Book Review: Vultures by Chuck Wendig
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 6 of Miriam Black
Publisher: Saga Press (January 22, 2019)
Length: 416 pages
And so, it’s over. After six books, Miriam Black has her conclusion, and I’m trying to deal with a lot of different thoughts and feelings all competing for my attention. Obviously, there’s elation, because all in all, it was a good finale. And of course, there’s pain and sadness too, knowing that a favorite series of mine for years has finally come to an end. However, there were also plenty of disappointments, and I find myself really struggling with them right now, because after all, it’s always tempting to give the last book in a series a proper send-off by showering it with all the love you can give. But in truth, as far as endings go, I feel Vultures could have been better, and while I feel overall quite happy with the way things turned out, it also wasn’t my favorite book of the series by a long shot.
First things first, though. It’s important to note the high possibility that this review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series, especially for the end of The Raptor & the Wren, because the last few chapters of that book delivered some seriously shocking twists. At this point we must deal with the consequences, so yeah, I would highly recommend being caught up before proceeding. Really. I mean it. Stop reading these words immediately if you haven’t read all the books up until this point. Because Louis, the man who has been Miriam Black’s rock ever since her first encounter with all the way back in Blackbirds, is dead. And now she is pregnant with his child. Boom.
Miriam, however, is far from joyous with the news. Not only is she still grieving for Louis’ death, because of her curse, she can also foresee how their baby will die. And it sucks. The kid won’t even get a chance to take her first breath before her life will be extinguished from this world, the moment she is born. But Miriam isn’t giving up. She is determined to do all she can to prevent her vision from coming true, because breaking the chains of fate won’t just mean saving her baby, it will also mean vanquishing her nemesis, the Trespasser, for good. And hopefully, that will also mean the end of her curse, so that Miriam might be able to give her unborn daughter a future, and finally have the chance to settle down to a normal life with her girlfriend Gabby.
Still, changing fate won’t be easy. Miriam will need help, something she’s not often comfortable with receiving, especially when it comes with strings attached. One of these strings is the requirement that Miriam help with the capture of a serial killer who has been claiming victims every month from Los Angeles’ never-ending crop of up-and-coming hot young actors. Miriam has a feeling that everything—the killings, the Trespasser, the fate of her baby—is all somehow connected but isn’t sure how…that is, until her violent past rears its ugly head.
Incidentally, that’s actually one of the things I loved best about Vultures: the fact that it brings back some of the most significant moments and people from the previous volumes, tying them into the events of this novel. In my opinion, a good series finale always endeavors to call back to the beginning, so that things come full circle. Another thing I loved about this book—which also happens to be the reason I kept returning to this series—is watching Miriam grow as a character. Admittedly, that growth isn’t always in the direction I’d prefer it to be, but the point stands. Interesting things are always happening to Miriam, and I’ve learned over the course of this series that reading about how she deals with the changes in her life is half the fun. Without a doubt, her becoming pregnant is the most consequential, life-altering thing that’s ever happened to her, and watching her actions, emotions, and motivations evolve and play out in response to her impending motherhood was incredible to see.
But now, for the things I didn’t like so much: ever since Thunderbird, I’ve felt that the series has lost some of its magic. I’ve talked before about how the visceral, sheer horror of Blackbirds was what made me fall in love with the series. Likewise, Miriam Black’s devil-may-care attitude and brash and crude ways were what made me fall in love with her. Still, while the last three books have seen the core of her character mature some, her caustic and biting personality has not changed at all. Now I get why this might be the case—Chuck Wendig is clearly trying to grow his protagonist while keeping the most memorable and defining parts of her character intact (i.e. the swearing, the sarcastic wit, the shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude etc.) But it’s clear that these two goals are no longer as synergistic as they once were. As a result, a lot of Miriam’s actions and dialogue in this one felt forced, and more than once I found myself frustrated with her for going against her own grain, fighting her new and improved instincts by unnecessarily reverting to old patterns. In some ways, I think Wendig is also facing a similar struggle of his own. I love his books, but I also can’t deny that many of them are very similar in tone and style. With Vultures, it feels as though he’s trying to break out of a rut, except that a lot of the writing feels contrived and a bit cringey, almost like he’s trying too hard to be edgy or to seem woke. Whatever it is, it’s just not coming across as naturally or authentic as it used to be like in the earlier books. And neither really is Miriam.
But the plot, though? The plot was solid. Save for some pacing issues caused by the frequent shifts between timelines and the final few chapters feeling a bit rushed, I felt really good about how the story played out. The ending revelations were also terrific. Now, that’s the way you leave your readers chewing on the last scene after finishing a book! In that, Chuck Wendig has crafted an ending for the Miriam Black series that’s just right. There may have been a few issues kept me from falling completely in love with Vultures, but bottom line, if you are a fan of Miriam Black you owe it to yourself to experience this long-awaited finale.