Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Author: Cat Winters
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal
Format: E-Book
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Copy Provided By: Netgalley

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 tells the tale of a girl named Mary Shelley Black who is trying her best to live and thrive in a male dominated society all while trying to avoid catching the deadly Spanish Influenza. If you've never read about the Spanish Influenza here's a brief kind of history about it. The Spanish Influenza spread through shipping and trade routes infecting not only the US but Asia, Europe and the South Pacific as well. The Spanish Influenza infected over 500 million people worldwide and succeeded in killing off between 50 and 100 million of them. Oh and to put that into perspective the Spanish Influenza actually killed more people than World War I did earning it the title of worst Pandemic in recorded history. Yes, even worse than the Black Death and we all know how bad that one was. 

Fun fact: The Spanish Influenza actually originated in Kansas but it was called the Spanish Influenza due to its coverage in Spain. Caught up? OK, good. Let's get back to the review shall we.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds combines Historical Fiction with Paranormal elements brilliantly and I can't fault the book for that one bit. The way Cat Winters weaved WWI, Women's rights and Spirit Photography/mysticism while laying the backdrop of  the worst Pandemic in History is no small feat and she must be commended for that as well as the obvious research she did recreating the beginning of the 20th century. However,  while I loved the world,Mary and her Aunt Eva, I didn't particularly like Stephen who is a pretty big part of the overall story. I can't even really say why I didn't like him he just didn't sit right with me. I suppose at least some of my non fuzzy feelings for him are partly due to never really believing the romance between him and Mary. In fact sometimes I even doubted they were anything more than just childhood friends and maybe not even good ones at that.  At times to me it almost felt as if Mary made up the relationship in her head (which let's face it some girls do) by projecting those unsaid feelings into creating the relationship she would have had if events beyond her control didn't happen. Personally, the Author easily could of removed all romance from the story and it still would of worked for me. I know others probably will feel the opposite but I didn't particularly care for it.

Overall I really did enjoy In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Sure it was a bit wordy at times and the story did suffer some lulls in pacing but the characters combined with beautiful narration and a fantastically set world had me hooked til the very end. Speaking of the end, did not see that coming and I'm usually really good at solving mysteries. Therefore in the end, I will be rating In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters ★★★★.

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Cat Winters:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds


  1. I thought this book was so cool-I wasn't at all sure what to expect when I picked it up but I felt richly rewarded with its outstanding historical details.


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