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A. M. Dellamonica
Indigo Springs
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2009

Tor / Tom Doherty Associates
US Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-0-7653-1947-0
Publication Date: 10-27-2009
317 Pages; $14.99
Date Reviewed: 12-26-2009

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Science Fiction  General Fiction

"Magic is even more undemocratic than technology," suggests Will Forest, a hostage negotiator pulled into a top-secret facility in A. M. (Alyx) Dellamonica's 'Indigo Springs.' It's something of an understatement, given the dire circumstances that bring him to speak with Astrid Lethewood. Dellamonica's first novel begins with a potent and gripping scenario, full of mystery, suspense and yes, magic. It becomes something more than a mere thriller as Will fills in the back story, as he explores with Astrid how they both came to this secure bunker. Interestingly enough, Dellamonica dials in on the people, on a love triangle that, as it comes unglued, threatens to take apart reality as well.

Magic is not just undemocratic in 'Indigo Springs,' it's rather atemporal. Astrid's story is not just her story, it so happens, but also the story of her father, Albert and her step-brother, Jacks Glade, and Astrid's one-time lover, some-time friend, Sahara Knax. Then there is Astrid's mother, Ev, who is inclined to believe that she should have been, or should become, a man. 'Indigo Springs' unfolds as Will questions Astrid, who is accompanied by a vanishing witch named Patience, in a top-secret, hopefully-secure facility as the magic Astrid accidentally unleashed spreads like a plague across the nation. Magic is born of a blue liquid, aguavita, that has unpredictable mutagenic and magical properties. The mother lode of this magic happens to reside under the house Astrid inherited from her father.

Dellamonica's plotting is a bit on the chaotic side, veering from apocalyptic incursions of magic to interpersonal ambiguities and (in)tense sexual liaisons. She really grabs the reader with a knockout setup that gives way to dialogue-rich pages of character interactions between Sahara, Astrid, Astrid's mother and Jacks. These are interspersed with Astrid's recovered memories of her father teaching her the basics of magic. Astrid learns to create "chantments," objects imbued with magical properties, like a watch that ensures the wearer will always be on time, or a lipstick that makes one beautiful.

But these are almost nothing compared to the power waiting untapped under her inherited house in Indigo Springs. The upshot of all this unstuck-in-time, back-and-forth character development is sometimes a bit unclear. It's almost as if the magic infected the writing of the novel, not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly takes the book in unexpected directions exploring sexuality and identity as well reality and temporality. Annihilating reality as we know it is strictly secondary, well, at least to the self-centered creatures practicing magic. Practice is clearly not making perfect.

Dellamonica certainly has a potent vision of magic, which explores not in the manner of fantasy, but rather as a science fictional construct. At its best, 'Indigo Springs' brings to mind the horror fiction of the 1980's, with a thoroughly modern deconstruction of how magic might work. 'Indigo Springs' also creates startlingly memorable characters and scenes. Dellamonica is happily not afraid to follow the consequences of her magic on personal as well as societal level. She also manages of neat feat of setting up a sequel while leaving the reader satisfied with the novel in hand. That is a bit of writerly magic that is not accounted for in the philosophies of her characters. 'Indigo Springs' is well worth a visit, though you'd certainly want to steer clear of the well.

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