[This review was previously posted on Reddit’s r/Fantasy sub here.]
March has been a crazy month for me, so I thought I’d share a pre-blog review here. Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe is technically the second book in his Tufa series, with the first being The Hum and the Shiver. However, aside from a few nods to the first one, it functions very well as a standalone. It’s also the one I started with.
Rob Quillen’s girlfriend has just died in a plane crash on her way to see him in the finals of So You Think You Can Sing? A stranger tells Rob to travel to Needsville, Tennessee in Cloud County. There, he will find a song by the Tufa that can heal a broken heart. While there, Rob gets more than he bargained for as he learns more about the mysterious Tufa people and the town of Needsville itself.
The writing is reminiscent of John Darnielle. It has that simple, yet eerie quality to it. The atmosphere feels like a horror novel without actually being a horror novel. It’s like a portal fantasy without actually being portal fantasy. There’s something slightly off, but it really works.
This book’s strong point is its atmosphere. The characters are great and so is the plot. But the atmosphere leads them along. I would describe this book as a slow burn. It’s one I would suggest maybe taking your time with, despite it being relatively short.
The blend of modern technology with an “off the grid” town works very well. This novel also plays with the timeless “outsider” trope found in countless novels. That is, we mainly follow Rob’s POV (3rd person), who is new to the town. We do get sections of other characters’ POVs, though.
There is magic, but I think it’s better to discover it as you read. Really, a big part of the novel is discovering more about this odd little town and the local Tufa folk as the story unfolds.
I think fans of The Raven Cycle’s style and atmosphere would also enjoy this one.