Miriam Black: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Blackbirds

Bane of Kings reviews Blackbirds, an urban fantasy novel by Chuck Wendig, published by Angry Robot books. Blackbirds was released earlier this month worldwide, and is well worth a long into.

“Dark, page-turning and awesome, Blackbirds takes urban fantasy to a whole new level. This is one novel that you won’t want to miss.” ~The Founding Fields

When I first got stuck into the e-copy that was Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t read any of Chuck Wending’s novels before, although I will be checking out his Double Dead (Abaddon Books), as soon as I can. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got, and I certainly didn’t expect anything as dark, gritty and as twisted as what this turned out to be. Neither, did I expect anything as fantastic as this. You want to know why you should stop whatever you’re reading and go out and buy Blackbirds right now?

Well, after this blurb, I’m going to tell you.

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Touch Of Death | The Future Is Written | Free Way | Surviving ]

I hadn’t read anything like Blackbirds before. Sure, I’d read urban fantasy, particularly The Dresden Files – however, the first novel in the Miriam Black series, is a different beast completely. As mentioned above, it’s dark. Very dark. There are no heroes here, no knights in shining armour. Blackbirds proves that good people do bad things, as well as bad people can do good things. There are mostly no Dark Lords or Chosen Ones here, so if that’s not what you want, then you’d better find something else to read now. However, if you’re sick of this trope and want something fresh and original, then keep reading.

Ever wondered what it would be like if you had the ability to see how somebody died just by touching them? I haven’t, and I think you probably haven’t either. However, Chuck Wendig clearly has, and in this novel, he’s got across a not so common ‘What If?’ idea very well, and as well as presenting a memorable and unique character in Miriam,  the author has created a great piece of fiction that is yet another novel that will end up on my Best of 2012 list.

Due to the whole nature of this novel, it’s far from a light-hearted read. This is a depressing one, so again, this may put a few people off. However, it shouldn’t – as Blackbirds is a really good read. It’s consistently paced throughout the novel, even with the many Interludes that are found here, as Chuck Wendig uses these to explore Miriam’s past without flashbacks in another unique (that I’ve seen) way, which helps make this novel more interesting.

Blackbirds is very different from the mainstream urban fantasy novels, as you’ve probably gathered. The heroine is no heroine, and she certainly doesn’t allow the male lead cast to do all the work for her. This is in fact, more urban fantasy crossed with horror than normal Urban Fantasy novels, so fans of the genre may find something different here.

There’s also a large use of profanity in Blackbirds, but it certainly is neither overused nor used in wrong places. The swearing just fits in so well with the atmosphere of the story that by the end of it, you’d find it hard to imagine what Blackbirds would be like without the use of profanity.

Next up, I’d like to talk about the cover art. It’s just awesome. Normally, I’m not a big fan of urban fantasy cover arts, but this one, created by Joey Hi-Fi, is something special. It’s just as awesome as the novel, and the second one, titled Mockingbirds, looks equally as awesome. I can’t wait for Mockingbirds to come out, and I’m interested to know where Wending will take the reader, as Blackbirds was a fantastic series opener.

The pace is even throughout the whole novel, and you won’t want to put it down. The action is also good, and the fight scenes portrayed in this book are realistic, not exaggerated, and there are some particularly awesome encounters in Blackbirds that you shouldn’t be missing out on.

The novel is well thought out, well plotted and, with a whole host of mentally unstable but enjoyable characters, a really good read. The dialogue doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic, and that helps make it more enjoyable – and has once again proved that Angry Robot are one of the most awesome publishing industries out there. Blackbirds is not to be missed, and I am struggling to find anything negative about it, apart from the fact there are a few questions left unanswered, such as why Miriam can see how people can die, which obviously leaves plenty of room for future novels. I for one, cannot wait to see where Wending takes the reader in the sequel, which comes out later this summer. It’s a novel that I will be eagerly awaiting for one, and you should be as well, even if you are yet to read Blackbirds.

Verdict: 4/5

Miriam Black Series: Blackbirds, Mockingbirds (Coming Soon), The Cormorant (Coming Soon).

More by Chuck Wendig: Double Dead.

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and a prolific reviewer who can be found on many places on the internet usually under the same username – when he’s not trying to catch up on the many seasons of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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