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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Urban Fantasy that dares to be different
Blackbirds has a fair amount of hype circulating around it. There is a lot of expectation here. The cover alone promises the reader multiple things and for the most part Blackbirds delivers. I was intrigued by this book long before I requested it for review but I was scared that it would just not do it for me but in the end I really, really liked it.

The best...
Published 23 months ago by Kate Phillips

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars two tales fused together, one great, the other so-so
Blackbirds is somewhat of a curious book. The hook is excellent and some of the writing mouth watering, yet there is something slightly off key. Having slept on it I think the issue is that story felt like two separate tales jammed together. On the one hand, it is the story of Miriam, a young woman who is street smart, damaged, fragile, feisty and generally messed up,...
Published 23 months ago by Rob Kitchin


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Urban Fantasy that dares to be different, 6 Aug 2012
By 
Kate Phillips "Kate" (Southampton, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
Blackbirds has a fair amount of hype circulating around it. There is a lot of expectation here. The cover alone promises the reader multiple things and for the most part Blackbirds delivers. I was intrigued by this book long before I requested it for review but I was scared that it would just not do it for me but in the end I really, really liked it.

The best thing about this book for me is that it dares to be different. This book takes the Urban Fantasy genre and turns it on its head. If you took every urban fantasy book you have ever read mix it with some Sin City and add a splash of Tarantino, Blackbirds is what you would create. It is smart and engaging yet manages to be philosophical at the same time. Behind all the violence and swearing Blackbirds actually asks some pretty big questions about death and fate, about good and evil.

The characters in this are full of life (which is funny considering this book is essentially about death) and at the centre of it all you have Miriam. Miriam is a fighter, a survivor. I think as a reader you don't exactly like Miriam. She is the type of person you wouldn't associate with, a person you would look down your nose at. She is white trash, an alcoholic and a criminal. She is unlikable. But it doesn't matter because in some way you admire her. She is strong and sassy. She can hold her own and there is something to appreciate in that. Yet, behind all the sarcasm, and nonchalant attitude you can see a glimpse of who she really is underneath all the layers of hurt and grief and you know that inside she is not a bad person.

Then there is Louis. He looks like a criminal he is a scarred hulk of a man. But really he is soft, caring and kind and he just might be the one to show Miriam that life doesn't have to be as dark and dreary as she makes it. He is instantly likable, he is someone you can root for and to be honest I wish there was a little more of him in this book.

The other characters are great but are mostly dislikeable (apart from Frankie who, despite everything, turns out to be impossible to dislike) they are villains of the most disturbing kind.

I have heard a lot of fuss about how this book would have been better if it had been written by a woman. I could not disagree more strongly. Some have said `don't read this book unless you are a guy' well, I am a girl and I really liked it. I have heard that this book is just to `man.' Well, so what? There is nothing wrong with a male voice in fiction, and just because the story is about a girl it doesn't mean that it has to be less gory or about love. I don't think this is book every woman should run out and buy, it is just that there are a lot of generalizations being made about women (as a whole) not liking this book and it is simply not true.

But I should warn you that this book is not for the faint hearted. It is grim and grimy (something I imagine you will hear a lot in reference to this book). It is violent and gory. There is sex (not the swoon worthy, erotic kind) and swearing. There is also a decent amount of characters (mostly male) that you want to drop kick. Be warned if that is not something you can handle then this book, unfortunately, is not for you.

But if you can handle that and you feel like you like could use a little darkness in your life then I strongly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and intense, even brutal., 26 July 2012
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This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
I came across this book on Netgalley the other day. The cover instantly caught my eye, so I did a bit more research and the book itself sounded fantastic and very original. I requested it and that night I received it. I started reading it and within a few sentences I was hooked. The first chapter is brilliant it really claws at the reader until they are waiting for more. It definitely pulled me in straight away and instead of just reading one chapter, I read about eight. The book really does keep your attention until the very end.

