London 1817. Maggie Collins, born into slavery in Maryland, whose mathematical genius and strength of mind can match those of a goddess, must build the world's most powerful and sophisticated machine - to free the lost land of Yount from the fallen angel Strix Tender Wurm. Sally, of the merchant house McDoon, who displayed her own powers in challenging the Wurm and finding Yount in The Choir Boats, must choose either to help Maggie or to hinder her. Together - or not - Maggie and Sally drive to conclusion the story started in The Choir Boats - a story of blood - soaked song, family secrets, sins new and old in search of expiation, forbidden love, high policy and acts of state, financial ruin, betrayals intimate and grand, sorcery from the origins of time, and battle in the streets of London and on the arcane seas of Yount.
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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 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.