Indigo Heartfire by Jo Marryat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Indigo Heartfire by Jo Marryat
This is another to go on my love/hate list. I'm giving it high marks just so I'll feel good about telling all the things I hate along with the things I love. This is first a love story that has a fantasy element. I was hoping for a fantasy story that had a love element but six of one half a dozen of the other. It's well written; but well written doesn't always get the reader past style decisions. Of course Romance in not my usual first pick so there might be some elements of style that I'm not in tune with. Still overall I enjoyed the story and the characters. It just took a while to warm up to them.
This novel started out a bit slow for me and it became a sea of trope types quickly. I think perhaps it feels like a means of throwing the reader off trail a bit by insisting that the point of view draw all his impressions of the people he meets into his own set of recognizable tropes. Of course Robert Kirk himself is a trope of sorts. He is a man who is still grieving and has been grieving for over five years; but has decided to rejoin society and at least give the appearance of trying to move on. In the beginning he starts introducing us to various new acquaintances as french underwear, taxi thief, and harridan with a handbag. Don't worry though soon we'll get some names. As it is Robert is an osteopath and he's elected to join a holistic health practice that's filled with some quirky practitioners; through his eyes. Robert is still fraught with thoughts of his departed wife Elaine and is for the most part indifferent to relationships; though from his description of the women he meets it's apparent that he's not dead yet. The first ten percent or 27 pages of the novel are getting us acquainted with the people he'll work with and himself; but it seems that since it's through rather cynical eyes that the real introductions come much latter as some of his impressions unravel a bit to give the reader the real picture. Perhaps it those flip flop characterizations that help obscure important details.
The fantasy part of the novel hits at around 40 pages into the story when they all get together as a group and meditate; while in Roberts head we see him imagine a place on the beach with a tiny fairy that looks, in his description, like Lindsay Lohan. All of this is supposed to be in response to the guidance of the one in charge of the meditation, but as we see it from Roberts point of view he seems to imagine it before she tells everyone to imagine it. It's not difficult for the reader to see that something strange is up. The novel itself did not start taking off for me until about 70 pages into the story when Robert finally accepts that Annabelle the fairy is real. Really though to be fair this book quite good and I think a reader needs to make their own judgement. Again for me from there and for around half the book it does quite well; sometimes reminding me of the old Topper ghost stories by Thorne Smith. I could almost feature Constance Bennett as Annabelle rather than Lindsay Lohan. Like those novels and the movies this novel is filled with many light moments of humor and serendipitous circumstances. There are some serious moments and even some moments that brought tears to my eyes.
Eventually I got past Robert the snarky people-label-er and into the real tragic Robert that lay behind all of that wall of animosity that he puts between him and everything outside. It turns out that he's quite a complex and noble soul, which takes us back into the dark side of what dragged me out of the novel for a moment and that's the last quarter of the novel. The novel's ending is at about three quarters of the way through when the reader is placed on the doorstep of near future which requires some detailed explaining; and then there is a quarter devoted to explaining how things got to that place. What I'm unsure of, even scanning back through the second time, is whether I should have been able to guess those things. The clues unfold in the last quarter and they are almost like the summation at the end of a mystery where the detective unravels the mystery to the other characters. Usually those work best when the reader has mostly unraveled it just moments before the detective. Somehow the hidden clues all remained hidden-at least to me. I'm glad I forged ahead into the summation.
I was almost tempted to believe it was just me not quite catching these hints; but then I kept asking 'why' the one quarter explanation at the end; if it should be obvious. It left me thinking that the main character Robert was deliberately obfuscating a few things along the way to throw us off and perhaps does too good a job. The saving grace is that the last quarter manages to hold itself up by delivering a few more tear worthy moments even though we already know the outcome at the time. So when you read this (please do) if you do figure this out by the three quarter mark I recommend you go over the summation because it's just as well written as the rest even if I'm not fond of the style choice at this point.
This is a great read for those who like Romance and light fantasy that is written quite well and sometimes overly clever with a caution that there might be some colloquialisms that will make some people stumble a bit and even be a devilish bit difficult to track down the meaning. Good humorous fun read for all. A top notch debut novel.
Truly this is one of those books that is about the journey just as much as the destination. And it turns out that this might be more a story about Annabelle than anything else since the next installment seems to take up the story from here and into her next project.
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