Chuck Wendig will abuse you.
Wendig will break you. Not you “the person,” but you “the reader,” via his character Miriam Black. In The Cormorant (Angry Robot, 2013), Wendig puts Miriam through the wringer, beating, stabbing, and otherwise traumatizing her–and by proxy, you. And you’ll let him, because you like it. You’re as sick as he is.
The Cormorant continues the story Wendig began in Blackbirds and Mockingbird. Miriam is living in Philadelphia, testing the limits of her powers. But fate still has its rules: Blood for blood. When Miriam intervenes in a robbery, saving the victim and dispatching the mugger, she invites in the mysterious “Trespasser” and is wracked with guilt. Evicted from her apartment, Miriam heads to Florida to make some money by using her powers to tell a man how he’s going to die. She didn’t expect her vision of his death to include a note from the killer–addressed to her. Miriam faces off against someone from her past.
Readers familiar with the Miriam Black series will find in The Cormorant those elements they enjoyed in previous installments: Energetic prose, a briskly paced plot, violence, profanity, and spookiness. Rather than merely being “more of the same,” though, The Cormorant extends the overall arc of Miriam’s story in important ways.
Miriam, drifter for nearly a decade, tethered to no one, and preferring it that way, inches toward acknowledging that she needs other people. Louis, Miriam’s love interest and protector, isn’t present here, but Miriam dwells on their relationship, promising further developments in Thunderbird. More surprising to readers, perhaps, will be Miriam’s encounter with her mother, Evelyn, whose religiosity was partly responsible for Miriam’s decision to run away from home. Evelyn and Miriam have both changed, becoming versions of themselves that neither quite recognizes. Their relationship is fraught, and Wendig wisely chooses to leave it unresolved, a satisfying tension that denies the reader a simple conclusion.
Wendig also drops more hints in regards to Miriam’s powers. Readers are already aware that trauma appears to be the engine that imparts “psychic” abilities (for lack of a better term) upon Wendig’s characters, a nugget of darkness embedded in their psyches. We learned in Mockingbird that Miriam is not alone, that there are other people with powers similar to hers. In The Cormorant, Miriam further exercises her “connection” with birds, culminating in a particularly gory scene near the end of the novel. Setting the stage for Thunderbird, Wendig teases us with the possibility that Miriam may be able to transform her power in a way that would utterly change her life.
On a par with Blackbirds and Mockingbird, The Cormorant is not only a extension of Miriam’s overall story arc, but also a successful novel in its own right (as its predecessors were,). Wendig’s prose is muscular and his storytelling brisk, his characters and settings well drawn. As with previous entries in the Miriam Black series, readers uncomfortable with profanity and violence are unlikely to enjoy these novels. If, on the other hand, you’ve read Miriam’s previous adventures, you’ll want to read this one, too. Even as you wince at each at each punch Wendig throws Miriam’s way, you’ll find yourself thanking him and asking for another. Highly recommended.