You don’t hear much about Toronto-based author A.M. Dellamonica’s novel Indigo Springs, which is surprising because it is just a gem of a book. It has so many of the literary things that I am constantly looking for, and I have no idea why I didn’t find it sooner. Amazing, unique world building? Dynamic bisexual main characters whose sexuality is named and not a big deal? Complex and interesting narrative structure? Where have you been hiding, Indigo Springs, oh wonderfully imaginative, queer fantasy novel?
Indigo Springs is based on a tried-and-true formula that there is magic hidden beneath our everyday, and that this magic might have dangerous and unexpected consequences. I personally love the idea that pulsing under our daily reality is a secret magical world—and I don’t think the popularity of Harry Potter and the like have taken up all the narrative possibilities of this trope. In Indigo Springs, for example, magic takes a tangible, liquid form: bright, bright blue, actually, a stream flowing underneath the fireplace in an old house in rural Oregon that unsuspecting protagonist Astrid inherits from her father.
Joining Astrid on this magical journey are her best friend Sahara and ex-stepbrother/friend Jacks. They make quite the interesting trio: Astrid is quiet, smart, accommodating, and constantly refereeing conflicts between the two people most important to her: Sahara, a charismatic but manipulative woman, and Jacks, an almost-too-sweet outdoorsy sweetheart. As you might expect, this is a love triangle but not in the way that you thought: Astrid has long been in love with Sahara, who’s straight but knows what Astrid’s feelings are and uses this knowledge to her advantage. Jacks can’t stand Sahara, of course, because he’s also in love with Astrid, who’s bisexual and maybe, maybe not interested in him. You can bet that these three are not going to be able to agree on how to deal with the magic that is eventually spewing out of a hole in their living room floor.
You know from the beginning of the novel that everything goes to hell in a handbasket, but knowing things have gone so terribly, terribly wrong doesn’t stop you from hoping against hope while you read that the three frenemies /roommates / lovers figure out a stop-gap for the flow of magic and its unpredictable consequences. The novel flips back and forth in time: the present when Astrid is mad and saturated with magic, and the past where she and her friends are slowly discovering how the magic works. This structure feels a bit disorienting at first, and frustrating, because you’re not quite sure exactly what’s happening, and how things are connected, but trust me: Dellamonica knows exactly what she is doing.
At this point, there’s not much else I can tell you that isn’t spoilery, but I will say that a lot of the twists and turns surprised me, and that the slow reveal of the world that Dellamonica has created was really fun to read. It’s some of the best world-building I’ve ever read, up there with Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany. A few of the characters change so much from the past narrative to the present one you’ll be hard pressed to recognize them and put two and two together. If you’re better at that sort of thing than I am, you may guess how some of the mysteries are tied up, but even at the end of the book there are mysteries yet to be solved, and battles to be fought. That is, until the sequel, Blue Magic—out already— which I haven’t read yet. I can’t wait!