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Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore) Paperback – September 15, 2005
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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.
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
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I mean, I enjoyed the writing, Preist is a good writer, I just wasn't sure if I felt like I connected with any of the characters. I didn't really feel like I became invested in what happened to them. Did I like them? Sort of.
Raylene has a very dry sense of humor, which was kind of nice but she was kind of a butt too.
Adrian was funny and a great character but yet, I still didn't feel like I got enough glimpse of him to love him and care a whole lot about what happened to him in the end.
Ian was also a really interesting character and again, I liked him but I'm not sure I loved him. I wanted to feel sorry for his situation but instead I think I was more fascinated with it and just wanted to learn what he was hiding.
All in all, the series is an interesting one and something new out there in the world of UF and I definitely wouldn't mind reading the next book, in fact I plan on reading the next book because I really really want to feel that connection with the characters and I want to learn more about them. I want to like the series as much as I like the concept of the series.
I am hoping the next one will be better and will get a little more personal.
Coming face to face with a blind vampire and finding out that the government was responsible, having abducted and experimented on him years ago, stirs every one of Raylene's deepest, darkest fears. There's nothing that scares an immortal more than the idea of an eternity with a debilitating disability like blindness. She hadn't even known it was possible. And Uncle Sam knows vampires exist...and has captured them? Oh yeah, that's a world of bad news.
Ian didn't go to the tremendous risk of tracking her down simply to scare her, though, nor did he look her up for her stellar wit and irresistible charm. Mostly because she has none. No, he contacted her because of her reputation. Raylene may be an incurable neurotic with OCD issues, but she is also an exceptional thief. World renowned, actually, and wanted by countries all over the world. And when you're a blind vampire who needs the medical files from a now defunct government-funded project so Top Secret it hardly even existed when it was in full operation, you want the very best. And Ian has to have those files to have any hope of getting his sight back.
The case will take Raylene from her home base in Seattle to the sultry streets of Atlanta, from the brutal cold of the northern Midwest to the brutally political Washington, D.C. Then her own warehouse storage space is compromised and groups of strange men in black...maybe even the Men in Black...start showing up everywhere she goes. Raylene realizes she's in the middle of something much bigger than she's ever dealt with before...and what started as nothing more than a challenging job with a lucrative paycheck has become very, very personal.
I try to be pleasant, but I'm not very good at it. The best I can usually pull off is "professional if somewhat chilly." It's not ideal, no. But it beats "awkward and bi+chy."
This exciting series debut was a lot of fun. The characters are fresh and the story unique. That alone is a wonderful rarity. What set this book apart for me, though, what made me really excited as I was reading, was Raylene. I sorta loved her.
That's a good thing, too, because you have to if you're going to like the book. Told in her first person point of view, the narrative is a meandering, digression-rich cornucopia of delicious internal monologue and random witticisms padding a plot that, if I'm honest, didn't really do much for me. I never quite connected with the Big Brother badness and mystery surrounding the experimentation on vamps and other species. And the resolution of that particular plot thread left me with more questions than the story answered.
Fortunately for me, there was more to the book than conflict concerning the government's questionable scientific explorations, and Raylene was a big enough delight that I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I loved her moral ambiguity, her rampant neurosis, her ambivalence about the kids squatting in her building, and especially her friendship with the ex-Seal drag queen Adrian. I loved seeing her evolve from the very solitary thief to the vampire with a growing circle of people who matter to her.
She has no conscience when it comes to killing or feeding. She's a vampire, that's part of the whole gig. Doesn't mean she's an indiscriminate killer, though. She's old enough that she doesn't have to feed often and she's content with that.
Touchy-feely she is not. Nurturing she is not. She's honest with herself - the good, the bad, and the crazy. She's also funny, with a dark, me-first sense of humor that blends nicely with a wry self-effacing humor. The combination appealed to me. And man, she tells an intensely thorough tale. I loved the conversational stream-of-consciousness narrative, don't get me wrong, but even I felt it could have been a little bit tighter and gone a little lighter on the superfluous detail. The pacing of the book suffered a bit in places when she started to ramble on inconsequential details.
I'll say this, though, by the end of the book, readers have a very intimate and three dimensional picture of Raylene as a character. That worked very nicely for me, but honestly, it may not work for everyone. Personally, I think the book rests on Raylene's shoulders. Like her, like the book. And I did.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.
With that said - I finished this last evening and seriously am a bit lost. I feel as though I missed something early in the book and it was never found - never explained. The three ghosts appearing to Eden was intriguing and her Aunt Lu evading questions added mystery and, at the start, I really enjoyed the tale. All of a sudden Eden gets angry with Lu and leaves on a journey to understand her family and we have a "brother cousin" and a great x 5 grandfather that's a father and it just turns into a convoluted mess. Of course it has to do with deals made, life after death and reincarnation but it's a hard read to follow in my opinion.
Even now as I consider the writing as a whole, I wonder if Priest wanted Eden, the main character, to be frightened, funny, cocky or what? Eden was never really developed and in this weakness I was unable to join with her in the journey through the book. And as stated earlier, the messy generations were thrown together and it lost me. I was busy trying to figure out what I had missed and trying to make sense of it that I wasn't able to get into the story at all.
I love southern gothics and I'll read the next two books in this triology but if I had to do it all again - I wouldn't purchase FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS. It has been a disappointment for this reader.