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‘Mockingbird’ by Chuck Wendig

October 12, 2012

What is this?

Mockingbird is Wendig’s fast paced follow up to the equally breakneck Blackbirds. It follows the (mis)adventures of Miriam Black; gifted (or cursed) with the ability to know exactly when, and how, the people around her are going to die. Usually this comes in the form of health problems or accidents, but when Miriam visits an all girls school and learns one of the students is going to be violently murdered, she must take it upon herself to try and cheat fate out of the death it so insidiously wants.

What can I expect?

Mockingbird is a dark urban fantasy with huge helpings of hard-boiled intrigue and wickedly black humour. Unlike other books in the genre it never gets too bogged down in explaining its own concept and rules to the reader. Instead, Mockingbird gleefully pirouettes from bloody violence into eye rolling sarcasm with thrilling reckless abandon. It delights in spewing sumptuous foul language from the mouth of Wendig’s insulting, and yet charmingly appealing, anti-heroine, Miriam Black.

Wendig established the character of Miriam Black in his previous novel, Blackbirds and we experience the world through her pessimistic and self destructive eyes. She’s delightfully explicit, aggressively independent and jaded beyond belief. But her dark power has bestowed on her a heavy burden. The instant Miriam touches someone a vision of how that person will die flashes through her mind; and that’s if she’s lucky. If she isn’t lucky then an unexplained presence she coins, ‘The Trespasser’, will invade her dreams and torment her endlessly for its own nefarious reasons. In Mockingbird, events are catalysed when, on making a quick buck stop at The Caldecott School for Girls, she inadvertently touches a passing student only to see that not only will the student die in the not too distant future, but she will be murdered in a ritualistic and horrific fashion. The only clue Miriam has to work with is a tattoo of a swallow on the murder’s chest.

Miriam reluctantly throws herself into a subversive investigation whilst constantly questioning if her actions are doomed from the start; is fate a force that will allow itself to be cheated? We experience some flashbacks of her past that add further meat to the bones of how Miriam came to be so damaged, as well as learn more about the black forces at play that are pulling hard on Miriam’s strings. The plot expertly ensures that the chapters flit between fun, ominous, gut-wrenching tension or action packed drama (sometimes all at once). The dialogue is spiked with such punch and verve that often Miriam simply interacting with those around her is a delight in itself, as well as causing you to wonder how on earth she is going to get out of the increasingly desperate situations she blunders headfirst into.

Is there a trailer?

Why do we recommend it?

The novel shoves Miriam into a prim and proper setting and delights in ensuring that she butts heads with any authority standing in her way. The plot takes a few moments to establish itself and then plunges you headfirst into the white foaming rapids of ‘just one more page’. You are granted occasional moments where you may break the surface for some hasty gulps of air, before Mockingbird pulls you in again to a desperate and frantic finale. It’s a fast, punchy novel that will be a joy to anyone who likes their fantasy genre to be saturated with dark humour, pounding rain and a sense of fate holding all the cards.

Words by Michael Record.

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