still was unclear.

  • Admittedly the woman only been queen of Day for three spans, not enough time to learn how things worked here..
  • Big Kloster rang in the new span, Little Kloster followed with the first hour, then with the second…
  • “How long were they together?”  “About three spans,” said Janey.

Finally, the romance is non existent. I think Louis and Alice are present in about three scenes together and while the conflict presented could have been a very good one, it wasn’t explored in depth. This is really a story about the world and about Alice’s battle with the big bad.  Long time fantasy readers may have a greater appreciation for this than I.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 04:10:17

    Is her belly glowing in that cover? Is this a “heroine has a mystical hoo-hah and they must mate and produce a sacred baby” story? And, no offense to your hubby, King Ned?

  2. Merrian
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 05:29:18

    Why would Louis marry her – on the synopsis the interest is all in the favour of everyone but him?

  3. A question of genre « What Rough Beast
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 05:53:19

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  4. Jane
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 07:07:34

    @Jayne: LOL. Well, she does have something inside her but it isn’t a baby.

    @Merrian: I’m not entirely certain. Louis says for peace but we don’t get any of his point of view and rarely see him in the book. He’s a very flat character, really a secondary one.

  5. Merrian
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 07:24:52

    @Jane: I could write something snarky about world peace and tiara’s but will restrain myself. The person of an ex-slave and ex-mistress who is being got rid of by the King and Queen doesn’t bring treaties and power bases with her to the marriage bed. All it makes Louis is a vassal being manipulated. So interesting that the world building focussed on the fabric of the world and not the drivers of it.

  6. Fiona Shin
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:39:11

    This is a bit of a topic change, but I’m actually really disturbed by the pingback on Ms. Callan’s blog where she stated she probably wasn’t going to submit to DA again due to the fact that she thought the romance was clear-cut, but somehow Jane didn’t find the romantic side of this book.

  7. Twila Price
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:10:27

    I didn’t think Ms. Callan’s blog post was bad, seriously. It was pretty mature and accepted that bad reviews happen, without badmouthing the site or the reviewer.

    In light of that, I bought the book and will be reading it with my fantasy reader’s hat on. I might hate it, or like it, but I thought it was worth a couple of dollars to check out. (I’m more of a fantasy reader than a romance reader, for what that’s worth — I get cranky when the romance gets in the way of the world-building/character growth.)

  8. Anthea Lawson
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:49:49

    It sounds to me that Callan Primer isn’t a dedicated *reader* of romance, and did, perhaps, mis-label her story without knowing the conventions. She states she thought the story was ‘romantic’ — but that’s a far cry from being ‘a romance’. Jane, is there an HEA to the story, or is that sort of vague, as well?

  9. Tae
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 19:26:45

    as a primarily fantasy reader, who happens to really really romantic elements in her fantasy books, I’d give this a go….except the blog from the author makes me not want to support her. She submitted her book for review and is upset that it wasn’t all sunshine and flowers?

  10. Jane
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 19:39:51

    @Anthea Lawson: No, there is an HEA but there is no real romance in the book, in my opinion. Louis shows up about three times in the book and the female protagonist spends more time with a guy who has a crush on her than Louis. So Louis and her end up together at the end, but eh, who cares was how I felt.

  11. DS
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 22:34:28

    According to her author’s bio on Amazon she likes science fiction without spaceships and romance without fated mates. If she thinks space ships define sf and fated mates define romance she is not going to find a lot of love in either genre.

  12. Jane
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 22:40:47

    @DS I felt like even for a straight fantasy book, this story had problems. Maybe I was being too kind at the end by suggesting fantasy readers would appreciate it more than romance readers. The world building lurched from political unrest to big bad goddess and failed to coalesce in a cohesive story. I was particularly struck by the existence of the gasworks in the lowlands and how the people had not been able to leverage that into real power and how little industry had been derived from the gasworks. The gasworks seemed like such a huge and vital piece of worldbuilding and to treat it like it was just another factory, like a glass works factory instead of diesel extraction plant, typifies the scattershot world building.

  13. Twila Price
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 18:28:55

    @Jane

    I finished the book today and would say I’d grade it higher than you — a B-range, I think. It was slightly rough, but I didn’t have the same problems you did since I went with the assumption that this was a different world than Earth, in which the day side/night side were fixed due to a low axial tilt, and thus it was likely colonized by different groups of Earth folks so the names were multi-cultural. Kilts have been worn by lots of groups in history besides Scotsmen (ancient Egyptians for one, in an adaptation to their hot climate) and so on and so forth. I also noted that Alice and Louis did spend more book-time together than you suggested (they are together for most of the time Alice spends in the fens, after she is ill the first time), so I didn’t feel that their romance was too forced. It was not a romance novel, per se, but as a fantasy, I thought it had potential. (I also figured that spans = “days” after a few times encountering the term. It was a silly term, but it wasn’t all that unclear in context.) I bought the book due to your review, so I thought I’d report on my impressions as a primarily sf/fantasy reader.

  14. Patricia
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 01:00:14

    I just finished this book, and I have to agree with Twila. I would also give it a higher rating, a solid B. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I thought the day/night sides of planet were explained well enough for the story being told, and in fact I found the scenario quite intriguing. The main characters definitely spend more than three scenes together. Louis’s affection for Alice could have been developed with more depth, though. He seemed less suspicious and more open with her right from the start than I would have expected, given her position. As for why Louis would marry an ex-slave and therefore disqualify himself from the throne, he is quite open about the fact that he does not want to rule and being disqualified is a plus in his book. (Too bad the king can’t believe that.) I do agree that the story is more focused on the fantasy element than the romance. If I had read it expecting the romance to be primary I might have had a less favorable response, but as a fantasy it worked well.

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