Early Review – In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Posted March 7, 2013 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA / 8 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat WintersIn the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on April 2nd 2013
Pages: 404
Genres: Ghosties, Gothic, Historical Fiction, Horror, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Also by this author: The Cure for Dreaming, The Uninvited: A Novel, The Steep & Thorny Way


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.

‘Stay still. Smile. And summon the dead.’

Mary Shelley Black is a sixteen year old girl living in a war ravaged world. After her father is arrested she is forced to flee and stays with her Aunt in San Diego. After losing her father and finding out that her childhood love, Stephen, has lost his life in the war, Mary Shelley struggles desperately to cling to a reason to continue living when she’s visited by Stephen, as a spirit who is traumatized by visions of his death that he continues to re-live. Realizing that she’s the only one that can see him and the only one that can help him she begins to seek out information regarding his death and what truly happened to him.

Wowsa. This book was high on my anticipating in 2013 list and I’m so very glad to say that it lived up to all the anticipation. This was a fabulous, and fresh ghost story that fans of the genre will enjoy.

‘I think between the war and the flu, no one’s going to escape getting haunted. We live in a world so horrifying, it frightens even the dead.’

Blackbirds had an amazing story albeit based strongly on actual history. The story centers on the year 1918 when the Spanish influenza has swept through cities and World War I is ongoing. It was quite a dreary time to write about and Cat Winters didn’t hold back or try and make the story any less bleak and I loved that. The black and white pictures that were included throughout the book made the perfect addition to really showcase the mood of the story.

And oh, young love. The love between Mary and Stephen was so touching and quite shocking in its fervency. It may have seemed a tad unlikely that two could love each other so much at such a young age but it was beautifully written and completely believable. Your heart will ache for them.

This could have been like any other typical war story but what really managed to make this something special and distinctive was the focus on the increased interest in a spiritual nature as mourners became willing to attempt anything to assuage the pain of losing a loved one. A truly wonderful story, Cat Winters debut is an absolute triumph. In the Shadow of Blackbirds possesses a subtle intensity that will leave you breathless.



8 responses to “Early Review – In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

  1. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings

    I am super excited to read this one and so glad that I impulsively snatched up a copy. I love learning more about this era and I am such a sucker for a good ghost story. So glad to hear that this one impressed you and that it was a winner! Yeah!

  2. Amanda

    The cover of this book makes me think it’s more a collection of photographs than a story – but I guess it does feature photos after all. I really don’t know much about the Spanish influenza, so this sounds really fascinating. I’ll definitely have to check it out! Mary Shelley’s name makes me think of the creator of Frakenstein lol.

  3. Vegan YA Nerds

    This is only the second review I’ve read of this book but it is sounding so good, and so different, to most YA avail. at the moment!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.