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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.

The Hum and the Shiver

The Hum and the Shiver - Alex Bledsoe Dropping this in my "urban fantasy" shelf even though there isn't much about it that's "urban." More like "contemporary fantasy," but I'm too lazy to add another shelf. Because, clicking the mouse and typing the words "contemporary fantasy" -- oy, so much effort.

The Hum and the Shiver is fantasy in the vein of Charles De Lint, the kind of story where supernatural elements are an aspect of the mundane world, separated by a very thin veil. Where character-driven plots replace the usual sexy vampire/werewolf vs. ultimate evil story line.

Bronwyn Hyatt, the protagonist, is a Tufa, a member of a mysterious race/clan of people from the backwoods of Tennessee. The Tufa purportedly have lived in the region since before white settlers ever arrived. Who they are are is revealed slowly over the course of the novel, but it's evident, early on, that they have special powers, including flight, the use of musical magic, and fast healing. The latter being of benefit to Brownyn who is returning from Iraq, where she has been seriously injured by a roadside bomb and subsequent mistreatment at the hands of insurgents. Once again among her people, her shattered leg heals in just a matter of weeks.

Formerly a wild child, Brownyn joined the military to get away from her people, from the restrictions and expectations placed on her as a First Daughter, i.e., a pure-blood Tufa. Actually, one really wonders why someone who disdains rules would join the military, but, um, okay.

Back home with her family, she learns that there have been numerous omens indicating that her mother is about to die. As her mother's heir, it is important that she learn her mother's song, and maintain an important legacy of her people. Once a talented musician, like all Tufa, now her shattered brain can't quite remember how to hold her mandolin. Complicating matters, is the expectation that she marry another pure Tufa and create another First Daughter. Brownyn, of course chafes at the idea of any obligation.

That's pretty much the crux of the plot. Bronwyn's struggle to be herself and still be Tufa. The antagonists are her obsessive ex-boyfriend Dwayne, and a stereotypically evil police trooper.

Four stars because the melding of music and magic always makes me happy, and because the Tufa (despite sounding like a kind of volcanic rock to my brain), are absolutely fascinating. The writing is lovely, with evocative description that avoids the usual trap of becoming flowery and purple-ish. Bronwyn, like the rest of her people, is straightforward to a fault and a bit grumpy, but I like her unabashed approach to sexuality. She is for the most part, brave and confident, but every so often bits of vulnerability sneak in and make her approachable as a character.

Not-five-stars because the story has too many extra point of view characters, notably the reporter who is also on a journey to find himself. Meh. The inclusion of a love interest in the form of a Methodist preacher, did nothing for me. Other than being good looking, the man is a complete dud. As I noted in an update, she's way better off with Dwayne's jailbait brother, Terry Joe. In fact, the insinuation that Bronwyn and the preacher definitely have a future in later books, may be enough to keep me from reading more in this series.

OTOH, I may look up Bledsoe's other titles when I get the chance.