Blackbirds follows Miriam Black, who has the ability to know when a person will die just by touching their skin. She sees visions of every type of death possible and each vision is crudely described so the true horror hits the reader head on. Her life is unpredictable one moment she could be watching someone having a heart attack and the next a car crash. On her journeys she meets Louis, a trucker who gives her a lift, but when she shakes his hand she sees that she will be the cause of his death. Miriam knows that fate gets what it wants and there's nothing she can do to stop it but she has to try doesnt she?

Miriam was a mega kick ass heroine, she had a sharp tongue and quick fists. She could easily hold her own, after all living pretty much on the streets toughens a women up. She has a cold hard persona because she sees things that no one else will ever know. She sees the true horrors of death. Her character was harsh and incredibly real. She has so many flaws and makes many mistakes but you stick by her until the end. She understands the harsh reality of the world and how no matter what your life is already planned out by fate, nothing can change that. She tries to make sense of the harsh world but it seems it's just throwing itself back in her face. Life's dirty and brutal and no one knows that better than Miriam. The other secondary characters were all solid and real, their own back stories showing the harsh realities of the world which is normally hidden behind closed doors.

Blackbirds is a dark novel, the writing is sharp and intense, even brutal. It doesn't mess around with silly prose instead it creates shocking horrors which hit straight home. Its one tense ride but it's incredible. There is a lot of violence in this book and lots of gory detail, so if your squeamish I would probably leave this book. It's because of the fine detail and harsh reality and prose that makes this book so good. Blackbirds is a truly intense ride. A roller coaster of bends and bumps that you'll never be prepared for. I loved it, it was so so much better than I expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Miriam Black knows how you're going to die..., 10 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
As a fan of Chuck Wendig's blog, i have wanted to read this novel for quite some time. I'm glad i finally have.
Sharp, witty prose, with not a word wasted, this is urban-fantasy at its very best.
Recommended for anybody who a, enjoys fast-paced fiction, and b, doesn't mind a lot of cuss words thrown at them. And there's a lot in Blackbirds. (if you don't believe me, check out 'The Collected Profanity Of Blackbirds And Mockingbirds' on YouTube -- you'll see what i mean).
If, like me, you don't mind a girl with a dirty mouth, give this book a go. You wont regret it.
(also check out the sequel 'Mockingbirds')
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this in one sitting..., 10 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
I read this in one sitting. That really doesn't happen often... I'm currently reading more than a dozen books on my Kindle, none of which grabbed my attention the way this did. The narrative has a great sense of immediacy and the tension was almost unbearable by the end. The bad guys are absolutely chilling... a mixed group capable of detached, calculated violence or casual brutality, with an occasional dash of twisted ideology and a relish for inflicting pain. I immediately downloaded and read the sequel Mockingbird (A Miriam Black Novel).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disturbing but utterly brilliant., 16 July 2012
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Well that was brutal! I like dark and gritty, but in Blackbirds the dark will chill your soul and the grit grind your eyes out. I really shouldn't have liked Miriam, but I did. She's not the sort of person anyone would want to turn their back on, else she'd empty your pockets and rip you a new one with her razor tongue. In fact - in the real world - Louis is the only really decent person in the whole book.

There is no let up in the tale, no respite to catch your breath. Every page takes you to places you really wouldn't want to go, but part of you wants to visit just to see whats there.

A solid 5 stars for me, and already waiting for Mockigbird at the end of August.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High energy whisky fuelled ride, 15 July 2012
This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
With a mere touch of your skin Miriam Black can tell when and how you will die. She's seen old age take its toil, car crashes and heart attacks. Watching people's final moments, Miriam's gift makes her a guiding angel for death. But the burden takes a turn when she hitches a ride with truck rider Louis. Shaking his hand, she sees his imminent death and hears him call her name. Can Miriam escape the hand of fate or is she caught up in her own destiny?

