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The Hum and the Shiver
By Alex Bledsoe
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
The whole reason I picked up this 2011 novel is because a sequel to it is just now being released, and I was so fascinated by the concept behind them that I thought the two books might make for a good double-review; that concept being, "What if some of the ancient clans from Scotland and Ireland who eventually emigrated in the 1700s to the American Appalachian Mountains were in fact not human at all, but actually varying families of fairies who had fled Scotland and Ireland a thousand years before that, and that some of those backwards, closed-off small towns in Kentucky and Tennessee are in fact now entirely inhabited by people who can perform magic?" (Or in other words, if you consider something like Neil Gaiman's 1990s work to be "urban fantasy," this might best be called "rural fantasy.") Unfortunately, though, author Alex Bledsoe never finds anything interesting to actually do with this fascinating concept, turning in a molasses-slow story that repeats all its relatively small amount of plot points five or six times in order to fill pages (I get it! Our Iraq-veteran hero is going to heal more quickly than humans! I GET IT, BLEDSOE!), and that paints its overly obvious villains as broadly as a cartoon might. And worst of all, although there's an NPR enthusiast's amount of obsession over the true-life folk songs of Appalachia (I suspect one of the main reasons Bledsoe even wanted to write this), barely any actual magic takes place, aside from occasional weird hand gestures and Jedi Mind Trick headaches; and without the magical element, this is simply a story about feuding hillbillies in red state hell, and Lord, I have no interest in reading that. Not actually badly written, it's still getting a low score, simply from the huge disappointment the reality of this book was compared to the expectations of its premise.
Out of 10: 6.9