Review: ‘The Cormorant’ by Chuck Wendig

The Cormorant

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 him die by another’s hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for Miriam.

She’s expected…

The Cormorant is the third book in the Miriam Black series, and if you’ve read the first two you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into. If you haven’t, and you like sweary, gory, action-driven urban fantasy, it’s worth going back and starting with Blackbirds, if only because it gives you some context for the events in this book. (For example, although Miriam thinks about Louis a lot in The Cormorant, he doesn’t actually make an appearance—at least, not directly.)

This series is unusual in so many ways. For a start, it’s written in the third person present tense. As a style, it really seems to work for action-based books like The Hunger Games. And this. But I did have to switch mental gears, at least at first, to get into it.

The storytelling is gory enough to make any splatter film director proud. At the start of the series Miriam is already violent—she’s homeless and cursed, so who wouldn’t be? By The Cormorant, as the blurb indicates, she’s turned into a sometime murderer as well. Miriam is not a nice girl. She drinks, chain-smokes and has some of the worst language I’ve ever seen in a work of fiction. (There’s also sex. But that bothers me less than people spitting bloody wads of spit at each other. Because ew!)

In Miriam’s defence, though, she’s been screwed by the nastiest urban fantasy superpower yet: if she touches someone, skin-to-skin, she knows when they’re going to die. We’re not just talking about a polite letter from Fate, either; Miriam sees their death in full surround sound HD, with in-built stink and pain. Miriam doesn’t see death. She experiences it. Over and over again.

I’d swear too. Like a sailor.

She definitely qualifies for a kickass leading lady, though. She knows how to fight, and she’s not afraid to fight back—like a feral cat with a pocket knife and, sometimes, a gun. Or her teeth, or forehead, or elbow. I think she’d fight with her pinkie given half the chance and presented with a deserving target.

Over the course of the series, Miriam learns how to mess with fate to save lives, and the plot of The Cormorant is, in a nutshell, Fate getting angry and hitting back. I won’t go into any more detail than that, because spoilers. However, writing a book that involves visions of the future, some of which are largely immutable, presents certain challenges for an author: challenges that Wendig handles with skill. It’s a joy to read.

Also, the end of the book provides an interesting ray of hope for Miriam. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Five stars

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