Book Review: Indigo Dusk

The first thing I need to say in this book review is that this was a fantastic read! The second book I gave five stars to this year is Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle. This is an own voice book featuring a main character with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome; it’s indie published, and it’s just the book that hits the spot. The world of fantasy romance is currently full of fae and Greek mythology books, but this is the first time I actually enjoyed a book in this fantasy sub-genre.

(Review contains spoilers.)

Indigo Dusk Book Review

Indigo Dusk cover art by Author Kristy Nicolle
Indigo Dusk official cover art

Summary: Kairi Freemont is still adjusting to a new life after being diagnosed with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome. After witnessing a creature she thought existed only in her dreams, Kairi meets Aro, a charming man who promises her a life without chronic pain and limitations. Kairi discovers the world of Aetheria, but nothing is free. Upon discovering there’s another side to Aro’s story, Kairi must decide whether to ensure Aro’s position as King of Aetheria or follow Aro’s sworn enemies: the Draconians.

Genre: High Fantasy, Romance

Audience: New Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: use of alcohol, violence, mental instability, sexual assault, disability

Rating Breakdown

First, I’d like to thank the author for the opportunity to read an ARC edition of this book for an honest review. I’ve loved this story from the very beginning, and though this was the first time I read high fantasy romance featuring faes and Greek mythology, Kristy Nicolle has set the bar really high for future similar reads. Kristy writes beautifully, with a defined and polished voice.

Rating breakdown:

  • World-building: 1★
  • Characters (cast & development): 1★
  • Plot (pacing, stakes, and execution): 1★
  • Themes: 1★
  • Prose: 1★

Final rating: 5/5

The World-Building

Indigo Dusk begins in our modern world. Kairi Freemont is, in fact, an American young woman who lives with her dads. The whole family had to move from the city to the countryside because of Kairi’s syndrome, and despite the familiar setting, the author takes the time to describe Kairi’s routine, her interests, and the world around her.

Once Kairi enters Aetheria, the world-building becomes so detailed, full of lore, and takes the reader into a universe reminiscent of something between Disney and The Lord of the Rings. This becomes possible because behind the shiny colors and magical beings, there’s a much crueler tale to be told. Kristy Nicolle takes the time to go into heavy detail about Aetheria, which is not something you find in modern literature.

The Characters

Kairi Freemont and Ehler-Danlos Syndrome

I know that this is an own voice book, and the author spoke through the main character. And yet, I never felt like Kairi was some sort of odd self-insert meant to liberate the author or make her live a life that wasn’t hers. Kairi doesn’t come with a set of qualities or abilities that would make her not relatable, or a hero, and I thought that was perfect. She’s a girl whose life completely changed and who pulls through in the best way she can. She’s a bookworm with a cat named Catticus (and that’s the best pet name ever, just saying), and you just want to hang out with her. Though the chapters where she is in the 21st century with her dads seem so far away now, I remember them with almost a nostalgic feeling because the author portrayed Kairi’s life with simplicity and sensibility.

There is one particular quote I loved about Kairi and her life with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome:

“I’m weak, and what’s worse it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that the failure of my physical self has caused my mental health to fragment. I see it now as a clear fissure between what I had been and what I am now. I want to bridge the two, but can find no way; because there is simply no way back to the person I had been before the pain.”

Kairi Freemont in Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle

Another element that I want to praise the author for is that she wasn’t afraid to mention things like weight gain and stretch marks in a world where aesthetics and appearances matter. Too often, fantasy books have female characters that are just so pleasant to “look at” and it’s hard to picture them as women who lived a certain experience.

Lucien DeLaurent

The moment I read this guy’s name, I knew I was going to like him. And maybe that’s because I like every variant of this name, or perhaps these are remnants of the only few good parts of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas speaking for me.

“I mean, if I’m trapped here by my own utter stupidity, might as well stir the shit while I’m at it. If there’s anything a Frenchman is notoriously good at, it’s being an utter asshole hidden behind a fine suit and exemplary surface etiquette.”

Lucien DeLaurent in Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle

Need I say more? I grew up in France, and I can’t disagree with him.

“Now, Kairi, I know your hair isn’t as well kept as mine, but I’d hardly call you a beast, dear.”

Lucien DeLaurent in Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle

I normally dislike references to works such as Beauty and the Beast because they often turn out to be cheesy, but this one made me wheeze.

