Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black #1)


Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig // VBC ReviewBlackbirds (Miriam Black #1)
Chuck Wendig
Published: Sept. 24, 2013 (Tor)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: purchased

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Eight years. That’s how long Miriam Black has lived with the ability (curse?) to know when and how a person is going to die. Just one touch, skin-on-skin, is all it takes, and Miriam can tell you right down to the minute when you will take your last breath, and most of those deaths are anything but pleasant.

At the start of Blackbirds, Miriam is kind of a wanderer. Her power keeps her from forming any lasting relationships, so she does what she can to get by, which oftentimes consists of stealing from those she knows are going to die soon.

One night when Miriam gets a ride from trucker Louis and shakes his hand, the vision of his death shows him calling out Miriam’s name as he’s murdered. So the question is, can Miriam, knowing she will somehow be directly involved in a person’s death, just let events play out as fate dictates? Or will she step up and try to divert what she feels is just the inevitable?

Chuck Wendig’s writing was kind of like watching a train wreck, meaning for all the vividly gruesome descriptions, I just couldn’t look away. I’m pretty sure I could feel every bone crunch and head hit that Miriam gave or received. Every squishy, creepy, crawly, dripping, oozing thing. I really appreciated how much this pulled me into the story, and in turn emotionally invested me in the characters. Blackbirds walked a fine line of going too dark, but I found many of the characters’ penchants for snarkiness kept the book a little on the lighter side (you know in a dry, dark humor kind of way).

Blackbirds is told in alternating narratives. One deals with the main storyline of Miriam meeting Louis and subversion of fate, and the other takes place as an “Interview”-type story where we learn, in fuller detail, Miriam’s past. Miriam is a character who frequently makes bad decisions. The inclusion of the “Interview” cushions what could be taken as a bad first impression of Miriam. Instead, we begin to understand a character who has to deal with horrific (I should really capitalize HORRIFIC) scenes of death and, oftentimes, violence on a daily basis. The “Interview” also lets readers know that Miriam has tried to change the outcome of her visions. These attempts have all been unsuccessful, many heartbreakingly so.

It’s important to understand that any hesitation Miriam has in trying to help Louis is because experience tells her it won’t work. It’s the fact that we see Miriam continue to fight that makes her such a badass character and coupled with the things we learn about her past, it’s the reason why I’m firmly on Team Miriam. I think it’s safe to say this series is not going to be an easy one (for readers or characters).

Because the book tended to go to extremes in the violence department, I don’t think it’s one I could binge read in a weekend. But I will definitely be picking up the next books at some point. Along with readers, Miriam learns a lot about her powers over the course of this story. If there’s one thing that’s very clear while reading it’s that every detail can be important, and I definitely want to see how events from this book resonate in the future of the series.

Sexual content: sex, graphic violence

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