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The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Cover Artist: Joey HiFi
Review by Drew Bittner
Angry Robot Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857663382
Date: 31 December 2013 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Miriam Black is in over her head this time. Interrogated by an improbable pair, she recounts the steps that led to a tragic death...and a trap meant to ensnare her. She can know the moment of anyone's death to the minute, but has her time finally run out?

In The Cormorant, Chuck Wendig continues the adventures of his foul-mouthed and razor-edged heroine Miriam Black, whose touch tells her the moment and nature of the touched one's death. It's been a horrific burden and she has only recently discovered a way to change fate, but even that small bit of power cannot always help. Even her best efforts sometimes fail and we all know what paves the road to Hell.

The story begins with Miriam telling the fat Grossky and the whip-thin Vills how she came to be pulled over and arrested in Florida. Her temporary housing situation had imploded after she tried to help a yuppie, so that she headed to Florida in search of a quick payday. Touching a rich guy who wanted to know his own expiration date, she found a message written only for her.

Who had written it and why? And how did they know enough about her to prepare that kind of trap?

Miriam needs answers, and sets out to find them the only way she can: by following the trail of soon-to-be-dead wherever it might lead. Her first stop involves asking for help from someone she hasn't seen in a long while... who will be dead in three days unless Miriam can find a psychopath who hates her guts. Worse, a psychopath who seems to have acquired strange fate-based powers of his own.

Miriam is in the fight of her life against someone a couple of steps ahead already. Unless she can take the initiative, she'll be very very dead, and she won't be alone.

Wendig hasn't toned down Miriam in the slightest in this third volume. If anything, she is more raw and visceral and angry/depressed than ever before. Her attempt to live a more normal life having failed, she's fled all that and now struggles to stave off her own end with quick fixes and acidic shrewdness. Her response to any hint of kindness is cutting and vicious, so that she won't be in danger of opening her heart, and her verbal barbs are as venomous as they can be. She's a deeply wounded, flawed and vulnerable character wrapped in barbed wire and rusty knives.

Her interrogators come off at first like a pair of grifters, but they evolve into far more than that quickly enough. Grosky and Vills are smart, capable and alert to the possibilities Miriam seems to represent. It's really not their fault that they don't understand what's going on with the woman they seem to have at their mercy. The way things turn out will surprise some readers, but it's a smooth transition to what lies in store for Miriam.

Her supporting cast is something I'd prefer not to explore, as discussion of who shows up would be a spoiler. Let's just say that Miriam has an opportunity to revisit some past decisions with new perspective.

Raw, visceral and often ugly, Wendig's storytelling is nevertheless profound and throbs with its own dark vitality. He's a rising star in urban fantasy and readers should jump on this train now.

Recommended.

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