Audie Award Winner, Fantasy, 2014
Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver was named one of the best fiction books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. Now Bledsoe returns to the isolated ridges and hollows of the Smoky Mountains to spin an equally enchanting tale of music and magic older than the hills.
Touched by a very public tragedy, musician Rob Quillen comes to Cloud County, Tennessee, in search of a song that might ease his aching heart. All he knows of the mysterious and reclusive Tufa is what he has read on the Internet: They are an enigmatic clan of swarthy, black-haired mountain people whose historical roots are lost in myth and controversy. Some say that when the first white settlers came to the Appalachians centuries ago, they found the Tufa already there. Others hint that Tufa blood brings special gifts.
Rob finds both music and mystery in the mountains: close-lipped locals guard their secrets, even as Rob gets caught up in a subtle power struggle he can’t begin to comprehend. A vacationing wife goes missing, raising suspicions of foul play. And a strange feral girl runs wild in the woods, howling in the night like a lost spirit.
Change is coming to Cloud County, and only the night wind knows what part Rob will play when the last leaf falls from the Widow’s Tree - and a timeless curse must at last be broken.
This second book proved to be much more political in terms of how the Tufa live and what their future holds. As I mentioned in the last book, despite most people thinking the Tufa are all one people, they are actually two factions who are vying for power. The true villain of these books–who is actually both father and villain, in a sense–has his plots revealed more. Unlike the two villains of the last book, there’s more depth to this character and his villainy. His presence means more to the Tufa people, and his possible demise also leaves all the Tufa in a state of flux, wondering what will happen to them if he ceases to exist. This book explores the depths of cruelty and how deep hatred can run, even for those people should protect and love. Bledsoe plays around with some interesting lore and ideas where the Tufa are concerned, and I’ve enjoyed seeing where he takes their story.
I can’t stress enough that these are not pretty, flowery books. There’s plenty of violence and language. Life in the mountains is hard, even for the Tufas. Because there’s more focus on finding out who and what the Tufa are, you don’t get as many snatches of random songs as in the last book instead you get more portents and history, especially the history of where this bad blood comes from. However, the songs you do get in this book tell stories just as powerful as the last, and you get longer, fleshed out musical tales, which makes up for it because it probably all evens out in the end. Beauty is expressed in their music, but still there’s so much tragedy in it, as well, expressing the ordeals and hardships of the Tufa life.
I did listen to this one nearly the whole way through this time, but I was able to better pay attention this time even with Rudnicki’s deep, lulling voice. I think it helped tremendously that there was only one narrator for this book instead of having various breaks in the story as the narrator changes. That works for some stories, but this definitely benefited from only having one narrator. Still no singing, though, so if you’re interested in these books because you expect to get some off-key narrator singing, don’t bother. The verses are chanted, which is probably the best deal for the narrator and readers alike.
These books do an amazing job of being very accessible to new readers and acting as standalones. Sure, the same characters show up, but Bledsoe provides an amazing amount of context to what they mean to the story, even down to having some passages read almost exactly the same from the previous books. You won’t get lost regardless of which book you start with it seems, but for even more context about the Tufa, I’m sure you should get around to reading the first book at some point as the politics seem to be becoming a larger focal point now than in the first book where it was only beginning to burgeon, even though you know something’s simmering underneath the surface.
I wasn’t supremely happy with the wording of the very last line of the ending or the “epilogue” type thing that follows, especially depending on how the next story goes as far as that “epilogue” goes. Rob could sometimes come off as a “special snowflake” since he is definitely not Tufa. I liked that he didn’t learn that somewhere on his great-great-great grandmother’s side he had a Tufa relative, but there were times when things were just a little too convenient for Rob. Also, it would’ve been nice to learn more about Rob and his anger issues. I did like that, even though Rob wasn’t Tufa, he had the music in his soul and didn’t need that qualifier to make him a musician who had music in his bones. I found this story just as engaging as the first as more of the Tufa’s true nature comes to light. This also means that the story becomes more whimsical as readers learn more truths about the Tufa people. Whether you prefer the more grounded magical realism of the first book or the magical realism blended with magical fantasy of this one will totally be up to you as the reader. I enjoyed both. Side note: A painting mentioned in both this book and the prior book is a real painting. I had to go stare at it a while on Wikipedia.
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Would you consider the audio edition of Wisp of a Thing to be better than the print version?
Never read the print version. I got "The Hum and The Shiver" in Sept. of 2009 it was the first book in the series and I was hooked. The characters are dark and mysterious. As soon as I saw this I got it at once, and finished in two days. Mr. Bledsoe is an awesome writer, I have several of his series, all are different and they never disappoint. I have never listened or read anything like this and I was hooked from the very first few moments. Some characters from the first book which you might want to listen to first,but I think it can stand alone. .
Who was your favorite character and why?
Rob Quillin, he is an outsider coming to the home of the Tufa, to search for a song to ease his broken heart.
What does Stefan Rudnicki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Stefan Rudniki, is a wonderful narrator. I've listened to him narrate many books and series. He gets into the characters and emotions. You can always tell which character is speaking when he narrates.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
There were many extreme reactions, when you're dealing with cruelty, meanness, hate, and goodness, hope and love on the other side. It is an emotional roller coaster with lots of twists and turns in the story.
Any additional comments?
I hope it doesn't take Alex Bledsoe 4 years to write the next book in the series. I'd love to know what happened after Rob leaves Tennessee. What changes in the Tufa, if any were made. So much I'd really love to know.
I Love this second in the Tufa novels. Wisp of a Thing is written from the perspective of an outsider in the closed and isolated Appalachian community of Needville, Tennessee who, when he first arrives is closed and isolated in his own grief. Music, magic, mystery and ancient Appalachian legends twine through the novel.
I wasn’t disappointed, this novel is better than the first. As colorfully rich, deep and three dimensional as the Richard Dadd oil painting referred to in this story.
Read by one of my favorite narrators Stefan Rudniki with his smooth dark chocolate voice brings this tale alive.
Alex Bledsoe's novel The Hum And The Shiver first introduced the Tufa of Cloud County, not folksy, guitar strummin’ backwoods folk, but something altogether stranger, and potentially nastier. Wisp of a Thing builds on that introduction, exploring and exposing more. You could probably read this without reading The Human and the Shiver first and not find it a problem, but I’d recommend starting there for the background information and world building. The book is set in our ordinary world, just one that has Tufa in it. The Tufa are a race that seem to look like, and live as, humans, but who, rumour has it, were in North America long before anyone else.
Rob, a minor celebrity because of a very public tragedy, has come to Cloud County in search of a Tufa song he’s been told will heal his broken heart. As he arrives he almost mows down something careering across the road in front of him, and later he hears a howl in the night, that speaks in some way to the grief inside him. He comes to the attention of Bliss, a first daughter of the Tufa, who despite knowing he’s not Tufa in any way, finds herself compelled to connect with him. He can see things he shouldn’t be able to, and is determined to find that song - a song that happens to be of serious importance to the Tufa and not something a non-Tufa should know about.
That there’s trouble coming for the Tufa, with a curse due to fall “When the last leaf falls from the Widow's Tree this year,…”, a lost tourist, and old enmities among the different Tufa clans coming to a head - so all is set for a climax!
This grabs the interest from the off, and hangs onto it throughout. The end was mostly as I expected, and there are no hanging threads (the last, short chapter deals with the only one that bothered me), but at the same time I was surprised! I’m not sure I could say what happens to everyone after the book ends, but that’s not so important!
Well read - despite his wonderfully rich, deep voice, the narrator manages to distinguish his male and female characters just fine.
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