Four and Twenty Blackbirds – Cherie Priest

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Four and Twenty Blackbirds


A girl in Chattanooga finds that she can see and speak to certain ghosts. Soon after, she encounters a distant cousin who thinks she’s someone else, and wants to kill her. As she grows up, she gathers little bits of a dark family history.


I don’t recall when or how I got this book, but it can’t have been that long ago, and I presume it was a free download from somewhere. The point is that I forgot, which explains my surprise at finding it was not my usual SFF, but a Southern horror story, a subgenre I’m not very familiar with. Perhaps that explains my disappointment.

The story is smoothly written, but has a wannabe Hollywod feel to it. Alternatively, given the title, and if you pardon the pun, it’s somewhat half-baked. The title itself gives you some of that – it’s only vaguely related to the plot, in that the occasional bird turns up. The plot moves along, but every now and then a previously unheralded element comes in that turns out to be quite important. Overall, the story never quite made sense to me, and relies heavily on genealogy so twisted that it’s difficult to keep track of. The author skips any number of possibilities to simplify, and ultimately, some of the connections are so distant that even a family tree would have been irrelevant.

All that said, the action keeps moving, and the protagonist is fairly likable. She’s of mixed race, which is genuinely relevant to the story, but makes a point of saying race is unimportant, while constantly noting the race of those around her; this got a bit tiring. Despite that, she’s easy to follow. Unfortunately, Priest lets us down at the ending, especially when she chooses a Hollywood ending over one with considerably more pathos.

A decent horror story, but not one to go out of your way for. Probably more fun for those from the South who recognize the landmarks than for the rest of us, who’ve seen something like this pretty often before.

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