Paama, who is a great cook, has returned to her family after 10 years of marriage to the gluttonous Ansige, but two years later he hires the master tracker Kwame to find her. Kwame needs the money to finance his own wanderlust and reluctantly takes the job. These events draw the attention of Chance, the Indigo Lord, one of the powerful spirits called Djombi. The Indigo Lord once wielded the power of Chaos, imbued within the Chaos Stick, but to punish him it was taken from him and given to Paama. Now he wants it back, and he has all sorts of elaborate schemes planned to induce Paama to give him back the Chaos Stick. The narrator, sometimes serious and often mischievous, spins delicate but powerful descriptions of locations, emotions, and the protagonists’ great flaws and great strengths as they interact with family, poets, tricksters, sufferers of tragedy, and – of course – occasional moments of pure chaos.
So, this was another book from my list of Sci-Fi/Fantasy books by Black Women and I picked it up because I absolutely adored reading The Best of All Possible Worlds and just had to read more by Karen Lord. Not to mention the fact that the cover for this edition is absolutely beautiful!
Anyway, the story follows the life of Paama and what happens when she receives a stick imbued with the power of Chaos. She has fled her husband, Ansige, back to her family village where he eventually tracks her down with the help of a tracker. After several days and several embarrassing incidents caused by his gluttony (such as stealing corn then falling into a well) he leaves and sends a servant to ask Paama to return to him. Instead however, a djombi takes the form of the servant and gives Paama the chaos stick. The lord of Chaos wishes to get his stick back so arrives at the village and courts Paama’s sister, whom he mistakenly believes is the one with the stick. When he figures out it is Paama, he attempts to take the stick from her but is unable to and so he sets about convincing her that it belongs with him.
The story is charming and I really loved Paama and indeed all the characters in the book. But what really stands out about this novel is the writing style. It’s written in a way that really evokes oral narrative and you can imagine sitting around a fire listening to somebody recite this tale. Indeed it was so compelling and readable that I sat down and didn’t stop reading until I’d finished it in one sitting as it’s so easy and enjoyable to read.
I would highly recommend this book as it was just a delight to read and I can see it appealing to a lot of people. Thanks to this and her other books, Karen Lord is definitely now one of my must-read authors! I should also add that this book would be a perfect choice for number 19 on BookRiot’s ReadHarder challenge as Paama goes on both a spiritual and a literal journey!