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3.0 out of 5 starsGreat idea for a story
Reviewed in the United States on June 11, 2018
Great idea for a story. Characters are interesting, if somewhat stereotypical. Thinly veiled comparisons to Jessica Lynch. Top complaint was the amount of sexual descriptions. Felt like I was reading "50 Shades of Fae." Instead of an urban fantasy novel with a great premise, "elves and bluegrass music in the modern world" it felt like a soft core porn "throbbing sword" novel for shut in nerds. I will probably try another volume in the series because the premise is solid, but if it starts drifting into "hillbilly Red Shoe Diaries" territory I doubt I finish it. That stuff is not required to move the plot along.
Bronwyn Hyatt is returning home after having been wounded during the war in Iraq. Everybody is hailing her as a war hero. But that is only the beginning of her problems.
Much of the plot of The Hum and the Shiver revolves around the fact that Bronwyn is a Tufa. Her family and the majority of her neighbors are also Tufa. In some ways, this is a very good thing for Bronwyn. But in other ways, it presents her with difficult choices.
The Tufa are a mysterious group of people living mostly in the mountains of East Tennessee. There are all kinds of rumors and theories trying to explain what they are. They might be descendants of the Tuatha, the original fairy folk from England and Ireland. Or they might not. Otherwise, they are just like regular people. They have regular jobs, they eat at Shoney’s, some of them drink and do drugs and drive too fast. They seem to have their own magic. But much of their magic comes in the form of songs.
This would be the place to mention the lyrical writing in this book. Literally lyrical, since it includes the lyrics to several of their songs, as well as several more mundane songs. The story was a gripping read from start to finish.
5.0 out of 5 starsA Fairy Tale Book Series For Grown-Ups
Reviewed in the United States on April 6, 2021
The 6 books that comprise The Tufa Collection create a universe of Appalachian mythology which made me want to take my guitar and move to the fictitious area of Needsville, Tennessee. Though the Hobbit series by JRR Tolkien set the bar for expansive mythology writing, I would put this at that level. A film series of these books would be great! On the other hand, his writing brings such an economy of words and imagery that a film of it would probably fall short of the magic he creates in the mind. It isn't a spoiler to say that the Tufa are supposed to be actual fae or fairies who have lived in the hills and mountains of Appalachia for eons, back to the time when the range had jagged peaks equal in grandeur to the Rockies. They are modernized with the times and hide in plain sight in a human form, all with very similar black hair, darker skin and perfect teeth. To fall in love with a Tufa woman or man is to be doomed, however, and we see the results of that along with any number of mystical happenings that keep them safe from "outsiders". These are real page-turner novels which kept me thinking I would stop at the end of a chapter but then have to keep reading... Spell-binding in more ways than one! Music is what the Tufa are known for as they are all thought to be the best musicians in the world, yet they shun commercial success. Author Alex Bledsoe, having grown up near Memphis, knows Americana and Folk music well, and weaves his own lyric writing with that of actual ancient folk songs as well as musicians and bands as contemporary as Metallica, Springsteen and any number of artists of even younger generations. This and the modernization of some of the Tufa as weed growers and meth-lab users makes the tales very relatable and real. The two main "tribes" of fae are generally divided as good and bad and their contentious relationships fuel much of the plot. The character of them is more nuanced than that, but I'm avoiding spoilers here. It is a complex world which Bledsoe has created, and the number of characters can be a challenge to keep up with making marathon reading sessions even more likely. These books aren't for kids though, as there are many sexual encounters throughout. And vivid violence. Of course, we live in the internet age just as these fictional fae and we know how quickly kids are exposed to things these days. Just something to be aware of when a younger audience is a consideration. Time doesn't work the same for everybody. I must note the serendipity of how these books came to me and some real musicians I know. Bledsoe began writing the series in 2010, at the exact same time that a new band called Tuatha Dea formed. These musicians are also of Irish heritage, have black hair for the most part and are a family of Pagans well-versed in the living mythology of neo-paganism. They met Bledsoe sometime after the publication of the first two novels, and ended up as brief fictionalized characters in the next two in the series. While the titles of his books came from another real songwriter, Jennifer Goree, (look her up on YouTube) Bledsoe inspired Tuatha Dea's album "Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae" which draws directly from Bledsoe's writing. Bledsoe made a dedication to the band in describing them as "... as close to the Tufa as you're likely to get on this earth." The band still relates this story in their shows and remain friends with Bledsoe, probably selling many books for him along the way. Even if you never enter this mystical world, beware of old men with six fingers.
