In The Shadow of Blackbirds
Release Date: 2nd April 2013
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Synopsis: 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.
Review: This book was so perfect. Cat Winters, I love your writing and your beautiful prose. In The Shadow of Blackbirds is a haunting gothic novel that will leave a lasting impression upon the reader. This is a novel like no other, it captures the dark times of a country suffering and a girls own battles with heartbreak and spiritualism in seamless perfection. Just like the eerie photographs of the time featured in the novel, we are shown the contrast between all things dark and light, life and death and the thin line between the two. A line that can be crossed with a bolt of electricity or even an inhalation of diseased air.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds begins when Mary Shelley Black has to flee to her aunts after her father voiced his opinions about the war and was jailed. The year is 1918 and the world is being torn apart by war and a deadly influenza that’s already killed so many. Mourners are flocking to spirit photographers in hopes of getting a final image with their lost loved ones. It’s an image of desperation and finality and one Mary Shelley pity’s. Upon arrival Mary Shelley discovers that her loves older brother has used her photograph as advertisement and lured all delusional and desperate people to his business. Julius wants another photograph from his most popular client and Mary’s aunt forces her to comply. It’s only after the photo was developed that Mary learns the harrowing truth. Her first love has died at war, the evidence is in the photograph. In it standing by her side is the boy she loves. The boy who was meant to be alive on the other side of the world, not a ghostly spirit at his home.
Mary Shelley Black. Just the name is enough to intrigue the reader and she lives up to it. Named after the author of Frankenstein, she is just as intrigued by science as her name sake. Mary is a very tomboyish girl, who likes to take things apart and is amused by electricity. She is alone in a world currently torn apart by war and the influenza. The person she loves most is on the other side of the world, fighting for their country. The reader really got to know Mary Shelley Black and what it was like to be different in the past, when a girl acting like a boy was severely frowned upon. She was independent and knew she wanted to help people in the world. She was ready to stand up to the crowd and prove a young woman could do what she liked.
This book is full of horror and I mean not just suspense but gut wrenching horror. That ending especially. We go through the novel with frights and scares, the suspense is laid thick upon the reader making them jump and panic at every little detail. The end though was beyond it all, it was nothing like I expected, and it completely blew me away in a slightly repulsed way. It was creepy and truly horrible and I will never get over the undeniable shock and dread the ending made me feel. It’s as if Winters wanted the suspense to tease the reader along thinking things will stay at the same level of terror and then… She unleashes one of the wickedest endings of a YA novel. Honestly the amount of emotions that went through me whilst reading the end was immense, all I can say is if your faint hearted, be prepared.
In The Shadow of Blackbirds is a beautifully written ghost story that includes all the suspense and terror a horror novel needs. Cat Winters is a very promising debut author and one I have added not only to my favourites list but my auto buy list. I must have all the magical prose that comes from this talented author. This is the best YA book I have read in 2013 and it’s going to be hard to beat.