Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Review of "The Hum and The Shiver" [81]

The Hum and The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe
Tor Books, ISBN 978-0765327444
September 27, 2011, 352 pages

"A screech owl stood on the porch rail, its tiny talons scratching against the wood. The dawn light made the tufts of its wind-ruffled feathers look jagged and bloody. The bird had a voice far out of proportion to its size, and was intimately acquainted with the nights winds that guided the Tufa destiny. It was also, when seen during the day, an omen of death."
It should have been Bronwyn who died. The Tufa tend not to do very well when they leave the valley, but she did, running from her responsibilities as a First Daughter of one of the Tufa's most important families  and avoiding nasty piece of work boyfriend. She did something rare for a Tufa and joined the military, who usually take conscientious objector status in times of war, and now she is returning to the valley, a "hero", badly injured in body and mind. But she know she will heal quickly in the East Tennessee  valley, because it is the place she is meant to be. And like most Tufas, she has no interest in the reporters and media circus interested in her war story, preferring to keep to herself. And preparing for a death of someone she loves that seems inevitable.And at the heart of that is regaining the music she has lost, learning her song and giving into the night winds.
"Dark haired and dark skinned, yet not white, black, or Native American (although often content to be mistaken for any of the above if it meant they'd be left alone), the Tufa kept their secrets so close that, to Craig's knowledge, no one even knew how they'd turned up deep in Appalachia. Yet when the first official Europeans had reached this valley three centuries earlier, the Tufa were here, living quietly in the hills and minding their own business."
I will admit that this book is not the type I usually read. You might call it magical realism or, as the Wall Street Journal calls it, "a mixture: folk tales and folk songs, updated with a dose of "Sex and the City." Or, you might say, a rustic version of "urban fantasy,""
No, not my usual, but I was taken with the cover and by the fact that it is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Science Fiction & Fantasy title. And sometimes you just need a little fantasy and this is an excellent example. Bledsoe is a wonderful writer, creating a little world in that valley that is so real and populated with such real characters that you thing you should be able to find it on a map. The deep connection that the Tufa have to music is fascinating and, dare I say, magical. Yet the story is also very real, very modern..well, until it is not. And with a fair bit of sex and violence and fairly dark in parts, it is a grown up story. But I will not say too much and spoil it for you, because half the fun of the book is meeting these people, the Tufa, and figure out their story.  Along the way we also meet with a few outsiders like Craig mentioned above, a Methodist minster trying to start a new church among the very non-church going Tufa and a reporter named Don who starts to get in touch with his part Tufa heritage, to very interesting results.

This is, I understand, the first in a three book series, so it may be a little light on plot as we figure out what is going on and meet and get to know all the characters, but that is not an issue. Maybe because the characters are so great, with Bronwyn, dealing with her inner turmoil..and a few other things..at the heart of it. A teenage hellion when she left, she now has a lot of growing up to do and she is fighting it. It will be interesting to see where the next two books take her and the rest of the Tufas and I will be there to find out.


  1. Hmm, first in a three book series. Now there's a new one!

  2. well, best get in at the beginning! I think you would rally like this one.

  3. I love stuff like this .. its a nice change from the suspense/procedurals I usually read .. off to download

  4. Your review has me intrigued. This doesn't sound like the genre I would read but like you, I think the cover drew me in. Not sure I'd be ready for a 3 book commitment though.

  5. Hm, science fiction and fantasy? I don't think this is for me.


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