Review by John for The Hum and The Shiver ~ by Alex Bledsoe (September 27, 2011)
An urban fantasy story with a difference – it has a rural setting! A very well written and intriguing piece of magical realism with a strong story and some great characters.
About: Bronwyn Hyatt comes home from the war in Iraq, physically battered and mentally scarred. She returns to her small home town deep in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, getting a hero’s welcome that she neither wants nor appreciates. Her home is also the home of the Tufa, a quiet, inward looking and enigmatic community of people with a mysterious past. No-one knows where they came from – when the first Europeans arrived in the area they were already there; seemingly neither European nor Native American. Distrusted and disliked by many, some suspect that the Tufa have some strange powers. And Bronwyn is a first daughter of the Tufa.
Being a first daughter there are responsibilities and expectations of Bronwyn that she has spent her life rebelling against, but now she is back home to recuperate and she once again has to face up to a life she tried to escape. She returns to find cryptic omens suggesting a tragedy is impending that will impact her family, while a Tufa ghost is keen to communicate with her and her wayward ex-boyfriend is determined to make a nuisance of himself. To make matters worse she seems to have lost touch with music – something which is deeply important to the Tufa and helps to define what they are, both individually and collectively.
As Bronwyn reacquaints herself with her family and her past, she is forced to tap into the powers of the Tufa to help heal herself and to try and protect her loved ones.
John’s thoughts: I’m not sure what the accepted term is for this genre (magical realism?), but this was a slightly unusual read for me and I have to say that I enjoyed it. Bledsoe paints a detailed picture of life in rural America and interweaves it with a strong story, some rich characters and a mystical people with links to an ancient “mythical” past.
I also liked the musical angle. It is an intrinsic part of who the Tufa are, where they’ve come from, how they live their lives, and how they’re bonded together. It’s a tremendous source of strength for them and is used for the common good; though it can also be used for other purposes too. It’s a nice angle and given my love of music it helped to draw me in to the book.
Bledsoe does a good job of developing some interesting characters and some complex but believable family dynamics. Bronwyn is a very feisty lead character who is strong, headstrong, and by no means angelic. There is a lot of tension between her and her mother, and as the story develops Bronwyn discovers some surprising things about her mother that helps to explain why they are often at loggerheads.
It looks like this may be the first in a series, and if so, Bledsoe has created a strong foundation on which he can build. There are none of those annoying loose ends you often find in series openers, but there are plenty of angles and sub-plots that can be further developed.
Overall I liked the book a lot and I’d rate it 4 stars. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy stories that are firmly rooted in gritty real-life and rural settings.
For more information on the book see our question and answer guest post from Alex Bledsoe where he tells about this new book.
As always John will be available for your thoughts and questions. So please remember to check the follow up box since we do respond to all our comments.