Contemporary fantasy often becomes urban fantasy, to the exclusion of all other forms. A few stories fall outside the urban subgenre barriers, such as American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and fall well. The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe is set in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee and would best be described as rural fantasy. Owing to the less hectic feel of the backwater area, it comes off as much more intimate than most contemporary fantasy.
Well written and balanced characters
Bronwyn Hyatt returns home from Iraq wounded in more ways than one. She’s called a war hero by some and a troublemaker by others. In a way, she has given up the danger of the field for another danger altogether. Portents of death and duty balance her wild and rebellious nature that has been suppressed and tempered during her time away. It emphasizes a tale of family, tradition and duty in an original and emotional way that makes her character so complex and well layered that it is hard to fault the book. Her life could be identified into three parts that blend and overlay constantly, mingling into a fluid and dynamic character that feels altogether organic.
The various other characters of The Hum and the Shiver are just as well written as Bronwyn Hyatt. From her family and her ex-boyfriend to the journalist and the reverend, they all are individuals and are contrasted well against one another. Characters identify smoothly as the story progresses and they evolve at a great pace.
A focus on music
Music has a beautiful emphasis in The Hum and the Shiver. The title itself, The Hum and the Shiver, is my favorite of the year in its avoidance of clichés and its forceful vibrancy. The Tufa are a very musical people; it drives them and defines them, setting them apart as well as acting as a gauge for the reader. The detached nature of the Tufa easily translates to a subtle arcane overlay that hinges on music.
The story is shrouded in smoke and mirrors the entire time. Revelations are drawn out with precision and are often unpredictable but entirely satisfactory. The Tufa above all are the greatest cause of mystery and illusion for the reader, as Bledsoe doesn’t reveal the story’s secrets cheaply.
Bledsoe’s prose is deftly placed and allows the scenes to flow smoothly from one to the other. The dialogue never feels forced or stilted and has all the humorous overtones of real conversations. Familial relations and more provocative ones exude familiarity and let the reader slip into the characters’ shoes.
Devoid of clichés
The plot is thankfully devoid of clichés, something very hard to achieve in fiction. This may owe to the setting and subgenre in part but Bledsoe is inevitable the source. It spans a relatively short period of time with a lush amount of detail and emotion, progressing at a rapid pace.
Why should you read this book?
The Hum and the Shiver is a striking and subtly crafted story with interesting characters, a unique story and lush prose. It is a must read for anyone who is seeking interesting and unique fantasy or who want to branch out from the more common genres.