Look! Another case where I finished a book and checked out the sequel right away.
In Armchair Cybils news, I put together a list of all the Cybils-nominated books I’ve read in the four areas I’ve decided to focus on: Middle Grade and YA Speculative Fiction, Graphics and Picture Books. This is a continuation of my life-long inability to focus on just one thing. I note that without planning anything, I’ve read 9-10 nominated books in each of my four categories.
Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe. Tor, 2013
Wisp of a Thing is set in the world of the Tufa explored in to The Hum and the Shiver. It’s not quite a sequel, as Bronwyn, the main character from the first book, hardly appears at all. Instead, Bledsoe introduces a new main character, while expanding on themes and the stories of side characters from the first book.
Rob Quillen was a star on the reality TV show “So You Think You Can Sing” who gained even more national fame when his girlfriend, Anna, tried to fly out to surprise him and was killed when her plane crashed. It’s a kind of fame he never wanted, and when a young musician in an Elvis-style suit tells him that a Tufa song and words carved in stone could help him with his grief, he heads straight for Cloud County, Tennessee.
Rob isn’t Tufa, but part Filipino (part Filipino! That’s my love’s heritage, and I don’t think I’ve ever read of a protagonist with it before.). Still, part Filipino looks a lot like Tufa, so he’s able to get farther with his explorations than someone with obviously non-Tufa looks would, even though no one knows the answer to his question nor who could have sent him. He meets a crazed, wild girl named Curnen and her sister Bliss Overbay, the deputy for young Mandalay, the head of one of the two Tufa factions. We know Bliss from the first novel; it’s a question how much of the Tufa secrets Rob will learn.
In the first book, a handsome Tufa man named Stoney with a distressing tendency to date and drop young women, leaving them in despair so great they often commit suicide. That was just mentioned in passing, an example of the kind of behavior and disregard of non-Tufa held especially by those of the other Tufa faction, led by old Rockhouse. Now Rob sees the devastation Stoney causes in the lives of two women close-up: Berklee, the wife of a friendly local who had a brief fling with Stoney before they were married, and now drowns her feelings in alcohol; and Stella, another resident at the hotel where Rob is staying. But while locals are inclined to stay out of other people’s business, Rob can’t seem to stop himself from trying to save the troubled people he meets, even when it puts him in danger.
The first book was told primarily from the point of view of Bronwyn, herself a Tufa. Rob is somehow able to see things that only Tufa should be able to see, and so notices things that weren’t remarkable to Bronwyn. This continues a question that Bronwyn herself brought up in the first book: being Tufa is considered something you’re born to. In the first book, we saw Tufa people who had stopped listening to the Night Winds. Now, the story looks more seriously at the role of the Night Winds and the possibility that people not born to the Tufa might be able to hear them.
As before, this is a dark fantasy, filled with cursed women and haunting music; this time mostly original lyrics rather than the folk tunes used in the first book. It’s a lovely blend of character, drama and setting that would be perfect if you’re looking for something a little spooky to read for Halloween.