There be bad language ahead! But, if you’ve read the Miriam Black series by Chuck Wendig, you’ll know why foul language is entirely appropriate to review this book.
Synopsis: Miriam’s finally accepting her role as Fate Changer and Killer. She’s also on the road again, this time heading to Florida where a wealthy businessman wants to pay her a ton of money just to learn how he dies. Easy, right? Except for the fact that nothing is ever easy for Miriam Black. Now, she’s finally met her match and everything is at stake, including her life and the life of her loved ones.
Here’s the deal: I love these books because I’ve never read anything like them. Miriam Black is not just an anti-hero, she’s a take-no-shit, hell-talking, bad-ass motherfucker. And that is rare in a female protagonist. Oftentimes, authors want to make their female protagonists likeable; Miriam is not likeable. Half the time I want to tell her to take a chill pill or to shut up. Most of the time, I’m thinking Miriam Black would be a horrible person to know; the kind of train wreck you only want to read about in the news. And the interesting thing is that Miriam knows she’s a train wreck of a human being. In The Cormorant, she actively says that she’s a poison to everyone who knows her. I think of her more as a blood sucking leech — and the funny thing is, she doesn’t mean to be. She’s self-destructing, entirely due to self-loathing, but her self-destruction is a hurricane that sucks in other people. Because, try as she might, Miriam Black does not like being alone.
This dichotomy — an anti-hero, self-destructive, leech-of-a-person who actually wants to be around people and inwardly wants to do good — makes her a very compelling character.
Then, of course, there are the interesting plot points. Most of which are still only half-answered in the series. Why does Miriam have this special gift (as in, what’s her purpose)? Who is the Trespasser? Is she fighting on the side of good or evil when she changes people’s fates? Why are there certain times she can intercede in someone’s fate and certain times when it’s a “bad idea”?
The nitty-gritty, dark, violent description of Miriam’s gift (she can see the way people will die when she touches them) is a driving force in this series. Everything that happens to Miriam has something to do with her gift. And [usually], I found it an intriguing plot device.
I am still having a hard time completely buying Miriam Black’s mannerisms. If I suspend disbelief and just enjoy, yes, Miriam is entertaining and totally abnormal. But, if I’m honest with myself, Miriam’s abnormality gets to me. Sometimes, I feel that Miriam’s backstory does not match her current persona. A character’s past makes up the way they act in the present — in the story. Miriam grew up on a middle-class, strict household; I doubt she’d have been allowed to say “hell” let alone the worse cuss words. In fact, in The Cormorant, Miriam says god’s name in vain and realizes her mother wouldn’t have liked that. How did Miriam get from that strict upbringing to the woman she is today?
Most women are ingrained with the “act nice” principal. In my own household, cussing was strictly taboo. Cussing was unconscionable. Now, more than a decade out of my parent’s house, I still feel a thrill when I say “fuck” and there’s a little voice in my head that thinks, Ohmigod, the big F word. Is this OK? Miriam’s upbringing was even more strict than mine. And she says things worse than just “fuck.” Where did all the filters go?
Ultimately, I can’t shake the feeling that Miriam Black is a female protagonist written by a male author. I don’t think a female author would make her so easily crass. And trust me, I hate admitting that.
This one is tough to talk about without giving away some spoilers, so I’m going to be annoyingly vague here. Sorry. There is a moment at the end where a sudden plot point is thrown into the book and I just couldn’t buy it. I think it was introduced as a way to lay the groundwork for the next book in the series, Thunderbird, but it was (in my opinion) sloppily done. It seems jammed in, and the way Miriam finds it is very convenient and tough to believe. When I read it, I stopped, blinked, said to myself, “Really? You have got to be kidding me.” But no, there were no chuckles; everyone was serious. The book ended with that as the next book’s introduction. Considering how carefully the rest of the book was woven together, I just didn’t like how suddenly this detail was thrown in — and it’s kind of important, too.
Definitely worth a read, but not for the faint of heart. I’d also suggest starting from the first book, Blackbird, since this series builds on itself book by book.