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Four and Twenty Blackbirds Paperback – September 15, 2005


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Four and Twenty Blackbirds + Wings to the Kingdom: An Eden Moore Story + Not Flesh Nor Feathers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Tor Ed edition (September 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780765313089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765313089
  • ASIN: 0765313081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The classic Southern gothic gets an edgy modern makeover in Priest's debut novel about a young woman's investigation into the truth of her origins. 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 sanitarium 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. Priest adds little new to the gothic canon, but makes neo-goth chick Eden spunky enough to deal with a variety of cliché menaces—a scheming family matriarch, a brooding Poe-esque mansion and a genealogy greatly confused with inbreeding—that would have sent the genre's traditional wilting violets into hysterics. Eden is a heroine for the aging Buffy crowd, and her adventures will play best to postadolescent horror fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this new edition of a novel that was 100 pages shorter in its original, regional-publisher printing in 2003, Priest sinks deep into the tale of a Tennessee orphan who draws upon grit worthy of Scarlett O'Hara to extract an evil canker from her Spanish moss-hung family tree. Visitations by spirits spur Eden, who has grown up seeing ghosts, to pursue dangerous genealogical research. Also fueling her investigations are attempts on her life by a maniacal cousin, whose plots have the blessing of a crusty old matriarch resentful of Eden's slave--descended branch of the family. This southern-gothic closet is fairly overflowing with skeletons, from a polygamist wife murderer to a coven of voodoo priests. It all screeches to a somewhat unsatisfying halt after a cinematic climax, but there's mystical, sultry appeal in the thick Chattanooga atmosphere and strong characterizations (Eden's tongue is as sharp as the heels of her signature black boots), and a mixed-race heroine lends welcome diversity to a genre well populated with porcelain-complected heroines. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Cherie Priest is the author of twelve novels, including the steampunk pulp adventures Dreadnought, Clementine, Ganymede, and Boneshaker. Boneshaker was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; it was a PNBA Award winner, and winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Cherie also wrote Fathom and the Eden Moore series from Tor (Macmillan), Bloodshot and Hellbent for Bantam, and three novellas published by Subterranean Press. In addition to all of the above, she is a newly minted member of the Wild Cards Consortium - and her first foray into George R. R. Martin's superhero universe, Fort Freak (for which she wrote the frame story), debuted in 2011. Cherie's short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in such fine publications as Weird Tales, Subterranean Magazine, Publishers Weekly, The Living Dead 2, and the Thackeray T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. She presently lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband, a fluffy young dog, and a fat black cat.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Eden sees ghosts--specifically the three female spectres that have haunted her and protected her throughout her life. She is also haunted by her fanatical, unbalanced cousin who has tried twice to kill her. After the second failed attempt, Eden begins to unearth her own family history in order to determine why her cousin wants her dead: he fears that she will revive the spirit of her long dead great-grandfather, an heartless African magician who desires immortality. A richly Southern gothic book, replete with dark mansions, hauntings, and a gnarled and twisted family tree, this is an atmospheric and engrossing read. However, simply unraveling the plot takes up the entire book, leaving no room for character growth or side stories, and the protagonist borders on annoying throughout the text. This is a promising first novel, but faulted. Moderately recommended.

The highlight of this book is its pacing and its atmosphere, both of which make it a swift and engrossing read. From the abandoned, haunted locations to the immediate and physical threats, as well as the twisted and convoluted plot that Priest unravels without massive exposition, the book moves at a skillful pace: just fast enough to keep the reader consistently interested without being brief or full of annoying cliffhangers, just slow enough to really get into and enjoy the supernatural aspects. This book reads well and is hard to put down. The plot is detailed and well-crafted, especially for a debut novel.

In many ways, however, the plot is too detailed and too well crafted: it is the sole and driving force in the book. At less than 300 pages, with such a meticulous plot, there is barely room in the book for anything else.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on March 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cherie Priest is a noted blogger and a success story for writers who see blogging as a way to get on the radar. I had been a little bit reluctant to give her book a try. Largely, this is because the last blog-to-book thing that I read disappointed me quite a bit. I find that the diction of good diarists often does not work well in a novel. In that sense, this book was a pleasant surprise.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds introduces Eden Moore. Eden sees ghosts, and has done since she was a small child. There are more than one kind of ghosts, however, and it is people from real life who send Eden hunting in the past. Her life and the life of her sister depend on her success.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds is one part horror, one part detective story, one part literary fiction. It reminded me a little bit of Eva Moves the Furniture by Margaret Livesey. I liked that book quite a bit, so I did not mind the resemblance. It may, in truth, have only been the ghosts.

The prose is quite good, and I read it fairly compulsively. The plot is less even, and in moments where I was less enchanted by the writing I found myself getting a little bit annoyed by some of the plot holes. Eden is a very vibrant character. The backstory about the evil threat was oddly backgrounded. I understand that the length of the book has changed over several editions, and perhaps this accounts for some of the lacunae.

In any case, I really enjoyed the book. It kept me reading through a nasty hangover when all I really wanted to do was lay in bed and eat blueberries. I am particularly looking forward to reading the next book. I have a hope that as a second novel it will be more evenly plotted, given that Priest would have known where it was going to be placed.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chad Henderson on March 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I am writing this review from 37,000 ft, a first for me, and find it oddly humorous that I will pass over Chattanooga, TN in a few moments on my celestial journey from St. Louis to Orlando, considering I just finished Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a supernatural tale of the haunting and hunting of a young girl from that very town. I wonder if I were able to drop the book from an open window, would I be able to hit someone who recognized it?
Four and Twenty Blackbirds definitely feels like a first novel in those first few hours of reading as we get to know her as an author and watch her characters crawl into our world from her rich, and dangerous imagination. Ms. Priest seems to be pushing the edges of the medium, using analogy and simile like a large hammer to bludgeon us with her wit and creativity. She uses images and phrases that please the mind like expensive chocolates please the palate. I often found myself rereading a particular phrase just to let it melt on my tongue a little longer. While momentarily pleasing, it does have the effect of pulling us out of the story.
Once she gets past the basic introduction of the characters and into the main course of the story she begins to grow comfortable in letting the story create the images without pushing so hard and that's when things get really interesting. Her descriptions of the forests and hills around Eden's home had me swatting at insects and smelling moldy, humid air. Her characters began to grow into living breathing people before my eyes and soon I realized that I cared about them.
I soon found the book hard to put down and, once I did put it down, hard to stop thinking about. Priest has created a wonderful story that pulls you into a fully realized locations full of interesting believable characters.
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