Friday, September 16, 2011

The Hum and the Shiver - Alex Bledsoe

About the book

No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music—hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.

With death stalking her family, Bronwyn will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds. . . .

304 pages (paperback)
Published on: September 27, 2011
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.


I started reading this book the day I got it in the mail. I was attracted to it by the author’s name and the cover art. The cover art caused me to anticipate a somewhat subtle and soft story. With a new baby, soft and subtle is exactly what I need right now as my life is chaotic enough. Thankfully, the cover art didn’t let me down. This is, coincidentally, also the first book I read (nearly) page for page to my daughter to get her to take naps. It worked, and for that I loved it.

If you are looking to read a book that has the same tone and style as the Eddie LaCrosse books (also by Bledsoe), you won’t find it here. Where the Eddie LaCross books are a humorous, bold, and fun adventure, The Hum and the Shiver is subtle, deeply woven and with a style of writing that can only be called lyrical and understated. One reason I mention this is because The Hum and the Shiver really shows how diverse of an author Alex Bledsoe can be, while retaining the same high quality story telling he got me used to with Eddie LaCrosse.

The Hum and the Shiver is a subtle book which depends on descriptive, eloquent writing and great character development to keep the reader interested. Thankfully, it doesn’t slack on either part. This book, surprisingly, isn’t as plot driven as it is character driven. Due to that, the characters really shine. They are incredibly three-dimensional and none of them fit the standard molds you would expect. Bledsoe doesn't shirk on highlighting both the strength and weaknesses of his characters, which causes them to seem incredibly realistic and starkly human. Even the supporting characters and villains are believable and incredibly realistic, which is something I routinely complain about on my reviews. 

The Hum and the Shiver is a book that slowly unfolds as you go and, like the music that fills the pages, develops a rhythm that will pull many readers in. Though this is a subtle book, the plot and character development never cease. Each page adds more depth to every aspect of this book, from the world to the characters. Bledsoe will really draw readers in with this style of writing. Due to how subtle the book is, I wasn’t even aware how incredibly drawn into The Hum and the Shiver I was until it ended and I was jarred back to reality. Bledsoe made the mountains of Tennessee and their supernatural inhabitants as real as my own living room and did it in such an understated way, I wasn’t even aware of that fact until I put the book down.

There are several mysteries in The Hum and the Shiver, but the one that seems to take center stage isn’t necessarily the one you would expect from reading the back of the book. While Bronwyn’s haint is quite a plot point, what takes up most of the room is discovering what exactly the Tufa are. To do this, Bledsoe fills his book with plenty of compelling Tufa characters, but also a Methodist preacher who just moved to the area to start a church and a newspaper reporter who is learning what being Tufa really means. The combination of inside and outside perspectives really makes how this mystery is handed nothing short of incredible as each unique perspective adds a new dimension to the Tufa people and culture.

There is a crescendo with the plot where the mystery of the haint and the Tufa are all figured out and dealt with accordingly. It happens rather abruptly and, while many authors would have pumped up the ending to be somewhat Hulk-ish, Bledsoe kept his ending rather subtle and quiet and didn’t let it control the book. Thus, The Hum and the Shiver isn’t about the impressive ending, but it’s about the journey the reader takes to get there, which I found to be the most satisfying part, anyway. Even though the ending isn’t a gigantic production, it’s still fulfilling and fits the book perfectly.

In all, The Hum and the Shiver was an amazingly satisfying read. It was a subtle, eloquent and incredible treat which really showcased Bledsoe’s diversity as a writer. The characterization shines, the world is vibrant and well realized. Bledsoe deepens his characterization and expands his world with each page which makes Bledsoe’s Tennessee Mountains and the characters who live in them as real as the world around us. This isn’t a book that will satisfy everyone. Individuals who aren’t into slow developments and subtle plots will probably want to look elsewhere. However, if you are a reader who is looking for a unique yet vibrant literary feast, you need look no further.

4.5/5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this one too. The Tufa story seemed so genuinely rooted in reality (I could imagine them really living in Tennessee) and the author explored the characters' feelings in a way that resonated with me. :)