As seen on Stumptown Books
Miriam Black is an unrepentant sinner. She cusses, smokes, spits, drinks, lies, cheats, steals, and sexes her way across the country.
She also happens to have a super power.
By touching someone's skin, she can tell when they are going to die, as well as the cause of death, be it heart failure, ham sandwich, or a guillotine. With death as a constant companion, there are really two ways a person can go - you can appreciate the dichotomy, and enjoy life to its fullest, knowing that death is around every corner but being happy while you still can be, or...you can turn out like Miriam.
Unfortunately, the first way is not very easy, or leads to certain madness, or something. That's probably a whole other book series, actually.
For Miriam Black, she chooses to deal with her constant knowledge of death in the best way she sees fit: by doing that list of vices from above. And so enter the reader, with Miriam already in the full swing of her power, with the knowledge of how it works, and what she can get out of it (which is mostly the cash in a dead guy's wallet).
This book started out so strong
. The opening scene was simply brilliant. At page 40 I looked up with a little "oh!" of surprise and said to myself, "Page 40 and shit already got real. Damn." Then I wrote it down. See!
Now look at my next two notes. "Weird rape banter" and "bitches be crazy." Yeah. Exactly. Here's the weird rape banter (Ashley is a guy, by the way):
Ashley comes out of the bedroom, brushing his teeth with one hand, hiking on a pair of boxers with the other.
"Can't rape the willing," he snaps back with a wink.
"I know. Besides, I could've broken your jaw. I just want you to feel icky, is all."
Around the toothbrush, he gleefully mumbles, "I don't."
"I know that, too."
Back in the bathroom, he swishes, spits, and swishes again.
"No means no," she calls after him.
"Not usually," he calls back.
So...yeah, that happened. Now, Ashley has not been written to be a good or nice guy thus far. He's basically an asshole from moment one. Does that make this ok? No, it doesn't. Assholes don't get to joke about rape anymore than nice guys do, nice guys are just supposed to know better. "I just want you to feel icky." Yes, that is what a rapist would feel. Icky. Now come back to bed, sugar, we got more time in this motel room.
My mind: boggled. I almost put the book down right then and there, not caring how awesome the cover was or how funny Chuck Wendig's twitter is. I tried to put it behind me because I really was enjoying the rest of the book. I have so many issues with urban fantasy, and I think Miriam shows some real promise as a character. I want her to be happy and stop trying to destroy herself. I want her to not have to use her crazy super power to have money to eat. And I especially want to know why she has the crazy super power in the first place.
Reading about the shallow relationships that stem from one night stands are boring and banal. I find the guys in those relationships to be chauvinistic and sexist. And yes, that is exactly what Ashley is. So should I instead be thinking, "Miriam is damaged, that is why she is ok putting up with this guy"?
I WANT to be thinking that, but I'm still having a hard time getting over rape being used as post coital banter. I am really not ok with that.
I continue reading, of course, because it is hard to put down. That scene, however, continued to fester and colored my enjoyment of the entire rest of the novel.
I really want to know what the heck is going on with Miriam, even though I'm convinced she's going to end up with (what I thought was) Mr. Mary Sue/Ashley. We know through Miriam's super power that Ashley does not die until he is an old man (this isn't a spoiler, we find this out early on), so it's hard to get too worked up about him going through any shit, as we know he is going to survive. But damn, I seriously hate him, and I hate that Miriam spends any time with him at all. Leave him, girl, he's no good for you.
I'll be the first to admit that stories about cussing and sexing and lying aren't really my bag. Women that are written by men I find difficult to identify with - Miriam's such a man
. And the uncouthness just really starts to wear on me after awhile. It's for this reason, as well as the above rape banter, that this book gets 3 stars. Otherwise, there is some brilliant story here, with memorable characters. It was just so... MANLY.
So let's go over what we have here. We have a heroine I want to like. She is damaged and vulnerable and obviously harboring some really mean inner demons. She makes some really poor relationship decisions, but we've all done that, although hopefully minus the rape banter. We have a captivating story that pulls us along at break neck speed, barely allowing us to recover from a horrifyingly bloody scene before giving us another one. We have bad guys I don't care for or about, they seemed more deus ex machina than anything. "Hey, we need Miriam to do some character development, let's throw the bad guys at her and see what happens." That's what it felt like, anyway. We have one love interest that is gorgeous and amazing in the sack but a complete asshole, and another who is an equal dreamboat because he's so sensitive and sad. We have a ton of blood and guts. There was a lot of effort expended on my part to get over that. I don't even particularly mind gore; I've read enough fantasy and seen enough History Channel to get over that. But, fair warning, it gets pretty excessive at times.
Over all, we have a lot of things that ALMOST take me there, but it was missing some essential element. For me, it was that the relationships were disappointing on all sides. Every character seemed like a bizarre male empowerment fantasy, even Miriam.
The sequel will be on the horizon for me, with some reservations.