This is a novel which, like its characters, possesses depths that it does not reveal readily to the casual reader. On the surface, this is a straightforward fantasy/adventure novel that is utterly enjoyable in and of itself. The characters are interesting, the pacing is good, there are plenty of surprises, and like its predecessor, The Hum and the Shiver, it draws to an exciting and satisfying climax. I read The Hum and the Shiver in a single day, and, as I promised myself, I extended my time with Wisp of a Thing to three days, not because it did not entice, but because I knew I would have to wait many months for the trilogy's final book to appear, and I wanted to postpone that bleak horizon. On this basis alone, I award the book 5 stars.
At the next level, however, this is a book about the power of words and of song. The protagonist, Rob Quillen, is driven to find the words and the song that will set his troubled soul at rest, and his search unearths a power that threatens the very fabric of Tufa society. I found the first book of the Tufa series through the songs of the band Tuatha Dea, and now I find that through the second book, I find more music from other artists. The loop from music to book and back to music has already introduced me to artists I would have otherwise never heard. I honestly cannot think of another book that has expanded my horizons in such an unusual way. From Rebecca Hubbard's steampunk aesthetic and unearthly vocals, to the haunting, candlelit performances of Jennifer Goree, my playlist has exploded with a new kind of music that I didn't know I was looking for, but now find I can't do without. Sort of like a visit to Needsville, I suppose.
At yet another level, Bledsoe's tale reaches deeper into our pre-historical consciousness. Bledsoe has taken on the task of retelling the ageless battles and unending intermingling between the Tuatha De Danann and the Formorians, within the uneasy truce that the Tuatha made with the Milesians, when they conceded the material Earth to mortal hands. Bledsoe does not hew as closely to the received wisdom as did David Drake in his retelling of the poetic Edda in his Northworld trilogy, but that should be expected, as the Celtic stories themselves are jumbled, overlapping and contradicting, unlike the Edda.
I won't spoil anybody's fun by revealing the subtle meanings that Bledsoe has stowed away in this book, but I would suggest that anyone reading Wisp of a Thing do their homework if they want to enjoy some of the book's hidden richness. Like the characters in the novel, pay attention to the turning of a leaf or the feel of the wind, and greater understanding will be awarded to you.
The trouble with "middle" books in a series is that they often bog down as the author maneuvers his pieces on the board for the denoument in the final books. Bledsoe deftly avoids this problem; while I have little doubt that all the players are in the right place for the last book of the trilogy, there was no sacrifice to the current story. It kept me on the edge of my seat.
With this book behind me, it will be an empty several months until "Long Black Curl" debuts. I guess the only thing I can do is pull out my banjo and pluck out the songs I hear on the wind.