The Cormorant, by Chuck Wendig

Cover art by Joey HiFi

Series: Miriam Black #3 | Format: eARC | Publisher: Angry Robot | Published: December 31st 2013 (US print & ebook); January 2nd 2014 (UK print) | My rating: 5/5


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.

She’s expected…

It’s weird, how torn I am between having an abundance of words to describe this book and having none. But I’ll give that abundance a whirl, otherwise this would be a pretty pathetic (and short) review…

HEADS UP: There will be at least mild spoilers below, so if you haven’t read it or the previous books and don’t want them spoiled… Wait, you haven’t read them? Dude. Fix that. This will wait.

…Okay. The words.

First and foremost, holy crap. If there is an author out there these days who is better than Chuck Wendig at taking you by the throat rather than the hand without so much as a how-do-you-do first, I haven’t encountered them. The Cormorant starts off not only strong, but fast and furious – and it stays that way from beginning to end. This book is most definitely not for the faint-hearted, but therein lies one of its strengths, if you ask me. 

Told in third-person, present tense, we literally follow Miriam Black through a story that is twistier than a snake tying itself in a knot. From the word ‘go’ we are dropped into her current predicament (she’s been arrested for murder… or has she?) and from there the story (read: explanation) unfolds in almost addictive fits and starts, leaping back and forth from scene to scene, ‘then’ to ‘now’ and back again. All of it is done in the truly gripping narrative style, soaked in liquor and dunked in salt, that makes these books so outstanding.

That style doesn’t even let up for the appearance of Miriam’s mother. (Yes, she has one.) In a move that adds some entirely welcome depth to Miriam’s story up to this point, as well as providing some marvellously nerve-wracking high-stakes danger, we follow Miriam back home as she chooses to visit her mother after years of estrangement. Will she mend that fence, or burn her bridges once and for all? Well… 

…Oh come on, I’m not giving that away. Read it and see!

Anyway! All of it leads to a conclusion that, if you can stand all that metaphorical heat, will knock your socks off. Let’s just say that there are depths to what Miriam can do that, until now, even she never knew about. Weeeell, she certainly goes diving here. 

And how.

Moving on… I have to take my hat off, for serious, to Wendig for his narrative style throughout this series. These books will never be the kind you can read to your kids but bloody hell they make an impression. As I said above, The Cormorant seized hold of me from the very first page and (mark this as a Very Good Thing) it made me freaking uncomfortable.

Now you may be raising a skeptical eyebrow at this remark and wondering why that’s good, but trust me. Books that don’t make you feel something, somehow, are in my honest opinion Not Good Books. Wendig’s books are freaking amazing. I would not want to be Miriam Black for all the bookshelf space in the world, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t want her to survive the hell she goes through, to the point where I was worried I’d crack my Kindle because I was gripping it so hard. 

Miriam is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a nice person. She is, however, someone I can’t help wishing good things upon. Because, seriously. If anybody needs something good… But she’s not without a heart, when all’s said and done. She might cut yours out on a rock-bottom day just to take your wallet and cigarettes if you have them, but throughout these books, and especially in The Cormorant, there is that little flicker of hope for her that, used as cleverly as Wendig uses it, keeps you hanging on, holding out for some sort of satisfying ending, if not necessarily a happy one. Her story may not be over (and I’m certainly crossing my fingers for more of these books in the future), but we certainly do get that satisfying ending here. It’s far from a happy one, but there’s that much at least.

This book is a flash-fire in an enclosed space, and it’s a cigarette burning in an ashtray. On one level, it’s vicious and in-your-face – yet on another, it’s got a much more slow-burn thing going on. You know it’ll stop at some point, but until it gets there it just keeps smouldering on. It might burn you, but you’ll keep picking it up anyway. Freaking nicotine, man.

So, yeah. I kind of liked it…


5 thoughts on “The Cormorant, by Chuck Wendig

    1. Chuck is definitely a standout writer for me this year. Next up is Under The Empyrean Sky, which I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet. But SOON. 😉

    2. That one’s great too! It’s definitely got that Chuck Wendig flavor even for its YA-ness. I discovered him this year myself, and started devouring all his books. Out of everything else I’ve read from him though (Blue Blazes, Dinocalypse Now :P) Miriam Black is my favorite. ~M

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