I read and reread the past four Tufa books very carefully, looking for things that would create beautiful scenes in a coloring book. (I drew The Tufa Coloring Book.) So, I was relieved recently to crack open Alex Bledsoe’s latest book, Gather Her Round, and just, you know. Read it.
Having read the previous four so closely further enriched my reading experience of the fifth. I knew what to expect, and when I found it, it was comfortable and cozy. And then when the unexpected happened, that made it all the more exciting.
Gather Her Round has all of the elements which made me love the other Tufa novels:
– The magical forest as a setting.
– The strong female characters.
– The songs.
– The tribal rituals elevated to a higher level of intelligence.
– The outsider discovering the Tufa for the first time.
– Rednecks as real, relatable people.
– The clash between the two Tufa groups.
– Riding the night winds!
All that, and more, of course. Gather Her Round most notably also has a mythical beast, really more of a horror story type beast, but written without excessive gore. We don’t know if the wild boar is a normal pig escaped from a farm, or something conjured by a haint, or if it’s, as the fortune teller says, “mostly real,” but not entirely. Perhaps the Night Winds conjured it? The mystery of the whole thing kept me reading. And then there was also the guilt of not really killing someone, and not really not killing someone. It made for a good story, well told.
Oh, and it’s a story within a story, one of my favorite things! (cue Julie Andrews) The whole tale is told by a Tufa keeping everyone on the edge of their seats at a storytelling event.