Book Review: In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters


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.

Credits to Goodreads.comdivider2rating and review

3.8/5 ⭐⭐⭐✨

I enjoyed reading this book. It was unique, yet it’s historic with a twist of a paranormal gist. I couldn’t say it was a great book but it was definitely a good read.

The story took place in 1918 when the world is the middle of war and there is a flu pandemic happening across the globe. The premise revolves around a 16 year old girl named Mary Shelly Black whose father was imprisoned because he was believed by the American government to be a traitor. Mary then was forced to move with her aunt, Eva and hopes to personally reconnect with his childhood friend, Stephen Embers. Later on though, Mary learned that Stephen enlisted himself in the army so their reunion was short lived. Mary Shelly is an unconventional and untraditional girl so she in comparison with anybody else – does not believe in spirits or ghosts. This changed though when she learned that Stephen died in battle and his ghost somehow found its way to haunt her.

What I love about this story is that was set in the 1918 but it felt so modern and so close to ‘now’. It was probably because the main character is not the typical teenage girl we read about during these times. She was described as not an ordinary 16 year old. Her fascinations are not on dresses, make ups, boys even. She’s inclinations are more on science, on discovery, mechanical, electronics. So it felt as if although I am reading about an event that happened way before I was even born but the angst of the MC made up for what I was missing out. Needless to say I like Mary Shelly’s character. In fact, there was no character in this book that I grew to hate. Even the superstitious and sometimes flirtatious Aunt Eva or the self absorbed Julius are kind of tolerable.

Despite the presence of ghosts or spirits and things like that, this book isn’t creepy – which to be honest, kinda disappoints me. I was really looking forward to a really creepy read because of the plot line. But no, the out of this world-should-be-creepy stuffs was all mild. I read it mostly during nights, with only a lamp shade on, alone, and I was still not scared… so that’s saying something.

The sweet surprise though that I really loved was the twist towards the end of the story. Of course there was a reason why Stephen’s spirit returned and it was overall the hidden gem of the story. You keep guessing what happened, what went wrong, who did this, who did that, what’s with the birds and all that stuff. So yeah, I didn’t see that twist at all – so good going.

I must say that I love reading about this setting. It was really interesting and depressing at the same time to read about what could have possibly happened to people during this difficult time. As a reader, I became more interested, more curious, and more knowing which is of course a good message whatever book it is that you’re reading. It should leave something – a piece, to ponder on after you’re done.

Aside from the interesting plot, there were promised photos here that I thought will remind me of the way Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’s vibe imparted, but sadly, the photos isn’t that much of an addition to the story. To be honest, some of them, I do not see the relevance at all. It was as if a few of these archival photographs tried so hard to fit in the story but it doesn’t quite delivered it’s purpose. I would’ve enjoyed the story without it either way.

The ending, I loved in particular. It sheds new light, hope amidst the otherwise depressing world this book has imparted. As you may have noticed I have both good and not so good remarks about this book that is why  I cannot give it a solid 5 star rating. But it was a really good read and I would totally recommend.

Till next book!






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