Friday, May 3, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters Review

In the Shadow of Blackbird by Cat Winters
Available Now
Publisher: Amulet Books
Hardcover 387 pages
To Buy Links- Amazon/Kindle/B&N/Book Depository/
Kobo/ Indiebound

From Goodreads: 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.

I won't lie to you, I had a hard time reading this novel. I put it down several times and picked it back up. But I'd read so many glowing reviews of it and had so many email discussions about it that I knew I needed to finish it. So today was the day. I guess I finally had reached the tipping point because today I couldn't even change out of my p.j.'s to stop reading! I'm so glad I finished this one!

The characters-
Mary Shelley- Bugs the crap out of me that they call her by both names. It would be like me always being in trouble in my house. No one ever used both my names. Anyway, as a character she was brilliant. Really, scientifically so. But she still had that vulnerability to her. I was crying about a third of the way through the book right along with Mary Shelley, my hopes crushed along with hers. I was curious along with her as she deciphered clues, glad for her more scientific and logical mind (mine was still back there crying) and I was glad for her quick thinking and inevitable heroism that figured it all out.

Stephen Embers- Though not present for most of the book was still an amazing character, a beacon of hope for Mary Shelley as she faced terrible hurdles, her father in prison, the Spanish Flu epidemic, the war, not knowing what happened to him, the fear of being called a traitor herself. His photos, old letters, remembrances of time with him and "other" things helped Mary Shelley.

Aunt Eva- For being 26, she didn't seem very mature. She freaked at every mention of Mary Shelley's father, squawked at Mary Shelley for leaving the house while she worked, thought everyone was going to give them the flu, she was scared of her own shadow, yet let the biggest villains into her home like it was nothing. I didn't care for her much. She was the anti- Mary Shelley.

Julius Embers- Nasty. I picture him with oily slicked back hair, a monocle and one of those cigarettes in a long holder. He's got a sweet ride, but apparently he's too doped up to drive it anywhere. He's a hack photographer and was always jealous of Stephen's talent as a photographer. He also starts the novel lying about the way he found Mary Shelley and Stephen and he's the reason Stephen signed up for the war. So yeah, no redeeming qualities.

The world- The author seems to have done meticulous research on the Spanish Flu and the world regarding that and the climate during WWI in the area along the West Coast. Most definitely, German dislike would have been high, as is shown. I've studied WWI in my history books way back when, but it doesn't come to life until you read about it. About what life was like. And to have the flu epidemic on top of that. People must have thought the apocalypse was upon them. I would have. The flu was as indiscriminate a killer as the bombs were. Cat Patrick did a great job setting the scene.

What I think- This isn't really about the war, or the flu epidemic. It's about a 16 yr old girl caught in the middle of all of it trying to find out what happened to the boy she loved. The biggest part of it is a mystery. And it takes almost the whole book to unravel it. I honestly had no idea who or what had happened. It's quite terrible.

It all boils down to this-Mary Shelley says it best- Parents teach their kids to treat other as they want to be treated. Don't hurt anyone. Solve your problems with words not fists. Share. Don't take something that belongs to someone else without asking first. Use your manners. The oddest thing is that they all go against the lesson that they (grown-ups) teach children. ( ARC Kindle edition)

It's an excellent novel with a back drop of history and a huge mystery to be unwound through the dangerous, infected streets of San Diego. Mary Shelley is a fearless yet vulnerable 16 yr old who can see and feel the pain and suffering all around her and does what she can to help. But that mystery of what happened to Stephen that won't let her rest, unless she falls down dead from the flu. And she just might!

Cat Patrick-
Author Links-Website/Twitter/Facebook  And on this page which is on her website you'll find a wealth of links on WWI, the Spanish Flu, Spirit Photography, Veterans of Wars, the cities in the novel and on and on. Very informative!


  1. Glad you got to the point where you got into it and didn't want to put it down, sorry it took you a bit to get there though

  2. A friend just recommended this book to me last week. The cover pulls me in and if it kept you in your jammies - nuff said. Love the new look of your blog.

  3. Hmm... I still haven't decided if I'm going to read this one. The double name would drive me crazy (although, I had a college roommate who went by her first and middle name and would get REALLY mad if you only called her by her first name).

  4. I think the main reason I want to read this book is the history. I really am curious about this world. So, it looks like I'm good there. I can see what you mean about the characters and I do think it would bother me as well. However, now that I'm apprised of the situation, I do think it will bug me less! Brilly review!!

  5. I'm SO glad you hung in there and ended up loving it! I luckily was in the right mood when I started, but this is the kind of book that can sometimes take me awhile to get through.
    I didn't mind her aunt too much, though I thought she sometimes got a bit dramatic and didn't take some things as well as she should have considering their situation.
    Wonderful review Heather!

  6. I want to read this one, so I'm glad you posted a review on the slow to get into part. Otherwise I might have put it aside and never picked it back up. (Love the new look of your blog!)

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  7. Glad you made it through and the payoff was golden. I thought this was excellent read and loved learning more about the flu and such. I adored Stephen and loved Mary's spirit. I will definitely read Winters again!

  8. Kudos to you for sticking with this book. Mary Shelley's voice immediately captured my attention. I loved her and I was so devastated to find out that Stephen had died. I agree that the mystery along with the supernatural aspect worked out quite well.

  9. I love that quote about adults forgetting what they tell their children-so perfect for a book against the backdrop of WWI! I had trouble reading this book because of its ebook formatting but I really did love it too!

  10. This sounds like it has an amazing atmosphere. It's a shame that it took so long to get into, but it seems as though it was worth it! :)


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