Gather Her Round: A TUFA horror story

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Gather Her Round by Alex Bledsoe horror fantasy book reviewsGather Her Round by Alex Bledsoe fantasy book reviews horrorGather Her Round by Alex Bledsoe

Gather Her Round (2017) is Alex Bledsoe’s fifth stand-alone TUFA novel. Though each of these stories has mostly the same setting and some of the same characters, and though they tend to have some of the same major plot elements (e.g., the appearance of ghosts, a musical performance, a murder mystery, an outsider who stumbles upon their tiny strange community), they are surprisingly different in tone. They can be read in any order and you don’t need any previous TUFA knowledge to enjoy Gather Her Round though it may help to know that the Tufa are a race of close-knit secretive folk who descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann and, sometime in the past, came to live in the rural mountainous region of Appalachia. Many of them are musicians and music, which has magical properties among the Tufa, is integral to their culture.

In Gather Her Round, a Tufa teenager who went to play her instrument by herself in the woods seems to have been mauled by a herd of wild pigs that is led by a huge feral hog of perhaps supernatural origin. The girl’s boyfriend is traumatized by her brutal death and then even more devastated when he discovers that she had been cheating on him with his best friend. He wants to kill the pigs and he wants revenge for the betrayal. He concocts and implements a plan that only makes everything worse. Meanwhile the enmity between two clans of the Tufa continues and Mandalay worries that her old rival may not be as dead as she previously supposed he was.

Gather Her Round by Alex BledsoeGather Her Round is the darkest and most disturbing TUFA story yet. I’d call it a horror story. A monster story, to be more specific, but the big pig isn’t the only monster in the book. Some are human and they are even scarier. Bledsoe’s setting and characters have always been a little creepy, so this shift feels natural. Parts of the story are gruesome and all of it is psychologically intense. In Gather Her Round Bledsoe uses music, which has always been a prominent feature of the TUFA novels, to ratchet up the feelings of fear and dread. Gather Her Round is horrifying and I couldn’t put it down.

There are a few new intriguing characters in this story. I hope we’ll be seeing some of them again, especially Janet, the ambitious student reporter who is narrating the entire story to an audience in the future. There are also portentous signs that times will be soon be getting even darker for the Tufa. As Mandalay says, “The Night Winds are changing.” I look forward to finding out what’s going to happen next.

I always choose to read the TUFA stories in audio format because they’re narrated by Stefan Rudnicki. He never fails to give Bledsoe’s novels the excellent treatment they deserve. This audio version, published by Blackstone Audio, is 8.5 hours long. I have to say something about the cover art, though. It’s completely inappropriate. It is almost totally unrelated to the story. The cover for the print version isn’t much better. Yes, the Tufa are fairies, but not those kinds of fairies.

Published March 17, 2017. In Cloud County, where music and Tufa, the otherworldly fae community, intermix, a monster roams the forest, while another kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men. “Beautifully written, surprisingly moving, and unexpected in the best of ways.” ―Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author Young Tufa woman Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville. Soon, her half-eaten remains are found, and hunters discover the culprits: a horde of wild hogs led by a massive boar with seemingly supernatural strength. Kera’s boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend Adam Procure. When Adam’s body is the next one found, who is to blame: Duncan or the monstrous swine? As winter descends and determined hunters pursue beasts across the Appalachians, other Tufa seek the truth behind Adam and Kera’s deaths. What answers will unfold come spring?

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. I have to set aside some time this summer to get caught up on all of these; it is such a great world and series.

  2. It frustrates me that the cover art is lovely, but has nothing to do with the story. This is a completely avoidable problem!

    • I think they are coding the women as fairies to clue the Tuatha de Danann (faerie); but it isn’t necessary. Such are the vagaries of cover art.

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