Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is a New Pulp blending of genres around a homeless wanderer name Miriam. She’s a loudmouth. She’s sarcastic. She’s downright mean from time to time. She lies as easily as she breathes. Oh, and she can see when you die.
Miriam’s story starts off as she’s busy with her favorite means of making money: arranging to be at the site of someone’s imminent death so she can rifle their pockets. We follow her on her wanderings for a little while, getting to know something about the star of the show. And what she shows us is one tough cookie. She’s a woman who can take care of herself, and heaven help you if you think she’s an easy target.
But it’s not all fun and games in Miriam’s world. Before long we start to see the price that her unusual ability takes on her soul. We begin to understand the profound isolation that she tries to cover up and deny with her lies, her drinking, and her casual flings. Once someone comes on the scene who has figured out what Miriam can do, we’re hooked on the story and have to know what happens next.
This book is like a careful blend of horror, crime fiction and urban fantasy. Wendig’s characters exist in a lawless no-man’s-land between polite society and outright banditry, and he captures them perfectly. Miriam herself is extremely well rendered, which is a feat for such a powerful personality. She’s got a collection of traits which could all become caricatured in careless hands, but Wendig weaves them together deftly and creates a character we can care about.
Blackbirds is the first book in a series, and it sets up questions and situations that will carry us forward to later books. At the same time, the story is complete in itself. At the end I was not left feeling like I had just read the first part of a story that happened to be 3 books long.
I heartily recommend Blackbirds to any reader that fancies a creepy, gritty take on urban fantasy.