At first, Needsville just seems like a typical mountain town, with its share of shabby streets, beautiful countryside and off-putting local folk. Then comes the typical, overdone, tacky parade for the return of an injured, rescued soldier from war overseas, reluctantly labeled a hero. The soldier, a wayward daughter, must decide how she will face each awkward step that brings her closer to home, to who she was, and what she could, or should, or even might become.
Bronwyn’s mystery is slow building, at first. As memories and experiences reveal tantalizing hints at Tufa ways, the characters come to life. Their families, traditions, and songs weave a fascinating story I found very hard to put down, reading most of the second half in a single rush! It’s a fun ride, on the night wind, and I can’t wait to read the next.
I was so pleased to discover this story after enjoying the Appalachian rhythm and heartfelt songs of Tennessee musical family, Tuatha Dea. Thanks to their recent “virtual pub crawls” on Sunday evenings, I was able to learn of their musical connection to the author. Even better, I’ve got toe-tapping music and inspiring reading to lift me from the doldrums of staying home during a national shut-down.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 16, 2017
Just read the first two Tufa novels, and I can't recommend them highly enough. I am reminded of Jane Louise Curry, of Nina Kiriki Hoffman, of the legends of Prince Madoc, of the stories of the Melungians...and about none of these, as Bledsoe's carefully crafted novels of an inbred, outsider people hidden away in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are frighteningly, wonderfully original--wonder-full and full of wonder. How I wish I could lend a harmony to musicians like the ones he so brilliantly describes...
4.0 out of 5 starsA broken war hero, a strange people and magic songs in rural Tennessee - A fairytale of another kind
Reviewed in Germany on April 12, 2018
I really had no idea what awaited me with this story, because the synopsis didn’t give me too much workable information. So here’s what the story is about: there is a mysterious people living in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains. The all look very alike and not like any other people. No one knows where they came from, some say they came over the sea from Ireland and are the descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, and that this is why they call themselves the Tufa. But no one outside their clans knows really anything about their ancestry or their traditions or their very singular music.
One of those Tufa is Bronwyn Hyatt, a twenty year old soldier, who was deadly wounded while fighting in Iraq and who is now celebrated as a war hero for killing a great many of the enemy. The story starts with Bronwyn coming home, beat and nearly broken and again searching for her place in the world. She has problems with people telling her what to do and bothering her with expectations, probably one of the reasons she left her small home town, where she is part of a people and its special ways. While she is still trying to decide who she wants to be and what role she wants to play in the greater ways of things, omens appear that warn of sorrow and danger. And just when everybody thinks they have it all figured out, things twist and turn unexpectedly. And it’s Bronwyn who has to do what is right... sorry about being cryptic and all that, but anything else would be spoilering.
Bronwyn is not an easy-to-like character, she is somewhat bitter, somewhat egotistical, somewhat erratic. And most of her motives and thoughts are very foreign to me. But she is also true as a character and grows visibly and in the end I liked her. Same goes for other people. They are a magical people, but not of the „blossoms and sunshine“ kind. It’s also the not so nice face of the rural America and no, although I think it fascinating, I’d never want to live there. But it’s a great background for the plot, no rather a huge part of it. The magic is subtle and awesome and although there is not a lot happening on the action front, it gathers momentum and the end is fantastic.
The story was sure different from most of the urban fantasy I know (maybe because it’s „rural fantasy“) and overall I liked it. The middle part drags a bit and the secondary characters are not too fleshed out (even those that hat POVs), but I still was fascinated.
3.0 out of 5 stars3.5 Stars--just interesting enough to stay with it
Reviewed in Canada on November 23, 2015
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I liked the theme behind it--a lost magical people who found their way to the New World (honesty, this isn't a spoiler--the jacket virtually screams it at you), but the heroine is so disheveled and unsympathetic I could feel no real draw to her. The same for the minor characters and the major secondary characters. The story is somewhat intriguing though terribly sluggish, and the greatest problem most of them face seems to be needing to be honest with themselves (as soon as they figure out who they are).. Having read it, I'm not even really sure what the plot was . . . something along the lines of magical war hero discovers herself.
There is a lot in this story I really want to like. I am a long-time fan of the contemporary fantasy genure. I suspect I liked this book mainly because I liked its subject matter. The story itself . . . it feels almost inconsequential.