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Indigo Springs

June 27, 2011

I found Indigo Springs, by A.M. Dellamonica, on my daughter’s bookshelf, and decided to take it with me to the waiting room of her doctor, to read while he filled out the physical exam part of her pre-college paperwork.  And it was quite absorbing enough to get me through another cool, stormy day spent inside during this Ohio summer-that-so-far-hasn’t-materialized.

The way the story is told sucked me right in, beginning with some kind of obviously-inflated tale of an “alchemical apocalypse” and then heading back to tell how it all started.  How it all started has to do with the antiques the main character’s father, Alfred, collected, and why he made them into “chantments.” Then we find out how the main character, Astrid, became a “chanter” and subsequently made herself forget what she could do. As Astrid tells her story, she remembers, and the evocative name of the small town where she grew up acquires even greater significance:
“’The witch-burners thought they were establishing a monopoly over enchantment. Instead, they drove it here. The physical pressure became immense. Magicules got concentrated, like crude oil.’ She points at the cobalt fluid. ‘One drop of that stuff contains as much magic as ten thousand people might carry. There are oceans of it here, seas of enchantment. Before this summer, it was trickling back into the world a drop at a time. Now, though, the dam’s been blown.’”

The way the magic Astrid can perform works is that she puts some of the liquid blue magic, called vitagua, into objects (her father used antiques, but she can use almost anything that isn’t glass or metal), and then the objects have a specific purpose. Once she enchants an easel into an object that makes violins out of dust. Her father made a watch that causes its wearer to always be in the right place at the right time. Eventually she learns to control what kind of magic she is putting into which object, but it’s fun for a while to watch her enchant something like a nubbly soap dish and subsequently discover that it can clean up an entire kitchen by itself (although it makes the human who is using it tired and hungry, almost as much as if that person had cleaned the kitchen).

As Astrid learns more control over the vitagua, she sees her friends Sahara and Jacks become more of what they are, Sahara becoming more selfish from her contact with the magic, and Jacks resisting his father’s pull. There’s an instructive encounter with necromancy which turns out to be the thing that causes Astrid to try to forget about magic:
“’He doesn’t have to die,” Astrid had mumbled as she chilled the vitagua-soaked bird. Now it was iced: a faceted lump the size of a bar of soap that threw sparkles of reflected blue light around the yard.
Dad threw a rag over her hand, hiding the lump of ice.
“Dammit, kid! What’re we supposed to do with that? Stick it in the freezer for the witch-burners to find?”
“Dad—“
“That’s it, Astrid. No more improvising.”
She laughed. “Stop me.”
He slapped her, hard, horror on his face mirroring the anger rising within her….
She pulled on the unreal. Vitagua seeped out of the concrete, a perfect circular puddle with a circumference just wider than the cube of iced bird. “Live,” she said, and birdsong rang through the vitagua….
Then the ground began to shake….”

By the end of the novel, of course, Astrid is faced with her destructive desire to perform the same kind of necromancy on a person she loves. One of the interesting things about how this novel ends is that it’s not absolutely clear whether her second attempt at necromancy will pay. . . or whether it’s actually something more like the Resurrection Pill in the movie version of The Princess Bride–Miracle Max says “there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” But to see whether this could finally be a book in which necromancy does pay, I’ll have to read the sequel, which is scheduled for publication in April, 2012.

I’m betting it will not.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2011 8:20 am

    It never pays – well know that. 🙂

    Just a suggestion – I had to provide proof of my inoculations and general healthiness frequently in college and grad school. A friend ended up having to get a series of shots she didn’t need because she didn’t have proper documentation. Get extra copies of the paperwork.

    • June 27, 2011 9:26 pm

      We do all know that…
      thanks for the advice; the pediatrician’s office already gave me an extra copy of her inoculation record, and I thought I’d make some copies of all her documents to send with her.

  2. bookgazing permalink
    June 27, 2011 8:48 am

    Can you imagine a world where an author would write a book where necromancy pays?

    • June 27, 2011 9:27 pm

      No, not really. It would violate the laws of the universe.

      • bookgazing permalink
        June 29, 2011 5:59 am

        I agree, necromancy is one fo the constant bad things in life.

  3. PAJ permalink
    June 27, 2011 9:13 am

    Of course it won’t pay! (You’d have to change the title of your blog.)
    The enchanting of things reminds me of the SyFy television show Warehouse 13, which is due to start its new season in a couple of weeks. It’s mindless fluff, but we enjoy it.

    • June 27, 2011 9:28 pm

      I really don’t anticipate ever having to change the blog’s name. (Authors, this is not meant as a challenge.)
      Warehouse 13, huh? We’ll put that on our list of things to look for when we run out of TV shows on DVD.

  4. trapunto permalink
    June 27, 2011 3:53 pm

    This went on my library queue. It sounds like a good summer book. Magic and “sucked me right in” say summer to me from way back–riding my bike to the library for the next Edward Eager.

  5. June 27, 2011 9:31 pm

    Oh, yes. Finding Half Magic is such a good starting place for a kid! One of the things I like about this book is that the magic does have rules.

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