The Tufa are a clan of black-haired natives who live in the Smoky Mountains. They keep to themselves, stay close to home, and have some strange beliefs and mysterious habits. Much to the disappointment of Craig Chess, the enthusiastic young Methodist preacher, every single one of them refuses to come to church.
Chess gets to know the Tufa a little better when Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns to Cloud County as a war hero. She was captured and tortured in Iraq and has come home to recover. All of America is worshipping Bronwyn, but the Tufa don’t seem impressed. They’re much more concerned about the death omens they’ve been noticing recently and the ghost that’s been waiting for Bronwyn. A death in the Hyatt family could affect the entire future of the Tufa tribe. Will Bronwyn step up and take her place in the Tufa clan, or will she continue to be the rebellious troublemaker she was before she joined the army?
Alex Bledsoe is one of my favorite “new” authors — I adore his Eddie LaCrosse series — so I was eager to read The Hum and the Shiver and I was not disappointed. It is a totally different type of novel from those he’s previously published and it demonstrates Bledsoe’s impressive versatility. While the LaCrosse books have a medieval setting, a fast pace, and a witty hard-boiled style, The Hum and the Shiver is set in modern America and is more contemplative and serious. Both series are written in Bledsoe’s clear straightforward style with realistic dialogue and believable characters.
The Hum and the Shiver is a truly well-written novel and I think many readers will consider it superior to Bledsoe’s previous books. While I recognize its worth, I still didn’t enjoy The Hum and the Shiver as much as I’ve enjoyed the LaCrosse series. This is mostly because I loved Eddie LaCrosse, but I didn’t like many of the major characters in The Hum and the Shiver. Bronwyn is angry and unpleasant and, before she became a war hero, was best known for her lingual skills (and I’m not talking about speeches). Her old boyfriend, Dwayne, is a “hillbilly fuckup” who grows his own pot. He’s always stoned, drunk, horny, and looking for a fight or a lay. I completely believed in these characters, but since they behaved like high school potheads, I just didn’t like being around them. The only character I did like was Craig Chess, the preacher. He was such a great character that he almost made up for the rest of them. (It’s nice to see a Christian pastor so well treated by his author creator, by the way — they are so often just stock cliché characters in a fantasy novel.)
I had a hard time believing in the relationship that developed at the end of The Hum and the Shiver, but at the same time I’m interested to see where Bledsoe is taking this story. I am expecting to see some major development for Bronwyn in the next installment and she may yet win me over. I will definitely tune in to find out.
Tor sent me a print copy of The Hum and the Shiver but I waited for Blackstone Audio’s version because I love the narrator, Stefan Rudnicki. I am always pleased with his performances and sometimes I’ll even choose books just because he’s narrating them. The chapters from a female point of view were read by Emily Janice Card, protégé of Rudnicki and daughter of Orson Scott Card. This was my first experience with Ms. Card though I own, but haven’t read, several other books she’s narrated. I thought she was terrific and look forward to listening to her read her father’s books soon.