Review: Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Long-Black-CurlThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.

Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.

The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?”

Fair warning, this review contains spoilers.  I don’t usually go that route, but I don’t think I can properly write about this book without mentioning some of the plot points.

I really hate having to give a so-so review to an author whose books I have universally loved.  But even my favorite authors occasionally turn out a book that I don’t like as much as the others, and this is one of those.

Let me mention the good stuff first.  For one, the setting of the story is gorgeous and wonderfully rendered.  From the Pair-A-Dice bar to the woods surrounding Needsville, I never have any trouble tuning in to the background against which the characters move and live and breathe.  Equally well done are the characters, at least as far as making them unique and possessed of their own individual voices.  You can’t mistake any Tufa for another one, because they all feel very solidly grounded in their own personalities.

The problem comes from those very characters that I just praised.  Well-drawn they may be, but the continuing characters from previous books have been watered down to the point of uselessness.  Bronwyn, the heroine of The Hum and the Shiver, is relegated to a heavily pregnant, cranky tagalong to the rest of the cast.  Oh, she does travel to New York to find Jefferson, but is forced to take along one of the male characters, because it seems like nobody thinks an Iraqi war vet can take care of herself.  Mandalay, the leader of one of the Tufa tribes, continuously insists that it’s her responsibility to deal with Bo-Kate, but constantly whines about how she’s a twelve year old girl and can’t handle it.  In fact, most of the returning Tufa characters do little more than stand around and lament that something needs to be done but no one is willing to do it.

As for the new characters, Bo-Kate is a one-dimensional villain, doling out violence just because she can.  If there had been an explanation that such traits had been noticed when she was very young, I would have bought it, but nothing of the sort comes out.  Nigel, Bo-Kate’s assistant, is quite literally the token black man, even thinking to himself that he’s in that role.  All he does is sleep with Bo-Kate, stand by and watch as she kills people, and eventually dies by her hand without really affecting anything.  And as for Jefferson, he doesn’t show up until more than halfway through the novel, and doesn’t get to Needsville until around the last third.  Once there, he wanders around for a bit before defeating Bo-Kate by realizing that he still loves her, at which point they both explode.

I wish I was kidding about that last line.

Basically, I liked this novel because it gives me more of the Tufa.  I didn’t like it because, overall, nothing much happened and the characters that I loved were powerless to affect what little did happen.  I won’t give up on this series, but I do think that the previous novels were much better than this one.