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- Author: Alex Bledsoe
- Publisher: Tor
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Format: Hardback, 352 pages
Book Review: Wisp of a Thing
Fans of urban fantasy and mystery alike will have difficulty putting it down
By Chuck Francisco
June 28, 2013
Without exaggeration Wisp of a Thing is sort of novel that will keep readers up late into the evening, ravenously continuing well past the point of eye strain. Its perfectly proportioned chapters carry exactly the right measure of mystery to keep readers intrigued, while remaining brief enough to continually enraptured them. The true success of this novel though, lies in the deeply buried mysteries it teases. None of them are ever hastily spoiled; rather layers are slowly and loving stripped away, cautiously setting up the underlying truth to bestow the maximum impact. In that regard Wisp of a Thing is like a master burlesque dancer, acutely aware of its titillating nature, while simultaneously calculating the reveals to come.
But what exactly is a Tufu and why is this so thrilling? A fully disclosed answer would spoil the fun. We discover the truth in time with protagonist Rob Quillen; a musician who loses his fiancé in a horrific plane crash. In an attempt to cope with his agony, Rob is making his way to the Cloud County, Tennessee town of Needsville. There he hopes to uncover a rumored magical song which can ease the suffering found in his heart. The song is woven into the mythology surround the Tufa, a rural people who live deeply off the beaten path among the Appalachian mountains. Here lies another strength of the novel: the backdrop is a unique setting that's both completely removed from modern American society, yet at the same time scorched by licks of it. It's in this place that the line between music and magic have the potential to be blurred, and danger is never expected.
Author Alex Bledsoe writes with marvelously calculated restraint. He excels at the Herculean task of crafting a mystery novel from multiple points of view. If done poorly, all sense of mystique escapes faster than air from a punctured balloon. Bledsoe succeeds brilliantly, offering a a thrilling ride that fans of urban fantasy and mystery alike will have difficulty putting it down. Not a word is wasted.
A Wisp of a Thing is the second novel of the Tufa. I hadn't read the first, The Hum and the Shiver, prior to giving his newest a go. This had the added effect of supremely heightening the sense of wonder I experienced with A Wisp of a Thing. Every supernatural element was new to me; an unknown commodity. While I plan to pick up the first book, I can say without hesitation that readers fresh to Bledsoe's work lose nothing by jumping right in with his newest book. In fact you may even enjoy Wisp of a Thing more, and since it is a stand alone novel, you shouldn't feel bad about leaping right in.
While I found the resolution wasn't as strong as the rest of the novel deserved, it does nothing to diminish the haunting, personal journey Bledsoe puts us through. These characters live and breathe in a world that is as vivid as they are. I was gripped from the first chapter; so much so that I wanted to throw off other responsibilities and stay in Needsville for just one more. Clocking in at 352 pages, Wisp of a Thing is the perfect summer book, but readers had best be prepared for a late night or two. It's available now as a Tor Hardcover for $25.99 from Tor/Forge Publishing. Get it today and lose yourself to the mysteries of the Tufa.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.