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The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

The Cormorant (edition 2013)

by Chuck Wendig

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10310117,210 (4.2)7
Title:The Cormorant
Authors:Chuck Wendig
Info:Angry Robot (2013), Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
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The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig



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This third entry in the series didn’t disappoint, although I periodically wondered if Miriam’s bad-assness would be sacrificed for character growth.

The urban fantasy world of Miriam Black continues to be slowly fleshed out in this book. We meet a couple more characters with supernatural abilities, not exactly Miriam’s but similar in that they function in the mind. We also start to understand what might cause such a thing to happen. And how Wendig presents this information is beautifully crafted. It is a part of the story, a wonderful example of showing not telling.

Miriam doesn’t just cause chaos and get away with it, and this book fairly clearly exists to show us that Miriam is not invincible, even if she may sometimes seem it in earlier books. She’s a tough broad with a mental gift brutally acquired, and she’s trying to figure out how to function and do the right thing in this incredibly fucked up situation where she is battling unknown forces, particularly fate.

The plot forces Miriam to confront two bad specters from her past: an ex lover and her mother. I was fine with confronting the ex lover, and how it went down made sense. I was incredibly wary of her confrontations with her mother. Her mother was established as a fundamentalist abusive ball of shit in the previous books, and I was deeply concerned that Wendig was going to try to either make it seem like it was all in Miriam’s head or offer redemption for her. And the plot does sometimes dance on the edge of doing one or the other of these. But the way Miriam reacts to her mother in their confrontations help keep it grounded and realistic that not all mothers are great people.

On the other hand, an awful lot of the plot revolves around Miriam saving her mother from her untimely death at the hands of a kidnapper. I just have a hard time believing, especially given the vitriol Miriam has felt for her mother this entire time, that she would actually care that much if her mother dies. I get it that Miriam might very much not want the kidnapper to get away with it, because she hates him and he’s fucking with her, but I don’t think Miriam would actually get misty-eyed at the thought of her mother’s untimely demise. It felt forced instead of being Miriam. That said, the plot does manage to stick to its guns enough that Miriam comes out of the situation still seeming like her cyanide-filled self, so I can’t fault it too much for veering that close to the edge.

I would be amiss not to mention the fact that his book establishes the fact that Miriam is bisexual. Of course, she refuses to use the term herself, and I’m fairly certain no one actually ever calls her bi. Normally a bi character refusing to call herself bi would drive me batty, but Miriam refusing labels fits 100% into her character. She doesn’t see the need to label who she fucks and other characters’ attempts to figure her out are met with disgust on her part but that’s how she feels about everything about herself. Yes, I wish more functional non-cyanide cocktail hearted characters were bi, but I also am pretty darn happy that a character I enjoy so much is bi. Plus, scenes of Miriam banging a woman were an unexpected utter delight.

The plot does a great job of being both a single book conflict and something that ultimately propels the overarching plot forward, which is exactly what one hopes for from a series book.

The writing style maintains its gritty sharpness that the series has enjoyed from the beginning. Both the narration and the conversations are a pleasure to read. Passages like those listed below are peppered throughout the book, accosting the reader with the knowledge that we are in Miriam’s world now.

Overall, this book brings most things readers have come to expect from a Miriam Black book. A gritty female main character with hard-hitting prose and a plot with a touch of the fantastic and grotesque. Some fans might be a bit disappointed by the direction Miriam’s relationship with her mother goes, but all readers will be pumped by the ending and eagerly anticipating the next entry. Recommended that fans of the first two books pick this one asap.

Check out my full review, featuring quotes! http://wp.me/pp7vL-18R ( )
  gaialover | Aug 9, 2014 |
Chuck Wendig will abuse you.

Wendig will break you. Not you "the person," but you "the reader," via his character Miriam Black. In The Cormorant (Angry Robot, 2013), Wendig puts Miriam through the wringer, beating, stabbing, and otherwise traumatizing her--and by proxy, you. And you'll let him, because you like it. You're as sick as he is.

The Cormorant continues the story Wendig began in Blackbirds and Mockingbird. Miriam is living in Philadelphia, testing the limits of her powers. But fate still has its rules: Blood for blood. When Miriam intervenes in a robbery, saving the victim and dispatching the mugger, she invites in the mysterious "Trespasser" and is wracked with guilt. Evicted from her apartment, Miriam heads to Florida to make some money by using her powers to tell a man how he's going to die. She didn't expect her vision of his death to include a note from the killer--addressed to her. Miriam faces off against someone from her past.

Readers familiar with the Miriam Black series will find in The Cormorant those elements they enjoyed in previous installments: Energetic prose, a briskly paced plot, violence, profanity, and spookiness. Rather than merely being "more of the same," though, The Cormorant extends the overall arc of Miriam's story in important ways.

Miriam, drifter for nearly a decade, tethered to no one, and preferring it that way, inches toward acknowledging that she needs other people. Louis, Miriam's love interest and protector, isn't present here, but Miriam dwells on their relationship, promising further developments in Thunderbird. More surprising to readers, perhaps, will be Miriam's encounter with her mother, Evelyn, whose religiosity was partly responsible for Miriam's decision to run away from home. Evelyn and Miriam have both changed, becoming versions of themselves that neither quite recognizes. Their relationship is fraught, and Wendig wisely chooses to leave it unresolved, a satisfying tension that denies the reader a simple conclusion.

