Tor Books, 2017, 320 pages
Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa. Young Kara Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville. When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community. In response, the county's best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess, are assembled to hunt them down.
Kara's boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure. Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt. Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off. As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.
Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers. Between literal beasts in the woods and figurative wolves in sheep's clothing, what truths will arise come spring?
I'm trucking through these novels, which follow the Urban Fantasy formula except they take place in Appalachia. The Tufa, a mysterious ethnic group that outsiders believe is some mixed-race blend of white, black, and Native American, but are actually the descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann, are once again roiled by an old-fashioned hill country soap opera that brings outsiders poking around.
It all starts when a teenage girl is banging two boys. Which, we are told, the Tufa do not really care about, since they are neither Christian nor completely human and their morals aren't conventional ones. Of course, we were told in the last book that the Tufa don't really care about sexual orientation either, but that didn't prevent the "bad" Tufa from making "faggot" jokes every page or so.
Kara, our hot-to-trot teenage protagonist, is just mulling over which of her beaus she should bang tonight when she encounters a giant killer hog out in the woods, and gets gored and eaten. The Tufa may not be completely human, but they can still die in stupid ways.
As the town, and the local wildlife control anti-hog task force (yes, really, apparently wild hogs are a real problem in Appalachia, though usually not car-sized ones) goes a'hunting, both of Kara's exes decide they want to kill the thing too... for revenge. Well, they are teenage boys, therefore, not too bright. One of them doesn't know the other one knew he was also doing Kara, so when they go out at night to find the hog.... there is, you might say, a kind of hunting accident.
The rest of the book is about the search for the hog, and the search for the answers behind Adam Procure's death. Duncan, the guilt-ridden buddy of the dead boy, ends up being "comforted" by Adam's hot younger sister.
So, Gather Her Round is mostly a soap opera. But there's also some more faerie mysticism, as Mandalay Harris, the twelve-year-old girl with all the memories of thousands of years of Tufa keeps making cryptic statements about how "things are going to change." Everyone is jumpy about whether the spirit, or haint, of Rockhouse Hicks, the mean and nasty leader of the "Unseelie" Tufa who died a couple of books ago, is still around. And there is more music, as the Tufa really like music.
The Tufa saga is light reading, but remains passably entertaining. It seems as if the books are leading up to some significant change in the status quo, but that might not be until the author has milked the series dry.
Also by Alex Bledsoe: My reviews of The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing, Long Black Curl, and Chapel of Ease.
My complete list of book reviews.