This is the third Tufa book after The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. Thanks to Tor for sending this to me! (It is lucky for me I work at a library as well, or I could never afford my book addiction.) This series is on my list of musical fantasies (which I also need to update.)
Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe. Tor, 2015.
As usual with these books, we start with a new set focus characters from the last books. The story opens in a small plane, full of rockabilly music stars, which crashes in the mountains near where the Tufa live in the 1950s. Byron Harley, the “Hillbilly Hercules” is the only survivor, and his efforts to find help lead him to a small campfire where a couple of men sit drinking moonshine and trading songs.
In the present day, exiled Bo-Kate Wisby returns to Needsville determined to get rid of Rockhouse (the leader of the dark Tufa) and unite the Tufa under her leadership. But as her story is told from her Black British assistant Nigel’s perspective, we don’t know from the beginning exactly what she and her former lover Jefferson Powell were exiled for, nor what she did to break the magic that should have kept her from ever finding Needsville and its music ever again. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Mandalay Harris, head of the light Tufa, has to figure out how to stop her without losing track of her own values. We’ve seen Mandalay from other character’s points of view before, but this is the first time we’ve seen her from inside, the child with the memories of an entire people. It’s tricky to balance childhood with all of that, and Mandalay is dealing with her first crush on top stopping a civil war.
These is dark fantasy, with plenty of blood and vengeance – the darkness both tempered and enhanced by the music that plays throughout. This book in particular looks at what separates and connects the two branches of the Tufa, as three separate couples with partners (or potential partners) on opposite sides struggle with finding ways to bridge that gap. The optimist in me would have preferred happier endings for several of the characters, but overall, this is a compelling story with believable characters and a solid look at how far love can go.