BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Janet Harper, an ambitious Tufa seeking the end of their exile, winds up dealing with a race of creatures even older and more dangerous than she.
PROS: Excellent evocation of music as magic theme; a seamless collaboration between the authors; wonderful soft and loud touches on character, setting and worldbuilding.
CONS: Novella comes to a rather abrupt, perhaps slightly unsatisfying, conclusion.
BOTTOM LINE: An excellent introduction to Bledsoe’s Tufa universe, and a peek at Frohock’s Nefilim.
Janet Harper is a talented musician, even by the standards of her family and race. That’s saying something as she is one of the Tufa, one of the Celtic fae that were banished to the North American continent when the Appalachians were as tall and rugged as the Rocky Mountains. Janet is ambitious and inquisitive, and finding the pieces of a mysteriously broken record is a puzzle to be solved, not something for the trash.
The Tufa are excellent musicians, but they aren’t the only supernatural race, nor are they the only supernatural race that are musicians. When Janet’s investigation of the mysterious record reveals the existence of a song that might heal that ancient rift between the Tufa and the rest of the fae, how can Janet resist pursuing its existence? Even if that pursuit brings her across the ocean and into the presence of the song’s creators, the Nefilim. The Nefilim come from a very different supernatural tradition than the Tufa or the Fae. They are as interested in music just as the Tufa are, but dealing with fallen angels might not be the smartest thing Janet Harper has ever done.
Hisses and Wings is a collaboratively written novella by author Alex Bledsoe and Teresa Frohock. It merges the Tufa universe of Alex Bledsoe’s novels with Teresa Frohock’s Los Nefilim.
Collaborations between authors are interesting beasts. Some they are, by design or by style, bivocal in nature; you can dtect the differing voices of the authors. Characters might come across differently, there could be shifts in perception, in what the point of views look at, refractions of the whole. Sometimes this is by design, and sometimes it’s an accident of the collaborative process. You wind up with two voices working (in the best of times) in distinct collaborative harmony.
The writing in Hisses and Wings aims for a seamless collaborative approach. It feels like the authors wrote and rewrote each of their bits to obtain a unity of tone and style throughout the story. The two voices merge together not as a harmony of two voices, but rather as a seamless, strong, single voice. If you asked me what parts Bledsoe wrote and what parts Frohock wrote, I would guess that the former originally wrote all of the Tufa material, and the latter focused on the Nefilim. However, given that most of the action does take place on Nefilim territory, I can’t even be entirely sure. The point of the matter is, the novella never feels like it’s shifting gears. The boundary between the authors voices never comes up.
The story matter is not quite as dark as some of Frohock’s other fiction, but music and art are subjects near and dear to both author’s hearts, and that is reflected in the writing. Music and magic are old friends, both within outside and outside genre. This is also true of supernatural christian mythography as well as stories of faerie music. Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul at a crossroads for musical talent. “The Devil went down to Georgia” and lost a golden violin in the course of a musical conflict. The latter song, especially, is a template for the main action of the novella. Even my tin ear highly appreciated how music infuses and informs the story throughout.
Hisses and Wings also gets points for diversity of characters, both in terms of gender as well as sexual orientation (particularly, Diago, one of the Los Nefilim) Its refreshing to see it in fantasy, and not made a big deal of, just a natural part of the universe. Would that more authors did this.
Hisses and Wings makes me eager for more collaborations between the authors, as well as seeing more of Frohock’s brand new (to readers) universe. Many questions that arise about the Nefilim are invoked in the story, even as a couple about the Tufa were answered. I highly appreciated some of the subtle touches about both worlds that were so carefully invoked, like a quiet voice amongst the more prominent voices in the fugue of the narrative.
The ending of the novella is rather abrupt — too abrupt for my taste — as if the authors sensed the song of the story was ready to spiral out of their control and become something much longer than this tasty novella. The ending comes with a not entirely satisfactory jolt. Even so, Hisses and Wings stands solidly alone as well as well as being both and entrance into Bledsoe’s Tufa universe and an introduction to a new fantasy universe from Frohock. On those grounds, the novella succeeds. And it’s available for the price of a song.