Long Black Curl: Music is magic

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLong Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe fantasy book reviewsLong Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Long Black Curl is the third novel in Alex Bledsoe’s TUFA series. You don’t need to read the previous books, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing; Long Black Curl can stand alone because its three main characters are new to the series. However, most of the other characters are from the previous books, so you’ll be missing some background on them if you haven’t read them. For maximum enjoyment, read them first.

Bledsoe’s TUFA books are about a tribe of swarthy backwoods folks who live in the Smokey Mountains. If you were passing through that region and met any of the Tufa, you’d think they were inbred ignorant rednecks with little education and fewer morals, for thus they appear to be. What you wouldn’t realize is they are descendants of the Tuatha De’ Danann, exiled by the faery queen to Appalachia long ago. While most of their fae glamour has been eroded by poverty and living in a closed community, they still retain a bit of magic. Most obviously, the music they play and sing has an emotional power that affects listeners intensely. Some of the Tufa are also able to ride the wind at night, and there is a bubble of faery time in the mountains near where they live.

The Tufa are divided into two clans, each ruled by a leader who has special powers. Several years ago, they got together and cast out Bo-Kate Wisby and Jefferson Powell, a pair of teenage lovers, one from each clan, who had committed some atrocious acts. Magic was involved in their banishment and the two were not only never able to come back home, but also never able to find each other again… until Bo-Kate figured out how to break the spell. Now she’s baaaaa-aaaaack, and she’s out for revenge. She’s threatening to destroy the Tufa culture. Somebody needs to stop her. Perhaps Nigel, the black Englishman who works as her personal assistant and thinks he loves her. Perhaps Byron Harley, the rockstar who has been trapped in the faery time bubble for the 60 years since his plane crashed in the mountains. Perhaps Jefferson, Bo-Kate’s old boyfriend who became a music producer after he lost the Tufa magic and wasn’t able to create his own music.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLong Black Curl is an emotional story full of hate, jealousy, revenge, and tragedy. It borders on horror. There is beauty, though, whenever music is present. This contrast is what Bledsoe does so brilliantly in this series. Many of the characters are unlikable — they’re inbred, nasty, xenophobic, sexist, racist, and brutish. The only ones I like are those who’ve come from outside, in this case, Nigel and Byron. Yet, as soon as one of the Tufa starts strumming a guitar or opens her mouth to sing, they’re all transformed, and so are their listeners. There’s magic in music, and it has the power to change us, to change our perceptions, to bridge wide cultural gaps, and to send us to some other time or place. Bledsoe does such a good job of making us feel this that it’s worth putting up with his revolting characters just so we can encounter that contrast.

I always feel a little uncomfortable reading the TUFA novels because they kind of remind me of Deliverance. But that’s just me. Readers who find backwoods settings appealing and don’t insist on liking at least one of the characters will probably love Long Black Curl. It’s dramatic and heartbreaking. Despite the fact that I don’t like Bledsoe’s characters (which, I’m sure, was his intention), I’ll continue reading the TUFA novels just so I can admire his craft.

Stefan Rudnicki narrates all of Alex Bledsoe’s books. He’s one of my favorite readers, and I love him here. It would have been nice if he could actually sing some of the songs in the story, but I guess that’s asking too much. The audiobook is 10.5 hours long and produced by Blackstone Audio.

By the way: As a fan of rock music, I enjoyed all the little rock music allusions I found in Long Black Curl. The most obvious one is that Byron Harley is Buddy Holly, but there are many.

Publication Date: May 26, 2015. Long Black Curl: a brand-new tale in Alex Bledsoe’s acclaimed urban fantasy series, where magic is hidden in plain sight and age-old rivalries simmer just beneath the surface. In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people. Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds. The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?

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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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6 comments

  1. I *love* what he does with music in these books. I’ll have to get this one!

  2. You’ve intrigued me with the ideas of 1) thoroughly unlikeable characters and 2) the incorporation of music. I’m adding this series to my TBR list. Thanks, Kat!

  3. susan emans /

    Okay, now I’m worried because I liked characters in the first two books.

    • Susan, it might be me. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like these types of impoverished uneducated rural settings and characters. I am sure it’s some sort of nasty prejudice I have. H.P. Lovecraft used those types of settings and characters a lot, too.

  4. susan emans /

    Kat, did you like Bronwyn and her minister?

    • Susan, I didn’t like Bronwyn in the first book, but I like her now. I have always liked the minister. He’s my favorite character in the series. Again, though, he’s an outsider.

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