As soon as you start reading Blackbirds it's hard to deny that it's violent and crass, overflowing with swearing, fighting, drinking and immorality. Those of a sensitive nature be warned. But if you are daring and willing enough to read, you will find a story that is unique, mesmerising and utterly compelling. Admittedly I had to skip a few gory paragraphs so as not to upset my delicate sensitivities, but even the raw violence couldn't stop me reading.

Having never read anything like it, Wendig's writing style is distinctive. Each word packs a punch - there isn't any fluff or unnecessary content. Likewise, the change between present and past give us insight into the different characters without breaking up the pace and flow.

As the female protagonist, Miriam is definitely unique and quite a character. Flitting from town to town, hitching rides and never settling down, she isn't necessarily a character I can easily relate to. But that didn't bother me, because I loved how different she was from me. Listening to a narrative full of swearing and anger I was enthralled by her unabashed honesty and frankness. Miriam certainly grew on me as unlikely but deserving hero.

The big question that Miriam struggles with throughout the story is whether fate can be changed. Able to see other people's death before it happens, Miriam is faced with the decision of intervening and trying to save them or letting fate take its natural course. It can't be an easy decision to make, every time you touch someone deciding whether you should attempt to save them from death or let the inevitable happen. And who would want to watch people die just by shaking their hand? But can fate be changed anyway? If fate decides how we die, can Miriam ever change it? The guilt of both trying and failing and doing nothing has taken its toll on Miriam; she drinks, sleeps around and gets into fights. You can feel her pain jump out of the pages, showing the vulnerability inside her tough shell.

Reading Blackbirds feels a little like your riding a rollercoaster; after tipping over that first crest you're pulled forward with a momentum that is paralysing and a force that is unstoppable. Miriam knows she's barrelling towards something, but she can't grasp how she'll get there or what will happen when she does. I was gripped with both anticipation but also uncertainty because I liked truck driver Louis. He's a genuine and decent guy, quite a rare thing in Blackbirds, and I didn't want someone so nice getting caught up in the horrific and ruthless dealings of Ingersoll. It's the kind of plot where you have to close your eyes, hold on tight and hope for the best.

What I liked about the characters in Blackbirds is that they are multi-dimensional. None of them are purely good or evil. Like real life, they're a blend of both, with good and bad parts. Even the bad guys Harriet and Ingersoll have a past and a history, a reason for who they are and why they do what they do. Seeing the other side of the coin, and the story behind people's behaviour, is always interesting as it plays on your emotions and almost makes you feel sorry for them. Almost but most definitely not. It did make me wonder though, whether evil is born or made, nature or nurture, or in Ingersoll's case possibly a mixture of both.

Blackbirds is a high energy, whisky-fuelled ride, that will pull you along for the journey and have you questioning whether we can change destiny. A must-read book by an author that is worth watching.

