Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1) by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig
Miriam has a talent – when she touches a person she can see when and how they will die. And they will die that way – there’s no way to change it; she has tried and has herself been part of the cause of their death.
This has left her with a rather bleak view of the world as she travels around, following visions of the dead, living on the money she scavenges from the recently deceased.
But her talent has been noticed by a more ambitious con-man who is decides to blackmail Miriam to his own ends, dragging her along with him. Worse, the ambitious con-man has already reached above himself – provoking far worse enemies.

And Miriam has seen a death of a truly decent man; a man she wants to grow attached to, but what can she do with his inevitable, horrific death looming in front of her?
This is the second book by Chuck Wendig I’ve read, after Blue Blazes, and I now feel a vague need to track down the author, give him cake and a fluffy kitten and assure him that there are nice things in the world. This book is grim and dark and gritty. In fact it’s Grim and Dark and Gritty since capitals are definitely needed for this. The scenes are bleak and filthy and stark. The dialogue is harsh, takes-no-prisoners and a brutally clear look at the world. Nothing is white-washed over, nothing is gently covered and there’s nothing we don’t look at in all its detailed awfulness – be it the grimness of the world, of Miriam’s situation, the brutality of murder or the stench of death.
Part of what makes this book so stark in its grimness is that the writing is a true work of art. The descriptions, the exposition, the flow of the story all comes together to really give an excellent sense of time and place, with no detail untouched no matter how unpleasant. It’s the kind of writing that treads a fine line between being wonderfully evocative and being overwritten and repetitive. It’s a fine line – but it hits the balance perfectly which is extremely hard to pull off.
This ultra-grim starkness is also a perfect way of presenting Miriam’s gift (grim), Miriam’s past (grim) and Miriam’s current attitudes and beliefs (really really grim and hopeless). Even the interludes we have of Miriam explaining her gift add to the grimness by the way they end. There’s no positive in Miriam’s life, no reprieve and even this seeming intermission is just another step on Miriam’s grim past as a scavenger of the dead.


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