Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Thoughts on Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Of the thirteen books I have read since joining goodreads in May 2012, eleven of them are by authors I have not previously read and the majority of those are the first published works by those authors. I was introduced to Cherie Priest by the Sword & Laser show in one of their Author Guide episodes. They predominantly discussed her recent steampunk novels but ignored her early Southern Gothic ghost trilogy, the first of which was her debut novel:  Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Though interested in the steampunk novels, I wanted to begin at the beginning so I read Four and Twenty Blackbirds first.

Cherie Priest was born, raised, and received higher education throughout the American South so it is no wonder that her work is heavily influenced by the attitudes, culture, and legends of the South.  Four and Twenty Blackbirds tells the story of Eden Moore, a young woman of mixed racial heritage who grows up in Tennessee with the gift (curse?) of being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Along with her strange ability is a twisted family history rife with scandal that none of the living members are willing to discuss with her. Eden wants answers and the novel becomes a bit of a detective mystery as well as a ghost story as Eden strikes out on her own to learn what has everyone's lips so tightly sealed.

The novel is dominated by strong, female characters which I believe may be the author's answer to the Southern chauvinistic environment in which she grew up. I speak of the region of America in which many of my own family members were raised, not of her own familial upbringing of which I know nothing. Eden is headstrong from the very first pages in which we are introduced to her as a young child. She continues to develop into a strong adult woman, bright, curious, and resourceful. I enjoyed her and it was easy to root for her.

Cherie Priest writes some really creepy supernatural encounters, a couple of which stood my hair on end. Her storytelling is straightforward, not over-flowery in an attempt to win the award for most thesaurus words used. She just wants to tell a good story and I think she was largely successful, but I felt the conclusion was a bit disappointing. The entire story seemed to be advancing toward a confrontation with a cult determined to raise a dangerous man from the dead but what actually happened was on a much smaller, and in my opinion, much less satisfying scale. I largely favor the journey over the destination though, so my disappointment in the ending does not tarnish my overall enjoyment of the story. I have already added the next book to my To-Read list.

Check out the Sword & Laser Author Guide to Cherie Priest below: