The hum and the shiver / Alex Bledsoe
Still without a computer so things will continue to be somewhat bare bones.
The hum and the shiver is one of those books that I came to with virtually no expectations. It had been recommended to me by a family member but it took me a whole to find it (mostly because I kept forgetting to look for it). Once I did get ahold of it, all I could remember was that it was set in Appalachia and focused on an isolated ethnic group. And music was involved somehow.
I think that coming in with no idea of what to expect was an important part of why I liked it so much, so I’m going to be a little more cryptic here. I’ll be taggin more sparsely as well to avoid revealing any secrets.
I read it in a single night while my spouse was out of town, listening to Tre Lux on repeat and periodically interrupted by a cat who is obsessed with curling up in the pages of hardcover books.
Eventually, I grabbed a decoy book so I could read in peace.
I think at least some of my enjoyment of this book stems from the really pleasant reading experience. I’ve been wanting to reread it lately but have been putting it off until I have the house to myself for the night.
In an isolated Appalachian county, a war hero returns home after injury and imprisonment. A young pastor attempts to get to know the strange people living there. A tabloid reporter comes looking for something he can’t really define.
So how is it?
It’s really good, if I haven’t made it clear enough already.
The hum and the shiver is a different kind of contemporary fantasy novel. The setting makes calling it “urban fantasy” inappropriate, even if that is the more common term.
This isn’t one of those series with at least one new entry a year. It’s not a book about saving the world or defeating monstrous evil.
In fact, for most of the book it’s barely recognizable as a fantasy novel. The elements are there, but the magic is closer to the magic of Tolkien’s elves or hobbits. It’s subtle, not even recognized as magic by most, but it’s there.
The hum and the shiver is a quiet book. Like the slow paced lifestyle of its characters, it’s not in a hurry to reach a spectacular set piece with a triumphant showdown.
Bledsoe creates a world firmly rooted in its characters. The major theme is self discovery, where the visitors and inhabitants face truths that they hid from themselves or that were hidden from them. There are no great surprises here for the reader, especially for readers with a background in the proper folklore, but the book isn’t boring nonetheless.
The hum and the shiver is a great book. Still, it serves a drastically different audience than most of the urban fantasy I’ve reviewed here. The sedate pace and lack of two fisted action contrasts pretty seriously with things like The Dresden files.
It’s still worth a read. Bledsoe is an expert at combining “literary” and “popular” entertainment (Dark Jenny, for example, which features a knight named Bob but also delves pretty deeply into an analysis of Arthurian mythology) and so the twitchy video games and action movies type might not get their kicks here but broader minded readers should enjoy.
I write a lot about the appeal of fantasy or science fiction novels to those who “don’t read” that stuff. The shiver and the hum is probably one of the better books for those readers. Tolkien via Dungeons and Dragons is nowhere to be found, and the heavy character focus and introspective tone should appeal to fans of the “white problems” novel. (I think fans of those books call it “the great American novel” but I like my description better)