I adored the fact that Lucien isn’t there just to be the “less obvious” love interest and that the author took the time to develop his friendship with his fellow High Born. She made him as three-dimensional as a Draconian can be through simple things like the shopping part and the dragon race. It honestly surprised me to see that he was the most emotionally involved one, but that too is a welcome change in an ocean of fantasy romances where the “good girl” falls for someone who’s allegedly morally grey and then turns out to be… a rubber duck.

Can’t wait to find out more about his freezing abilities!

Aro Black

I’m all about villains/morally grey characters that are consistent. I cannot find excellent characters whenever I read fantasy these days. That is probably because a lot of authors like to romanticize them when their beauty lies within the fact that they are not romantic. They’re the most realistic characters out there and Aro stole the show for me. The author knows what’s important about such characters. He’s the Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and honestly, the moment he snapped Kairi’s arm, I melted. Don’t arrest me. Although I knew it was coming, and I thought the guy was suspicious since the very beginning, I loved the execution.

“You will die when I deem it time.”

Aro Black in Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle

And boy, did he maintain his promise!

A lot of fantasy romances have villains that are two-dimensional, with little to no background. They lack the intelligence that would make you wonder what their next move is. With Aro, this doesn’t happen. He’s extremely methodical, and a bit of a megalomaniac. It’s insane how well the author explained the reasons behind his actions. He’s a character you should hate, but you can’t because he has his own moral compass. If you abide by it, you just understand where he’s coming from and why he wants what he wants. (Also, the Temple of Hera scene?!)

Genevieve Thomas

Failing to see Genevieve’s goals at the beginning, I wondered if Aro and Genevieve were going to go down the enemies-to-lovers’ path. Him sneaking up in her bedroom didn’t help my sick mind. And they just hate each other so much that I kept picturing it. Anyway, I think theirs is one hell of a great dynamic for enemies. The fact he killed Gen’s dragon… That was probably the saddest, and yet the most exciting, scene of the book. It sets up so much for the rest of the story, and I’m so sad for Genevieve. She had honestly not much to do with the whole Kairi and Lucien fiasco. Yet, she’s the one who takes the loss. She ends up dealing with the consequences of Lucien helping Kairi out.

Genevieve’s story is one I’ll be following thoroughly in the next installments.

The Plot

While this is the first book in the trilogy, I already see Kairi’s development proceed swiftly. She starts off as this daydreaming bookworm who clearly forgot she shouldn’t accept candies from strangers. However, the reasoning behind it is far from immature.

“Perhaps, coming from a world where men seem to revel in mixed signals has made me crave this kind of romantic openness, where the male in question is not afraid or even unsure of his feelings but pursues them with the virile certainty of a predator closing in on his prey.”

Kairi Freemont in Indigo Dusk by Kristy Nicolle

(I mean, is there anyone out there willing to disagree?!)

Aside from that, it was nice for once to have a main character who doesn’t rely on magical powers or other gained abilities. Kairi’s open-mindedness and instincts allow her to see the truth about her past and make the right decisions at the very end, and though Catticus turns out to be a Kensari, it wasn’t one of those weird situations where somehow the MC and her pet automatically bond. She doesn’t even use him to fight or something. Clearly, the author is taking the time to build each element she mentions, and that’s the way authors should be writing. Without rush.

The Themes

Most themes approached in this novel weave themselves into character development. The disability representation was a refresher, especially when it deals with diseases this rare. Kairi also never heals; Aetheria makes EDS disappear under the illusion of the Aetherial sun, but whenever she returns to her world, her pain is back. The only way she gets rid of it is… after dying.

There are other well-written themes in the background, considering that every character comes from a different era and country. There are mentions of war, forced prostitution, domestic abuse. None if it appears forced or meant to score pity points. The characters assess it as part of who they are, and there is no dramatic monologue about it.

The Prose

Kristy has such an insane talent. She throws you in a world of Pegasi and dancing on floating clouds and then she sends a church bell in your face to remind you that this is still a crude, cruel world that is about to witness a massive war. The author’s writing is poetic and yet so real it won’t disappoint you. The way she structures her sentences is very British English, so that may turn off some readers. I believe she has great sentence variety, though.

Five stars from me. Now, this is a fae romance book. Sarah J. Maas and the likes, please step aside.

The sequel to Indigo Dusk is Violet Dawn. Find my review here!