Book Review: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: YA Historical/Mystery with a Paranormal twist
Rating: Five out of Five stars
Back of book blurb:
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.
This is one of those books that is so beautifully written you want to go back and immediately reread it. Cat Winters did a spectacular job bringing the haunted feeling of walking around during the Spanish influenza to life. I could actually smell the onions people used to keep the flu away, and feel the gauze suffocating me. The details and historical accuracy really elevated this novel into something otherworldly. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but hands down this is one of the most breathtaking reads of the year. If you are in the market for something unlike anything else on the shelves this is the book for you.
Mary Shelley Black is a delightful character full of quirks and spunk. She is such a remarkable young woman who deals with everything that’s thrown at her with courage and bravery, and the mystery surrounding the death of her first love kept me turning the pages well into the early morning hours. I’m not a cryer when it comes to novels, I RARELY tear up, but there were two parts in this book that brought on full-blown ugly crying.
MY GOD YOU NEED TO READ THIS. There are so many things I want to chat about so please go buy a copy and make some tea.
Here’s a taste of the first page to whet your appetite:
Portland, Oregon–October 16, 1918
I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way. Gauze masks concealed the passengers’ mouths and noses. The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.
Keep moving, I told myself.
My legs shook and threatened to buckle, but I managed to clomp down the aisle in the brown Boy Scout boots I wore in case I ever needed to run at a moment’s notice. The heavy tread drew unwanted glances and at least one raised eyebrow, but nobody uttered a word.
Praise for IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS:
“Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery…Deliciously creepy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Unconventional and unflinching… More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice.”—Booklist, starred review
“Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance…the story and setting are atmospheric and eerie.”—School Library Journal, starred review
“Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Cat Winters’s debut novel is creepy good… Mary Shelley, with her Boy Scout boots and penchant for aviatrix goggles, is just plain awesomely odd.” —The Boston Globe
“Words like ‘unputdownable’ and ‘irresistible’ are simply not enough for Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Days after finishing this story, it remains the first thought I have in the morning, and the thing that haunts me until I sleep.”—Lauren DeStefano New York Times bestselling author of The Chemical Garden trilogy
Keep up with Cat Winters on the interwebs:
She’s also hosting an international giveaway on her blog RIGHT NOW through July 2nd, so you miiiiiiiight want to check it out.
3 thoughts on “IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS”
Kerri, your review and Cat’s writing make me want to read this book! And I’m not usually drawn to this kind of story, but I thiiinnnkkk I’m making an exception. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much for stopping in, Barbara! You are in for a real treat, Cat did a phenomena job! 🙂
“This is one of those books that is so beautifully written you want to go back and immediately reread it.” <== This. One of the best feelings in the entire world. I will definitely check this one out!
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