Rating: 5*
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars two tales fused together, one great, the other so-so, 7 Aug 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
Blackbirds is somewhat of a curious book. The hook is excellent and some of the writing mouth watering, yet there is something slightly off key. Having slept on it I think the issue is that story felt like two separate tales jammed together. On the one hand, it is the story of Miriam, a young woman who is street smart, damaged, fragile, feisty and generally messed up, who on touching someone sees a vision of their death, and her search for answers, redemption and some kind of hope and alternative future. Wendig does a great job at detailing her life, her thoughts, dreams and fears, mixing the present with her back story, and her tentative relationship with Louis, who is also damaged goods and looking for a new start. The characterization is excellent and I'd happily spend more time in her company. On the other hand, it is the story of small-time con artist, Ashley, and the three psychotic serial killers who are after him. Whilst Ashley is mildly interesting, Harriet, Frankie and Ingersoll are caricatures cookie-cut from serial killer dough. More awkward is the weaving of the two tales together. Ashley is stalking Miriam, whilst also on the run from Ingersoll and co, who are meant to be drug dealers. These are straight-up psychotic serial killers (a band of three), not drug dealers (with territory, networks, etc). It is not at all clear how Ashley is tracking Miriam, or how Ingersoll and co are tracking Ashley. Ashley simply turns up at whatever motel Miriam is staying and Harriet and Frankie arrive shortly after. This may be urban fantasy, but the plot has to make sense within the logic of the world created. The result, for me at least, was the fascinating and wonderful thread concerning Miriam was undermined by the intersecting storyline which didn't ring true. It did work to create tension and action, and a lot of swearing and violence, and to set up the endgame with respect to Louis, but this tale is all about Miriam and those elements could have been there without Ingersoll and co. Overall then, a story with a great hook and lead character, that has some striking, engaging prose, but a plotline that seems to fuse two tales that don't quite gel. I doubt I'll buy a book with a better cover this year; very intricate and striking.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blackbird singing in the dead of night..., 7 May 2012
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This is a dark, slippery slope of a roller coaster ride through the slick nightmare alleys of the world you know exists and don't ever want to meet face to face. Miriam Black meets it, she lives it, every day she walks a fine line between sickness at the world and sickness at herself. Join her on her journey as she's used, abused, uses, abuses and fights back against the inevitable horror of her every day with foul-mouthed, street-wise, broken-hearted fury. One hell of a protagonist, one hell of a ride, one hell of a story.

I should probably have given it five stars but, by Wendig's beard, I wanted the book to keep going and it bloody well didn't. Read this, be consumed by Miriam's world, and pray to whatever heartless Gods you worship that her reality remains forever on the page and never darkens your door.

As for me, I'm keeping my peepers peeled for the arrival of the Mockingbird.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mean, menacing, unmissable, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
I'll not make a meal of this review, all you need to know is the book's worth reading. Well, go on then, off you go and buy it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary fantasy meets hard-boiled noir, 8 April 2014
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This review is from: Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 (Paperback)
Miriam Black knows how you will die. All she has to do is touch your skin and she gets a vision of how and when it will happen. Every time she’s tried to prevent a person’s death, she’s only succeeded in making it inevitable so instead she’s decided to use it to her advantage - scrounging a living by hooking up with those due to die shortly and then robbing them of cash and valuables after they’ve gone. But when she meets hulking truck driver Louis Darling, she sees him being horribly murdered in 30 days time as he calls out her name.

Miriam knows that she can’t save Louis and she’s distracted from even trying by ruthless conman Ashley Gaynes, who’s discovered the truth about her ability and wants to use it for his own financial ends. But Miriam’s fate is inextricably linked with Louis’s and there are forces out there that have plans for her gift and are determined to make her confront her destiny …

Chuck Wendig’s hard-boiled contemporary fantasy noir is a foul-mouthed, rollercoaster ride with a damaged, self-absorbed main character. Whether you like the book depends on whether you like Miriam and I thought she was terrific – a broken narcissistic cynic who’s in dire need of rescuing. Her relationship with the decent, hulking Louis who’s still traumatised by the death of his wife is touching and Wendig does well in having you dislike Miriam for what she’s doing while also understanding why she does it. It’s also a nice counterpoint to the hot sex and cold manipulation that ties her to the venal Ashley. The story’s split between what’s happening to Miriam now and a flashback interview she gives where she describes how her gift works and how she came to have it. My only real criticism is that the villains of the piece are underdeveloped and I’d have liked to have seen a more fleshed out motivation for their actions.

The dialogue in this novel is particularly good with Miriam’s foul-mouthed patter rattling along like a machine gun and I liked the fact that when Wendig reveals her backstory, it’s presented in unsentimental terms. The plot rattles along nicely with the different strands coming together in a satisfying way and although I did find the antagonists underdeveloped, I liked where Wendig took Miriam and will definitely read the sequel.
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Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1
Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 by Chuck Wendig (Paperback - 3 May 2012)
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