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BOOK REVIEW: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

REVIEW SUMMARY: A dark, gripping character novel.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Miriam Black knows how and when you’re going to die, just by a simple touch. When she meets a truck driver who’s death she’s going to be present at, she’s pulled into a plot that will test her gifts and outlook on life.

PROS: Strong, character driven novel, with a vivid, high-speed pace.
CONS: Very dark throughout, overly so at points, with a couple of untied ends.
BOTTOM LINE: Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds came highly recommended by a number of friends over the past summer, and after picking up a copy and reading through the first couple of pages, I can see why. It’s gripping from the get go, and jumps out of the gate and never slows down. While none of the characters in Blackbirds are particularly likeable, it’s hard not to root for anti-hero Miriam as she’s pulled into a plot that twists her around into knots.

With just a touch, Miriam Black can see when and how people will die. It’s a troubling gift, and its kept her up on the road, right on the ragged edge of the Mid-Atlantic coast. She’s used to the deaths that she can’t prevent, but it’s particularly troubling when she comes across a truck driver who calls out her name when he’s murdered in just a couple of weeks. In short order, she finds herself in the company of a con man and tracked by a violent pair of agents for an even scarier individual who’ll stop at nothing to take back what’s his…

Blackbirds is a novel that feels grounded in the real world; fantastic elements are few and far between, with the exception of Miriam’s powers, and with the occasional surreal dream sequences that helps our protagonist sort things out a bit. It’s dark and gritty, sometimes overly so, driving forward relentlessly. Miriam plays a fantastically conflicted character, someone who’s utterly rudderless in life until meeting Louis and becoming ensnared in a plot involving a million dollars worth of stolen meth and a manipulative con man. Miriam is at the center of the chaos, a cynical and biting character, but someone who you can’t help but not root for.

There’s points where the book is a bit of a letdown; there are elements of where this could be a truly epic story – and it might become that, over the course of future installments – but remaining stubbornly on the ground. One never quite gets the sense of the source of Miriam’s powers, nor the implications; they’re just *there*, with only her indifference towards them to guide the reader. We also don’t see much of the motives behind their pursuers, and I can’t help but think that there’s more to the story that will develop with more. (A second book, Mockingbird has already been released, and is out in stores, and a third, Cormorant is due out next year)

Blackbirds is a shocking, dark read that pulls you deep into its story and simply won’t let go until you’ve blown through. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

About Andrew Liptak (180 Articles)
Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer and historian from Vermont. He is a 2014 graduate of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and has written for such places as Armchair General, io9, Kirkus Reviews, Lightspeed Magazine, and others. His first book, War Stories: New Military Science Fiction is now out from Apex Publications, and his next, The Future Machine: The Writers, Editors and Readers who Build Science Fiction is forthcoming from Jurassic London in 2015. He can be found over at and at @AndrewLiptak on Twitter.

9 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

  1. There’s points where the book is a bit of a letdown; there are elements of where this could be a truly epic story – and it might become that, over the course of future installments – but remaining stubbornly on the ground.

    I do wonder if Chuck is going to parcel that out across the subsequent books, yeah.

    • I do plan to keep this mystery unfolding throughout the books — MOCKINGBIRD, for those who have read it, is a good example. The mythology deepens there and will continue in the third book, THE CORMORANT.

      Thanks for the great review here!

      — c.

  2. Hm. Is this a novel focused at the YA audience? Asking because the overall synopsis definitely sounds like a standard YA thing..

  3. Nick Sharps // October 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm //

    Good review! I really enjoyed the book, especially Miriam. I do wish the villains had a bit more development though. Or a lot more development…

  4. “but not root for” –> “but root for”?

  5. Readers are treated to more tidbits and background information in subsequent books, and all of those things we wonder about become clearer. I really liked Blackbirds. Mockingbird knocked me for a loop. I can’t wait for The Cormorant.

    Absolutely not intended for juvenile readers, these books are loaded with grit, grime, foul language, and difficult (read: adult) situations.

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