Wendig also drops more hints in regards to Miriam's powers. Readers are already aware that trauma appears to be the engine that imparts "psychic" abilities (for lack of a better term) upon Wendig's characters, a nugget of darkness embedded in their psyches. We learned in Mockingbird that Miriam is not alone, that there are other people with powers similar to hers. In The Cormorant, Miriam further exercises her "connection" with birds, culminating in a particularly gory scene near the end of the novel. Setting the stage for Thunderbird, Wendig teases us with the possibility that Miriam may be able to transform her power in a way that would utterly change her life.

On a par with Blackbirds and Mockingbird, The Cormorant is not only a extension of Miriam's overall story arc, but also a successful novel in its own right (as its predecessors were,). Wendig's prose is muscular and his storytelling brisk, his characters and settings well drawn. As with previous entries in the Miriam Black series, readers uncomfortable with profanity and violence are unlikely to enjoy these novels. If, on the other hand, you've read Miriam's previous adventures, you'll want to read this one, too. Even as you wince at each at each punch Wendig throws Miriam's way, you'll find yourself thanking him and asking for another. Highly recommended. ( )
  LancasterWays | Jun 29, 2014 |
Full Review: http://tenaciousreader.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/the-cormorant-by-chuck-wendig/

I this may have taken seat as my favorite of Chuck Wendig’s books and put the fourth Miriam Black one on my must read list (please tell me there will be a fourth!). So, yeah, go read it. Miriam once again kicks ass.
( )
  tenaciousreader | May 24, 2014 |
Miriam is back in The Cormorant with as much in your face spunk as you’ve come to expect from her. She’s been through a lot since Blackbirds and I must say you’ll see here come quite ways here as well. There were some very some turns that I did not expect and frankly a few that I was somewhat disappointed in, but overall a good showing and great character growth was achieved for Miriam.

I was of course immediately sucked in with the violence, mystery,thrills and the typical awesomeness which Chuck Wendig had indoctrinated me to with Blackbirds and Mockingbird.

The Good: I can promise you more graphic grizzly deaths, a positive for me because hey Im just that twisted. A kicking sweet scene with birds the likes of which Hitchcock himself couldn’t top, I shit you not. SPOILERS BEWARE: Jailtime, kidnapping, and attempted dismemberment and maybe perhaps a night of drunken debauchery? Top that all off with some good old family feuding and self loathing and what have you got but a deliciously toxic mix of kick ass.

Now, some of the Bad: Unfortunately, for me The Cormorant started to fall short after about the 40% mark, lacking some of the punch that I had experienced in the previous two books. I could blame this on myself as I was amping myself up for an even bigger and badder nasty villain than before. In that respect I have to say I was…let down. Ok so was the villain sick, twisted, and a realistic type creep? Yes, yes and yes. So why then Tabitha were you disappointed? I can’t say that I know exactly why. This and several things about the latter part of the plot just didn’t quite light my fire in the same way. Perhaps I was just anticipating more than what I got or something different. There was some good, there was some bad, there was the hurt me so good ugly but even so I find myself fence sitting on this one a bit.

The Cormorant was still a good addition to the Miriam Black series. She does go through some reality checks and a smidge of growing up and self realizations that no doubt have been a long time coming. I can tell there is definitely more in store for her and hopefully the next installment will return me to the heapings of love for Miriam’s badassery. Because of course you know I plan to continue. ( )
  Pabkins | May 2, 2014 |
He leans over toward her. She smells his breath. It smells of roadkill ripening in a wet ditch. He taps the end of the feather on the dashboard, click, click, click. "I’m just warning you Miriam Black. Forces have been aligning against you for a while. You’ve been fucking with this Jenga tower for too long, and it ain't long before it all comes clickety-clackety falling down."

Responding to a Craigslist ad she wasn't aware had been posted on her behalf, Miriam finds herself travelling to Florida to meet up with a man wishing to know how he will kick the bucket. In exchange for her services, the unknown party is offering up a cool five grand – thus making it an offer she can’t afford to refuse. Of course, the whole thing sounds shady to begin with and when Ms. Black finds out who’s really pulling the strings, you can bet your ass shit is about to hit the fan.

The third book (and thankfully not the last) in the Miriam Black series is an outstanding read. If you've read what I have written about the first two (Blackbirds, Mockingbird) then you’re aware that I’m a huge fan of these books. They’re fast paced, witty and consistently entertaining – a true page turner by the very definition. At this point, I feel like Wendig would need to have been given a frontal lobotomy to screw this up.

If you liked the first two in the series, I can guarantee you’re going to like this. Miriam is still her tried and true self, spewing verbal harpoons at both friend and foe. The road that lies ahead of her is no less bumpy nor is it a straight drive as it’s littered with both twists and turns galore. Wendig explores more of Miriam’s past and what makes her tick by bringing her mother into the present day for the first time in the series. Given their tumultuous past, their back and forth is awkward and rough around the edges. As we all know by now, Miriam isn't one who exactly forgives easily.

While it was touched upon in Mockingbird, The Cormorant kicks down the door on the fact that Miriam isn't alone when it comes to her special “gift”. In fact, it’s known that there are indeed others out there that possess altered versions of what Miriam can do and they aren't always friendly.

Following the acknowledgements, Chuck states that Miriam’s due for a return in the fourth novel of the series, Thunderbird. I was spoiled in being able to read the first three books back to back to back – now I have to wait. And I’m not a man known for patience. Write faster! ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
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