A screech owl stood on the porch rail, its tiny talons scratching against the wood. The dawn light made the tufts of its wind-ruffled feathers look jagged and bloody. The bird had a voice far out of proportion to its size, and was intimately acquainted with the night winds that guided the Tufa destiny. It was also, when seen during the day, an omen of death.
So when Chloe Hyatt, a pureblood Tufa, saw it through the little window over the kitchen sink, she froze.
Water from the faucet ran heedlessly down the drain. She began to hum a secret tune for both calm and protection. The day’s events were going to be difficult enough without adding this to it.
The owl’s head turned almost 180 degrees to stare at her. The movement was so sudden, she jumped. For a moment the bird held her gaze; then it flew off into the trees.
She followed its flight and caught the haint’s outline as it faded into the dawn. As it had done for the last week, the apparition remained silent and watchful all night. When it first appeared, they’d all approached it, but it ignored entreaties from Chloe; her husband, Deacon; and their younger son, Aiden. Kell, her older son, would have sensed it and come home from Knoxville had it been meant for him. That left only one Hyatt ordained to receive its message: her wayward middle child and only daughter.
But though the haint wanted someone else, Chloe knew the owl was intended just for her. It wasn’t the first death omen the night winds had recently blown her way.
The sun crested the side of the mountain, turning the ominous red dawn to gold. Midges and pollen hung sparkling in the air. Everything brought by the night wind vanished.
Deacon came up behind her and kissed her on the shoulder. He smelled of aftershave and that generic dandruff shampoo he liked. “Morning,” he said quietly, not wanting to wake Aiden. The boy had been so excited about his big sister’s impending return that he hadn’t fallen asleep until midnight, after both Chloe and Deacon sang him their usually foolproof lullabies. Even Tufa children, it seemed, could hear the hum but resist the shiver.
“You haven’t made the coffee,” Deacon observed.
“Sorry,” Chloe murmured. She put the carafe under the faucet.
Deacon peered out the window. “Was the haint still out there this morning?”
Chloe nodded as she filled the coffeemaker. She did not mention the death owl. Deacon had been upset enough by the unseasonable blooms on her acacias.
“You’d think it’d know she ain’t here yet,” Deacon continued.
Chloe dried her hands, hoping Deacon didn’t notice the trembling. “Just ’cause they’re from the other side don’t mean they’re any smarter than they were before. When it was alive, it might’ve been one of those people who were always early for things.”
He nodded. “True enough. You sure it ain’t for you or me? Maybe we should call in Bliss, see if she can talk to it.”
“It won’t speak to her, you know that. Aiden can’t see it, and Kell would’ve been home from college by now if it was for him, sensitive as he is. That only leaves one of us.”
Deacon nodded. He spoke the name with all the weight it carried: the name of his middle child, the one who caused him more sleepless nights and grief than the ot
Praise for The Hum and the Shiver
“Imagine a book somewhere between American Gods and Faulkner. In brief: a good book. Absolutely worth your time.”—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author, on The Hum and the Shiver
“Haunting . . . A rustic version of ‘urban fantasy,’ with its suggestion that there’s mystery just around the corner, hidden behind even the dullest small-town facade.”—Wall Street Journal
“With a deep love for the mountains embedded in his language, Bledsoe crafts a deceptively simple story of family and community, laced throughout with the music and beliefs of a magical reality. Elegantly told.”—Library Journal, starred review
“This powerful, character-driven drama, set forth in superbly lucid prose, occurs against an utterly convincing backdrop and owns complications enough to keep everyone compulsively turning the pages. A sheer delight.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Bledsoe’s rich, nearly poetic prose . . . captured me at page one and didn’t let me go to the end. If you are a fan of urban fantasy, this is a book you need to add to your list today. There are secrets ancient and wild waiting for you to discover, and I enjoyed every minute.”–Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Bledsoe turns standard urban fantasy tropes on their head. . . . The slowly unfolding mystery of the Tufa is a fascinating and absorbing masterpiece of world-building.”—Publishers Weekly