Book Review | In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Posted on Monday, September 1, 2014 4:30 AM
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars



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.

My Thoughts:

I’ve heard such amazing things about In the Shadows of Blackbirds but not being a huge historical fiction fan, I’ve put off reading it for a while. I’m glad that I finally decided to give it a go though, because it’s such a unique story.

Mary Shelley Black lives in a time of war and disease, it’s the fall of 1918 and the Spanish Influenza is in full swing taking the lives of most people who are unlucky enough to catch it. With people dying from the flu and soldiers dying in combat everyone is turning towards séances and spirit photographers.

However, Mary Shelley doesn’t believe in all that stuff, until it comes knocking on her door in the form of her first love, Stephen. But the things that Stephen is telling her and the things she discovers doesn’t add up with what she told about his death, and it’s up to her to figure out what happened to Stephen so he can finally get the peace he deserves.

Like I said above, this story is incredibly unique and I don’t think I’ve read a ghost story quite like this one before as this was the first time I’ve ever even heard of spiritualist photographers. And while I may be just as skeptical as Mary Shelley when it comes to those type of photographers, I can see how in times of death, people would flock to them, searching for any shred of hope of life after death.

Mary Shelley was an interesting character, I loved how stubborn she was and the fact that she would fight for what she thought was right, no matter the cost to her. I wish we could’ve gotten more of Stephen as I feel like it would have made his death more devastating for the reader, but alas we can’t always have what we want.

In the Shadows of Blackbirds was a unique read and while I enjoyed Mary Shelley’s story, this book didn’t blow me away like I was hoping based on all of the amazing reviews that I’ve seen but that could be because I’m not big on historical fiction, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

--- Christy

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