Indigo Rain was another new release at Further Confusion. I honestly didn’t know much about it before I got to the convention; actually I knew nothing about it. When I heard Watts Martin had written it I was intrigued. He’s a talented writer and I loved his story collection Why Coyotes Howl so I figured I’d pick it up. It is a novella in the Cupcake line so its affordably priced and I knew it would be a quick read.
I’m extremely happy I got a copy. Indigo Rain was an entertaining read. I got it done in two hours on a plane flight to Seattle. It was a good two hours reading, a fun little page turner. If you’re looking for a book to read in a few hours as an enjoyable escape you can’t go wrong with Indigo Rain. Actually, Indigo Rain is a well-made novella worth picking up even if you’re not looking for a short read. You should get it anyway, as it's affordable, accessible, and enjoyable.
So of course my little disclaimer statement goes here: FurPlanet is the publisher of Indigo Rain. They published my book as well and I’m often behind their table selling books and comics. I get no money from sales of Indigo Rain and I don’t know Watts Martin in anyway shape or form outside of seeing him in a crowd. Make of that what you will for my objectivity.
Indigo Rain is about a dancer named Roulette. She is a raccoon, known in the world of this book as procya (this is actually a nice bit of setting work and I won't spoil its usage in the larger work but under a less talented hand this sort of terminology would be a hindrance here its expertly crafted to tell a larger story) from the southern part of the Ranae Empire a larger government we are told little about but we don’t need to know much for the story. She moved to a northern part of the empire to find better employment. It didn’t work out, so she’s taken up street entertainment to support herself and prepare to move on. Her long term goal is to find a wealthy suitor to support her. From these ordinary beginnings Roulette finds herself embroiled in a massive conspiracy and a romance she never intended. Thrust into the role of being a hero, working to save the lives of people she never cared strongly for, and finding herself falling for a female political activist. This is all set up within the first thirty seven pages: Roulette’s goals, the conspiracy's goals, and the romance. We get an excellent introduction to the world, the other characters, and why the political tensions exist. It is all done while we read an engaging story and are entertained with a raccoon dancer trying to make a living and leave the city to her escape from dangerous thugs to the climax of the novella.
In other words Watts Martin has once again proven he is a talented and competent writer. Not only has he written a page turner political thriller novella, he’s made one that is expertly crafted. This story fulfills exactly what a novella should be: a fun quick read that tells a self-contained story. By the end I felt Roulette’s story was done, she had made her journey as a character and she had a reasonable climax and denouement.
The story is indeed self-contained though there is more to the world. A nod is given to this facet when it is mentioned that Roulette can expect a difficult cross examination at the trial and that the budding romance between her and Lisha has plenty of room to be told. While there does not need to be more told about this world, in contrast to Summerhill and Waterways, which I feel are perfect self-contained books, I could see more being done with these characters and setting.
The setting itself implies many more stories and is very well crafted. It has just enough details to set an intriguing stage but not to overload the narrative, a lesson I still need to figure out for my own writing. A magi-technical society can be very hard to present to a reader as its far from the usual tropes (fantasy is medieval and an industrial society does not use magic with modern industrial principal). But it is presented well with technology used in some places and magic used in others. Both technology and magic are used as plot points as well which means the introduction and part of setting the stage is part of the plot. That is an excellent and skillful bit of writing. I am deeply intrigued with how the magic and technology are used. Further, the political stage is key to the larger story. Achoren, the region these events take place in, is part of a larger empire called Ranea. It is not detailed how Achron became part of the empire (politically or militarily) but its clear Achoren is now dealing with the political and cultural changes from integration with the empire. It's an old story of local culture being drowned by the concerns of a larger government. I’d honestly enjoy seeing more of the internal political machinations of this empire.
The major flaw to the book in my opinion, beyond my desire just to see more of it, comes with the romantic sections. Lisha and Roulette have chemistry in the pages but not enough time is given to them to show a real romance blossoming. This means the last few pages come off as a little rushed. I got that there was attraction and chemistry but a little more time for the two would have helped a lot. It is a casualty to the constraints of a novella and the larger story. The romance between Lisha and Roulette isn't part of the larger story, but more a sideline issue. Considering the main character’s earlier internal protests in the first chapter of not being attracted to the same sex, I expected a bit more to this aspect of the story.
Actually it’s the larger problem of the book that all of Roulette’s relationships, romantic or otherwise, seem a little rushed for the larger narrative. That is understandable, as a novella must trade on archetypes for characters due to space constraints. Gregir is a character I absolutely loved for his commentary and jokes was a little underdone in relation to Roulette. He’s obviously helping her for different reasons but there is never enough development with him to really underscore who he is as a person. Considering his status as a major side character this is a shame. That of course might be my internal fan boy speaking. Frankly I wouldn’t mind waking up to a Gregir in my bed. A big burly sarcastic wolf? Delightful and corgi approved.
I also had to wonder about the different anthropomorphic species. Are they all the same race but have cosmetic differences? Do they interbreed regularly? Or are they distinct racial groups that all just happen to be beast people? Do they have their own distinct cultures and histories? Have they warred with each other? One of my biggest personal annoyances is a style of writing where furry characters are the put upon victims of prejudice from the big bad humans. The furry characters are usually shown to be bastions of moral rectitude and the humans to be, for lack of a better term, jerks. Indigo Rain handles this trope better than most stories or books using these themes, in some instances showing humans who are sensible reasonable non-prejudicial people, but I would have enjoyed a little more shading to the furry characters or knowing a bit more if the races are more separate and have their own conflicts or if there are other nonhuman races.
Finally there is the art. Sabertoothed Ermine once again proves she has a great deal of talent and her distinct style really comes through with the posing she gives the characters. I overall love the work but I dislike the first interior illustration. Are writers currently in a contest I didn’t know about where they try to just put in one image per book that would incite blushing on an airplane or reading in public? It is not the most racy image ever but it’s a little questionable considering how tame the rest of the book is in its overall design. I just question the logic of an underwear shot, even one that is well done.
Honestly though the entire work is really good. This is a fine Watts Martin showing and a fun story. The characters come off as at least complicated enough and the story is compelling enough that my minor complaints aren’t that important. This is really a strong showing and worth a purchase. I honestly think considering the quality of the story that it is under charged and a good bargain for entertainment. So get Indigo Rain today and have a great book and quick read on your shelf!