I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
Series: Miriam Black #4
Published by Saga Press on February 28 2017
Genres: Adult, Urban fantasy
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The nitty-gritty: Miriam Black is back and kicking ass in the desert! And even if you haven’t read the first three books of the series, take note: I haven’t read them, and I had a hell of a great time with this book.
Arizona license. Steven McArdle. Got forty bucks in there and a MasterCard, both of which she pilfers. “Don’t mind if I do, you murdering dickwhistle.” A sudden nostalgic glow washes over her, like remembering Christmas from your childhood or calling upon some memory from college, except here it’s robbing a dead body of its wares that feels like old times. Her finding folks who were going to die, then conveniently maneuvering herself to be present at their ineluctable ends to snatch the cash and cards from their wallet. The golden haze of nostalgia suddenly feels like a radioactive glow cloud.
Sometimes in the land of “there are too many series and I’m never going to be able to read them all” I say what the hell and make the decision to, for example, skip the first three books in the series and read the latest and greatest. Which is what I did with Chuck Wendig’s fantastic Miriam Black series. Thunderbird is book #4, and it’s migrated over (see what I did there?) to Saga Press after being originally published by Angry Robot. The publicist who kindly sent me a copy mentioned that Thunderbird is more like the start of a new Miriam Black trilogy, and that sold me. So how did it work for me? Well, pretty damn well, I have to say. I did end up with lots of questions about some of the things Miriam went through in this story, so obviously I’ve missed quite a bit. But I still had a great time with this book, and I fully intend to catch up with the first three books at some point.
For those not familiar with what must be by now an infamous character in speculative fiction, Miriam Black is a tortured and angry woman who has the unfortunate ability to see how people will die when she touches them. This curse has gotten her into lots of trouble (see: books 1-3 in the series), and after ten years of it she has decided enough is enough. Especially since she caught wind of a woman named Mary Scissors who might be able to rid her of the curse forever. The main plot of Thunderbird centers on Miriam’s quest to find Mary, but her journey is anything but smooth. Along with her (maybe) girlfriend Gabby, Miriam sets out to locate the elusive Mary Scissors, but along the way she gets caught up in the middle of a terrible plot by domestic terrorists, a plot she discovers by accident.
Even though this is my first time reading about Miriam Black, I’ve read plenty of reviews of the series that I knew going in she’d be a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, kick-ass character, and I wasn’t disappointed. In a book populated by horrible people, Miriam actually comes across as the most sympathetic one of the bunch, and that’s saying something. Miriam and her co-characters would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino film, what with all the swearing and graphic violence. In Thunderbird, Miriam has decided to quit smoking, which acts almost as a running gag throughout the book. Miriam wants a cigarette so badly, that her inner thoughts about how good that cigarette is going to taste almost made me want to start smoking, lol.
Obviously coming into the fourth book in a series, the main character is going to have a lot of baggage behind her, baggage I’m not aware of, being the newbie reader that I am, but nonetheless, important baggage that’s made her who she is. Even though I heartily enjoyed this book and didn’t feel lost at all, there were moments when I had questions about Miriam’s past, which are no doubt covered in the first three books. What was her relationship with Louis? Why is Gabby’s face so scarred? And what the hell is going on with her mother? I know there’s a terrible back-story about her childhood—we do get some flashbacks—but I’m pretty sure it’s far worse that what’s on the page. It’s nice to know the answers to those questions are waiting for me, as soon as I find time to play catch up.
Chuck’s trademark punchy present tense narration is in full force here, and his customary colorful similes fit in nicely with this fast-paced romp through the mean deserts of Arizona, which is where much of the story takes place. Wendig’s style isn’t for everyone, but I think it works especially well for this story. My only issue with his writing style is that I found a couple of places where the dialog seemed to be more “Chuck” than “Miriam,” if you know what I mean, but luckily I only noticed it once or twice.
One of the more interesting things about this series is Miriam’s connection to birds. You can tell from the titles of the books—Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Cormorant—that there is something going on there. Once again, this review is coming from a place where I don’t know the back story, but I do know that in Thunderbird Miriam has a couple of odd but magically compelling encounters with birds. She can actually will herself to be one with birds, and I’m dying to know more about how this fits in with the overall story arc.
I was surprised to find Thunderbird more crime than speculative fiction. Other than Miriam’s psychic abilities (and the psychic abilities of a few of the other characters), this is mostly a straightforward story about some very mean and violent people who will stop at nothing to overthrow the government. These characters use knives and guns to get what they want, and a lot of people get hurt in this story—including Miriam.
Which brings me to my only complaint about Thunderbird. For some reason, I just couldn’t connect emotionally with Miriam, and that’s something I’ve never had a problem with in a Wendig book. Chuck’s stories have brought me to tears in the past, but as much as I appreciated Miriam’s toughness and resilience—her curse alone makes her a sympathetic character—there were never any truly emotional moments for me in this story. I’m hoping that emotion will be easier to find when I go back and read the first three books.
But wow, what fun this was! Saga Press is publishing two more books in the series, The Raptor & the Wren and Vultures, and I can’t wait to jump back into Miriam’s twisted world.
Big thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for providing a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.