In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rated: YA 14+
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds ended up taking me by surprise. Sure I was interested when I heard of the book because I hadn't actually heard too much about the Spanish Influenza's impact on the United States, and the cover was so hauntingly captivating that I just knew that this book would be different. However, when I started reading this book I found myself a little lost and a tad bit unexcited until fifty or so pages. I just thought the pace at the start could have been a little better, but later I found myself flipping pages and intrigued by the mystery, the history and the chilling suspense.

❝She was right. If I could figure out why I was still able to see Stephen, it would be no different than Thomas Edison discovering how to create electric light out of carbon filaments and dreams. Or the Wright brothers proving humans could fly.
The impossible often turned possible.
Scientific detectives and Spiritualists could be one and the same.❞
–p. 144 (ARC* copy)
*text is subject to change in the final copy

I really enjoyed the addition of photographs to the book. It reminded me of Ransom Rigg's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children with the black and white, eerie pictures.  I also really liked how the author managed to combine two big "events" in the US during the time period. The Spanish Influenza being one, of course, but also a hint of the supernatural– séances. As this book is set in the early 20th century, I know that séances were quite popular then. I've only seen hints of them (most of them fake anyway) in movies such as Ghost, but it was interesting to see the procedure and what was often expected of the people, what would occur during one, and so on. I found this really great and had the right amount of information so that I would still be interested in the story, not taking in a boat-load of information that would make me confused.

Mary Shelley was a great character. I knew I would like her instantly– I'm studying Frankenstein, so I could definitely see the link between her character and her namesake. I love how much she isn't pulled in by the craze of ghosts and contacting the dead as everyone else seems to fall for it, but only waits until she has concrete evidence to go by. Reading this book through her perspective really allowed me to see the world during the early 1900's and learn more about it, as well as feel just as creeped out by the mystery and the race to the thrilling climax. I love how brave she is as well, I surely wouldn't have the guts to do some of the things she does, so that shows how determined and headstrong her character is as well.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was riveting, hauntingly powerful, and a fabulous historical fiction novel which has an original storyline, that held onto me from start to finish. Cat Winters has written a strong debut, and I definitely am looking forward to what comes from her next. That being said, I'm hungry for more... I can't wait for The Cure for Dreaming!

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Tina from Abrams & Chronicle Books for sending me a copy for review and BTG2013! ▪ ▪ ▪

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  1. Now that you mention it, In the Shadow of Blackbirds does remind me a bit of Miss Peregrine's. The narrative style was a bit similar as well. I really enjoyed this book- nice to see that you did too!

  2. I had not seen that the author's second book was listed-I'm very interested in reading that because like you I enjoyed this one so much. It sounds like it'll have some similar elements, which makes me hopeful I'll like it as well.


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