Monday, June 10, 2013

[Review: In The Shadow Of Blackbirds by Cat Winters]

"In the Shadow of Blackbirds"
Author: Cat Winters
Pages: 387
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Date Published: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format Read: Finished copy from the library


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 seriously want to put this book high up on a pedestal with an escalator next to it (because I'm lazy) so I can go up and look at it and read it and pet it!  This book was combination of all the things that I love.  It's drenched in history, dread, death, the paranormal and twists that I wasn't even expecting.  Cat Winters did her homework on the world that she created and all of that hard work shows in the details that she added into the atmospheric prose of In the Shadows of Blackbirds.

The most impressive thing about this book is just how deeply rooted int history it is.  I found out some really interesting and disturbing things while reading this book and to me that adds to the reading experience in so many different ways.  As a native Californian myself I was excited that this was a war story set in San Diego.  This book not only touches on World War 1, but also the Spanish Flu (I don't think I'll ever think of an ambulance the same way again), spiritualism and the fear that all of those things brought on.  Though I know a lot about the war I didn't know a lot about any of the other subjects that were covered in this book.

The book is dark.  The tale is dark and the feeling that it leaves you with are ones that makes you just slightly afraid while you're reading it.  It's so subtle that, whispering so softly in your ear that you almost don't know that the fear is there.  That's how well crafted the atmosphere of this book is.  It teases you with all of the info and forces you to see the things that the characters are feeling and seeing in a way that keeps your mind clouded enough that when things are finally revealed you are surprised.

Mary Shelley Black is a strong protagonist and Winters takes her through some ringers.  Seriously, the things that this girl has to deal with were things that a lot of people dealt with in 1918, but seeing it through Mary Shelley's eyes makes it personal.  I loved her internal dialogue and the words that came out of her mouth.  She was a sharp witted, little thing and her lack of fear and curious mind made her someone that you could connect with on some level, if not all of them.  She feared the things around her and yet pushed through that fear to find the truth!

Mary Shelley and Stephan's relationship is haunting (both literally and figuratively).  It's heartbreaking and interesting to watch their relationship between their old letters and Stephan returning to the living world in his own way.  It'll tug at your heartstrings and make you smile all at the same time, while also shedding a tear.

All of the secondary characters were well used.  Both Embers brothers, Julius and Stephan had their parts to play and in a way your heart broke for both of them.  Aunt Eva was a young girl who wasn't ready to have to step up to the jobs of a man and yet she tried the best she could.  Even the smaller characters served their purposes in helping the mystery unfold.  The men rehabilitating in the Red Cross even had a special place in my heart.  

I think one of the other things about this book that impressed me, is that Winters managed to also give us a coming of age tale wrapped in all the other things that I've mentioned.  People were fearing for their lives and loves on a daily basis and yet they still had to go about their business and even the people of German descent had to hide their heritage.  It's interesting to see Mary Shelley survive and thrive in discovering herself in a world that was trying to hide from death and jail and a slew of other terrible things.

If you are a fan of historical fiction and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, then this is the book for you.  Even if you don't enjoy those things, I highly suggest this book.  It's rich and creepy and so well paced that you will be left satisfied and wanting more when you turn the last page!

Side Note: The book is so beautiful and the pictures add so much to it.  AKA get yourself a print copy if you can!

               5 Unicorns = Get your hands on this right now! 


Shane Morgan said...

Wonderful review. I'd love to read this one as well :)

Amy said...

This sounds so awesome. I have seen a lot of really great reviews on this. I'm glad that you loved it!

Nicole said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! I am so glad to see that you did too! IT was so spooky wonderful and everything about it was just perfect and in sync - the writing, the delivery, the setting! Yay!! (gush fest over) :D :D

Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

Jenni @ Alluring Reads said...

Oh man I had kind of written this one off because of the historical element to it but I think I really need to rethink that. I love how you describe the fear that it brought out in you, how subtle it was but how it's always there. Will definitely be giving this one a shot!

Cristina said...

I've been dying to read this one! And your review was phenominal! You made me even more excited to read it!!! hehe I can't wait to pick up a copy!

Tammy Sparks said...

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this and read it a few months ago. And LOVED it, just like you. Cat's writing is beautiful, and the story was so layered with all the historical elements. Great review!

Natalie Natflixandbooks said...

I've heard a lot of great things about this book. Everyone who reads it definitely seems to love it (as evidenced just by these previous comments). I'll have to see if my library has a copy so I can look at the pictures. Great review!

Jessica R said...

Ooh, I am so glad you loved this one too! I was so impressed by the way she tied all the different elements together. And I, too, loved the history, of course. Yay for amazing books getting love! :)

Rachel said...

Everyone seems to love this story. I'm sure it would break my heart, though. The time period is fascinating though. Can you imagine the mass hysteria if an influenza like it happened today?! Great review, Christina! :)

Jasprit said...

I finally have a copy of this, so I'm glad to see you give it a 5 star rating Christiannna. I've been reading some brilliant dark reads as of late, so I'm glad this follows a similar track! Brilliant review! :)

Mel@Thedailyprophecy said...

I love historical fiction, especially if it's a dark tale. I've heard nothing but good things about this book! I'm currently busy with epidemics, so I'm very interested in this one :D


Renae M. said...

"I seriously want to put this book high up on a pedestal with an escalator next to it" - OMG, hahahaha! :D

I'm so glad you loved this! I agree 100% with everything you said here—such a unique, well-done novel.