This was a surprising novel and very hard to review. It is certainly a fantasy with some elements of steampunk and some elements of historical fictio..Show More »n but I find it quite difficult to pin it to a definite sub-genre. Although it has a fairy tale quality to it, it is a book that is written to be read on many levels. You would have to be extremely well read to catch all the many literary, mythological, historical, and Biblical references (some of them quite sly) in this book, but it could be read by an older child for just the basic story since it is adventuresome and fun. And, I found the illustrations that are in the print version online and I'm sure a child would love the pictures. There are 3 major characters that are teenagers which may be why some people have labeled this book as YA and I think the book does provide two pretty terrific young heroines, but I don't think the novel fits any YA pattern I've seen.
Rabuzzi starts the story in 1812 London and paints an accurate picture of that time/place while at the same time throwing in references to fictional books and characters as though they were part of real history. He is using the same historical time period for this novel as Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series with the Napoleonic wars in the background and The Choir Boats reminded me a bit of that series in tone, but Rabuzzi uses a wider and richer vocabulary and much of his prose is truly beautiful. Steampunk is not the plot driver in this book that it is in some of the genre, but Rabuzzi weaves a bit of it in when the characters advance in their quest for Yount, a mystical world that exists in parallel with our own world, the fate of which seems to be intertwined with our own.
This is a quest fantasy with a lot of humor. And although the characters are a bit bolder than life, they are lovingly detailed and interesting. One of the things I enjoyed the most is the way Rabuzzi took a "good guy" and slowly revealed a back story that made you see him as much more human than he looked at first. And, he also took a "bad guy" and gave him so much more context as the story unfolded, you begin to doubt if he is evil at all.
There are a few places where I felt the narrative slowed a bit, but overall the pacing was good and I was never bored. There are a couple of romantic stories woven into the plot, but no sex scenes, coarse language, or really graphic violence so the book should be fine for younger readers although the vocabulary may be challenging for some. All in all, I found this to be an impressive debut novel - very entertaining, a little challenging, and a lot of fun. My only minor criticism is that it ends with a cliff hanger so you will probably want to plan on getting the next in the series, The Indigo Pheasant, scheduled for release 6/12/13.
Kieron Elliott adds a LOT to the audio version of this book. I was a little unsure about him when I started the audio because his Scottish accent is quite pronounced. It took a few minutes for my ears to adjust to that, but then I found that I really got pulled into the book quickly because of this voice. Elliott has a rich voice that is easy on the ears and the Scottish accent (the "hero family" is Scottish) added much to setting the right mood for the tale.
I highly recommend the book, but be prepared to do some Googling if your memory isn't quite up to speed on Moses and Jambres, African mythology, the Bermuda Triangle, Jewish Cabalism, etc.
Sigh...I wanted to love The Indigo Pheasant because the first of this series, The Choir Boats, was such a nice introduction to a unique author's voice..Show More » and I thought the 2nd in the series was bound to be more of the same or better, but it isn't. If I'm reading non-fiction, Job One of the book is enlightenment and if I am entertained in the process so much the better. Reverse that for fiction; Job One is to engage my mind fully, help me totally suspend disbelief, and if I learn something in the process, all the better. Rabuzzi's fiction succeeds admirably at enlightening; his use of a wide and sophisticated vocabulary and the many historical, literary, and mythological references kept me thinking and "googling" throughout the book, but The Indigo Pheasant fails on Job One. If you read fiction strictly for really beautiful and poetic language, you can "float" a while listening to this book, but this is not a fantasy novel that will you carry off to another world - the sensation I had was more like reading someone's journal of an adventure than of having an adventure myself.
Plot: All but about the last hour and 1/2 of this audio book is about the politics and financing involved in building a boat. It is a boat designed to save the world, but 12 hours is still a long time to for boat-building to be engaging. Rabuzzi tries to build some tension in the narrative with some subplots, but his attempts are thwarted by the fact that almost everything is being relayed to the listener via his rather wooden dialog and a whole series of quotes and epistolary fragments. The quotes, receipts, letters, and legal excerpts do provide a good sense of the period of time and the mindset of early 19th century people, but it's not a very engrossing way to tell a fantasy tale.
Characters: After creating some very interesting, albeit larger than life, characters in The Choir Boats, Rabuzzi "disappears" many of the characters in The Indigo Pheasant - killing off some, and sidelining many. And then he makes two of the central players, Sally and Maggie, completely unlikable. Sally, who I loved for her intrepid spirit, strong loyalty to family, and kindness becomes a love-sick idiot - completely self-absorbed, stupid, and oblivious to her mission, family, and friends. Maggie, who was the mysterious, determined underdog in The Choir Boats, suddenly becomes arrogant, judgmental, and brash to the point of rudeness. Both of these women displaying a complete lack of empathy or ANY sense of humor. Lively characters like Barnabas, Tom, and Jambres are relegated to cameo roles. New characters are barely fleshed out.
Subject Matter: Although some of the references and vocabulary in The Choir Boats would be over the head of younger readers, the story was one that would engage older children and teens as well as adults. The Indigo Pheasant, however, is not a book I would share with anyone younger than teens since it touches on murder, sex, and abortion. There are a couple of other scenes and some dialog that seem to have been thrown in simply to make the book more "adult" rather than to further the plot.
Narration: I still enjoyed Kieron Elliot's rich Scotch-toned voice, but the narration suffered from the fact that there is so much dialog in The Indigo Pheasant and Elliot can't do any accent other than Scottish and these characters are from all over the world. In addition, he gave Maggie a kind of automaton voice that made her less likable than Rabuzzi's characterization had already done.
Rabuzzi seems to be planning further adventures for Maggie and I may be willing to try Rabuzzi again because he has a really interesting authorial voice. But he will have to work harder on Job One to keep me listening in the future.