The Hum and The Shiver; a Novel of the Tufa by Alex Bledsoe

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I found out about this book from a book review by Exploding Spaceship on Bull Spec’s blog page and was instantly intrigued by what they had to say about it: 

Author Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee, and the Smokey Mountains on the Tennessee / North Carolina border are the setting for his “Tufa” novels: “No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the mountains of East Tennessee.  When the first Europeans came to the Smoky Mountains, the Tufa were already there.  Dark-haired and enigmatic, they live quietly in the hills and valleys of Cloud County, their origins lost to history.  But there are clues in their music, hidden in the songs they have passed down for generations….” The first Tufa book, 2011′s The Humand the Shiver, was named one of the best novels of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.

First, the term “Tufa” is a bastardization of the term, “Tuatha De Danann,” which is an ancient race from which most Faerie lore descended.  I’m a geek for most anything dealing with the Fae.

Second, the story takes place in the Smokey Mountains on the North Carolina, Tennessee Border, and I’m a North Carolina girl. Although I have stronger ties to the Blue Ridge Mountains than the Smokies, the Appalachians hold a special place in my heart.

Third, the magic of the Tufa lies mostly in their way with music, and along with all things Fae and Appalachia, I have a sweet spot for blue grass.

In this book, Bronwyn Hyatt, a private in the US Army, returns home to her tiny town in the Smoky Mountains as a wounded vet. The book mostly centers on her recovery and her re-connection to the Tufa community she thought she had left behind when she ran away to the army. The Tufa remember her as “The Bronwynator” a brash and fearless young woman full of spit, grit, grease, and hormones. They also knew her as a “first daughter”– the oldest Hyatt daughter and a pure bred Tutha, which holds some distinction and power in a matriarchal society of ancient, magical beings who may or may not be the Tuatha De Danann from history. Bronwyn is basically royalty in her small, Appalachian clan.

Her war experiences have changed her, though. She’s matured and found new values. The Hum and The Shiver is about how Bronwyn seeks to respect Tufa tradition without sacrificing her own goals and wishes, which tend to contradict those of her family and community.

I’ve had a string of luck lately when it comes to reading books with great characters. The Hum and Shiver is no exception. Bronwyn is prideful, and brash, but also loyal, tough and brave.  I was hoping the next book in the Tufa series would continue Bronwyn’s story, but its going to focus on a different character in the Tufa community.

Knowing that, I have to say the ending of The Hum and The Shiver came a little too soon. I wanted more time with the triangle between Bronwyn and Terry-Joe (a younger Tufa male and little brother to Bronwyn’s ex-boyfriend)  and Craig (the new non-Tufa, Methodist preacher in town).  I would have liked to see the inevitable conflicts that would arise between the three (and maybe those will be alluded to in the other books, its hard to know). But I think the main purpose of this story was not the romance, but to see Bronwyn recover from her war experiences and find her own way so that she could be strong enough to face the conflicts that would inevitably come her way.

Also, Bledsoe is an accessible author, which I love. I’ve messaged him some on Facebook and he’s great about replying. If you want to be a fan of someone who might actually write back to you, stay away from the New York Times Best Sellers and support the little guy!

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