Manannán mac Lir Led Them Here.
People of Danu,
sing your songs in Tír na nÓg:
This was my pick for Eleven-Books Club, my third pick after China Miéville's Kraken & the first volume of Invisibles. Why did I pick it? Well, I'll tell you why: because Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse books are a bucketload of fun. I really like them-- you should give them a stab, really-- & I knew that other people similarly really liked his Tufa novels, of which this is the first. onatopofthings in particular. There was no doubt in my mind that I'd read them sooner or later, but when my eyes fell on the spine of The Hum & the Shiver while I was trying to think of my next pick, I knew I'd hit on something. A favorite around the office, I knew it had a pretty diverse fan base, which meant it had a decent shot of being well received by the group. We can get to that later though. Let's talk about the book itself. The deal is: what if one of the small towns of the Appalachian mountains wasn't just full of meth & Mountain Dew, but instead was the last bastion of fairies?
Oh, Bledsoe underplays it-- he doesn't quite comes out & explain the plot through exposition until the fringe right wing blogger starts acting a damn fool-- but that is what it is. The Tufa are the Tuatha Dé Danann, brown-skinned & white-toothed, secret-songed & music-winged. Speaking of which, brief side note: when Andy Silliphant says "skin that song iron," & they joke about his weird attempts to coin a catchphrase, all I can hear is a skald's kennings. I liked this book but...I don't know that I liked the protagonist? Bronwyn spends too much time doubting & denying & then...that denials just becomes her...answer to everything? I mean, the final compromise with Terry-Joe & the pastor I liked because it is messy, which makes it believable, but Brownyn's triumph is ultimately one of fate-- a fancy word for deus ex machina-- not character.
You know who I do like a lot though? Don Swayback. He's the real story, if you ask me; he overcomes. I also liked the mention & brief appearance of the Sin-Eater. It is a favorite trick of Bledsoe: he imagines a full world, & then as he writes, he gets along to filling in the blanks. You'll find out his deal sooner or later, I'm sure. & while we're talking about things I'm sure of, I sure did hate Pafford & Dwayne; Bledsoe knows what he's about when he builds characters, which makes me think that it isn't a failure on his part to make me like Bronwyn...I just don't like her. Personally, I was hoping she'd start a third clan, or sing some new songs; all that talk of destiny, but what do we get out of it? She does her own thing. It isn't systemic, either; if she'd broken the hold of the pure-blooded, that would be one thing. See, I don't know if it would be the right thing-- would the Tufa just vanish, then? Or would they, like Don, still hear the night wind?-- but it would be a thing.
I also...well, I also didn't care for Pastor Chess, though I didn't mind him when the other Tufa were lecturing him. When the haint tells him in a dream "you are more than your job. The preacher doesn't have to be right. Craig does[,]" I was like, right on. Then again, when Pastor Landers tells him "[w]e also have noses that run & feet that smell. Sometimes the universe just doesn't make sense[,]" I had to grit my teeth. More "tides come in, tides go out" nonsense. Noses run because they are dark, moist holes that go into your body, & so you have defenses ready to flush stuff out of them; feet smell because bacteria eat foot sweat. These are not mysterious ways. Then again, the pastors bugging the crap out of me may be my own baggage.
I guess my thesis here is: I liked this book! I didn't particularly like the main characters, though, which means...well, it means maybe I'll like the second book better? My issues were largely personal preference, so hopefully Wisp of a Thing will be right up my alley. I like fairytales, & I like faeries. You know me. The strange elves of old, your Tolkien elves, your Book of Invasions, that is how I roll. There is an issue of...exoticism? That is, an insular ethnic enclave of...magical people can be problematic. That is something I'm eager to talk about with the book group; I think Bledsoe didn't map the Tufa onto Native American issues, but I want to hear the thoughts of those that did.
(The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke by Richard Dadd.)