Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

I have a small confession...  I am terrified of ghosts.

Not in an, "oh, I saw a scary movie and now I'm horrified of this ghost in the movie" kind of way, but in a "maybe I won't buy this house because it was built in 1830 and someone is bound to have died in the house at some point" kind of way. I like to think of myself as a realist and according to my realist brain--old houses have much more history and character, therefore they are also 60 percent more likely to be haunted. 

You're probably thinking that I'm being ridiculous--that there's no such thing as ghosts, but I am completely convinced that ghosts exist and you won't see me doing anything to "invoke their wrath," so to speak. This includes anything involving Ouija boards or trespassing in cemeteries.  The thought of a ghost residing in the same residence as me freaks me out much more than the thought of being burglarized or robbed or anything else really…

Call me superstitious but I'm already slightly paranoid seeing as how I currently reside in a pre-WWII apartment in one of the U.S.'s most haunted cities. Seeing as how I've had a few instances of doors slamming shut in the apartment with only myself in the house I'd like to not piss off the spirits anymore than is necessary in every day life, thank you very much.

Eden Moore can not only see the dead,
but she can talk to them as well.
Gotta give her props though, she handles

the whole 'I see dead people' thing a lot 
better than I would.

So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why I love books and movies about ghosts. Maybe it’s just fuel to the already out of control fire that is my ghost-phobia. Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds is no exception. 


Eden Moore is only six when she begins hearing and seeing three ghostly sisters. She comes up with an almost disturbing story about the house and the three grey colored figures that she drew standing next to it. Only it's not a story. Eden knows that the sisters were murdered in the house and dumped into the murky swamp water. She knows because they told her...

Eden soon learns that the ability to see and talk to ghosts is a family gift. Her mother could see them and so can her aunt.

And if you thought your family had problems, Eden's family makes the Lohans look like the Cleavers. Her cousin Malachi wants to kill her, her crazy Aunt Eliza absolutely despises her. To top that off, her mother died giving birth to her when she was sixteen and a resident of the local asylum. Her Aunt Lulu and Uncle Dave seem to be the only stable people in her life.

You'd think Eden would be traumatized by the time she reaches adulthood; but it seems as if she's come to terms with her ability and is willing to leave the past behind her; or she tries to. It's when her cousin resurfaces and tries to kill her (again) at a poetry slam that she begins looking into her family's past--hoping that it will give her some insight into why her distant relatives want her dead and explain why Malachi believes that she is the reincarnation of an evil warlock. 


I think I've said this before, but I love it when authors actually give their readers some backstory on a character. I am not too fond of the flashback. It goes back to the whole showing vs telling thing. Priest begins the novel with Eden's childhood and progresses from there--letting the series of events tell the story.

Priest was born to write. She can describe a trash receptacle and you'd think it was the Taj Mahal. Her words have a way of flowing together beautifully and creating lovely yet chilling imagery in your head.

I also love Eden's character. She's tough, a bit closed off, and headstrong; but being a biracial woman growing up in the south, you get the feeling early on in the novel that she has to be. Minority and biracial main characters seem to be rare in this genre and it's great that Priest decided to make Eden biracial. It puts a welcomed twist on the story.

I know I've written about this in previous blog posts but one thing that really bothers me about any novel set after 1999 is the technology use, or lack thereof, in a story. That being said it's 2005 and the girl doesn't own a cell phone or use the internet! We later find out that Eden's a technophobe but you can be anti-technology and have a cell phone. It probably would have made the detective work a little easier. Just saying...

Overall a very enjoyable read. It seems to span multiple genres--horror, southern gothic, and urban fantasy-- so if you love any of these you're truly in for a literary treat. Unfortunately this novel doesn't change the way I feel about ghosts...

Rating: 5/5

Also in this trilogy: Wings to the Kingdom, Not Flesh Nor Feathers. Be sure to check out Priest's other novels, including: her steampunk The Clockwork Century series, and her vampire series, Cheshire Red Reports



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