The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Please note The Cormorant is the third book in an on-going series. It’s entirely possible that this review may contain the odd spoiler or two. See I warned ya! Now I don’t expect any moaning if you spot one, you were warned!
Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from “thief”… to “killer”.
Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she’s good at. But in her vision she sees her client die by another’s hand – and on the wall, written in blood, is a message just for Miriam.
I have what can best be described a strange relationship with Chuck Wendig. Not literally, you understand. I don’t follow him around everywhere or anything like that (apparently that sort of thing can lead to restraining orders). No, I mean with his writing. I’ve read and adored both Blackbirds and Mockingbird. They are both deliciously dark modern adult fairy tales that grab you by the throat and refuse to let go until they’re done with you. Splendid stuff.
I had assumed, based on my immense enjoyment of said novels that I was a dyed in the wool Chuck Wending fan. I picked up another one of Chuck’s novels and strangely I just could not get into it. For reasons I don’t fully understand, and probably can’t adequately manage to write about, I just couldn’t connect with the story in the same way I did with the first two Miriam Black books. It was a distressing thought. As you can no doubt imagine, I grew concerned. All manner of crazy thoughts started running through my head “Where did it all go wrong?“, “ Have I always felt this way?” ,”Just exactly who put the bop in the bop shebop shebop? ” and most importantly “What happens if my literary love affair with Mr Wendig really is finally over?“.
The Cormorant picks up with Miriam “trying to be a better person”™. She is attempting to use her unique gift to save innocents whenever possible. Turns out that this is a bit trickier than she assumed it would be. Deep down, and I mean way, WAY near the bottom somewhere, I do think that Miriam wants to do good/be good but life has treated her so badly that her first reaction is normally not a positive one. Helping people is never going to be easy when you’re the poster child for not being a people person. Yes, Miriam can often be a spectacular bitch. She’s more than a little broken and entirely capable of utterly shitty behaviour, but there are reasons why she is the way she is.
This book delves deeper into Miriam’s shady history and explores the turbulent relationship that she shares with her mother. The fallout from events in books one and two come back to haunt our protagonist and she has to finally face her various demons, the same demons that she been actively running from for many years. Miriam comes to accept that her actions don’t occur in isolation. The things that she does have consequences and these don’t just disappear each time she hits the road. With these novels, Mr Wendig continues to craft a masterful story that I find myself powerless to resist. It’s an impressive feat creating a multi-book narrative that manages to deliver the same emotional impact in the dying pages of book three as it did in the opening passages of book one.
The books in this series continue to defy simple categorisation. In one breath it manages to be dark fantasy/horror, in the next introspective character study. Add in the subtlest dash of noir-crime and you have something that manages to be utterly unique.
I can imagine that to most Miriam Black is a Marmite character, your either going to love her or loath her. I read The Cormorant in a single sitting, for me there is just something wonderfully addictive about Miriam’s acerbic personality; she can destroy people with a single utterance. Sometimes waspish, often harsh, her barbed comments are a constant delight (well, as long as you’re not on the receiving end of them). It’s nice to see that as this series has developed Miriam has evolved as a character along with it. Slowly but surely the author has revealed the different layers to her personality. When it comes to Miss Black not making anything even remotely resembling an assumption is normally a wise move. Just when you think you’ve got her character pegged, you discover another facet to her personality that makes your re-evaluate everything you’ve discovered before.
It seems then that it’s Miriam Black I’m having the literary love affair with, not Chuck Wendig after all. So be it. I’m looking forward to book four, Thunderbird, already. I’d imagine Mr Wendig is breathing a huge sigh of relief upon learning this particular revelation. Good news – no restraining order required after all*
Cormorant is published by Angry Robot Books and is available as an ebook from 31st December 2013 and in print on 2nd January 2014.
*That is unless of course they start raising them for fictional characters in which case I am utterly screwed.