Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanatorium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled swamp in Florida, and back in time to the Civil War, when the taint in her family bloodline sets in motion events building only now to a supernatural crescendo.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds, the first in the Eden Moore series, was originally released back in 2003, but have now been published in the UK for the first time by Titan Books. You may recognise the award-winning Cherie Priest from her Clockwork Century Universe books, starting with Boneshaker. I personally have never read anything by her, though I have been dying to for a while now. So when the lovely Cara from The Tattooed Book blog offered to send me her copy I was absolutely delighted!
Eden Moore can see ghosts. She’s always been able to see ghosts, three sisters to be precise, who seem to have some sort of message for her that she can’t quite grasp hold of. This makes Eden a pretty unique child. She struggles to fit in at school, with the teachers and people her age. Her mother died when she was a baby, and she has never known her father so she lives with her aunt and uncle. When her crazy cousin Malachi shows up out of nowhere trying to kill her, she starts digging deeper into her family history, to discover the truth once and for all about her mother’s death.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a brilliant southern gothic horror story with a superb strong female lead. I loved Eden throughout the whole book and really enjoyed going on this journey through history with her. The story goes right back to the American Civil War and some rather superstitious evil that arose from that time, involving the black people and Native Americans and quest for immortality. If you’ve read some of my past reviews, you already know I will virtually love any book with Native Americans in, and this really caught me by surprise in this book as I hadn’t seen it coming. I thought Priest did an absolutely superb job of blending the civil war-era with evil magic and the quest for immortal life. It really made the novel stand out as something new, avoiding all those awful clichés you find in horror nowadays.
It really is Priest’s talent as a writer that holds this story together. There is a lot of family history explored throughout, and I sometimes lost track of who was related to who and how and why! But it all came together at the end in a terrifying climax and the fact that I read it in only a few days is a testament to just how much of a page-turner this novel is! There is a whole cast of wonderfully eerie characters; from crazy cousin Malachi, to the evil old cousin who loathes Eden, as well as some very creepy settings; the old sanatorium where her mother gave birth to her, and the foul swamp full of crocodiles. There is so much in this novel that I can hardly believe Priest managed to squeeze it all into 311 pages!
I thoroughly enjoyed Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it was just the perfect thing to read after the historical epic The Street Sweeper. It’s an absolute page-turner, original and full of suspense and intrigue, and one that completely took me by surprise. I can’t wait to explore more of Priest’s work, and I am especially excited for the next two books in the Eden Moore series; Wings to the Kingdom, available in May 2012, and Not Flesh Not Feathers in October 2012. If you haven’t come across Priest’s work before, and you love a good horror story, then this is definitely a great place to start!
Four and Twenty Blackbirds is out now, published by Titan Books. Thanks again to Cara from The Tattooed Book Blog for sending me a copy!