I could seriously kick myself in the shin for waiting so darn long to read In The Shadow Of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. I have had this really awesome book just sitting on my Kindle for months and I just kept on passing over it — for some good books and some bad books. BUT YOU GUYS! HOW WAS I LIVING LIFE WITHOUT READING THIS? Seriously. This is a book that I am pissed off that I was just walking around never having read it — it’s that awesome. It hits pretty much all my happy points – disease, war, ghosts, con artists, history, and romance. OH OH AND BIRDS. In The Shadow Of Blackbirds is a debut that is absolutely NOT to be missed. Trust you will regret not reading this baller book.
Mary Shelley Black has just stepped off the train from Portland to San Diego to go live with her Aunt Eva — who FYI you guys is MY age — after her dad was arrested for treason. Treason because he opposed the war. THAT IS RIGHT, this book is set in the year 1918. Frankly, it’s a tense year. The Spanish Flu has broken out and I can tell you, catching that is way, way worse than “affluenza.” Millions are dying. Almost every home has some form of black drapes, whether to connotate flu death or war death. It’s just a year of loss. Mary Shelley’s lover, Stephen, has enlisted and is overseas fighting the war. His brother Julius is earning money working as a spiritual photographer, meaning he photographs you and spirits show up in the picture. Anyways, he has been using pictures of Mary Shelley to promote his business and that totally pisses her off. Also, he’s been kind of a douche and spread this unfortunate rumor about Mary Shelley and Stephen that marred their last meeting. Oh yeah, and there are ghosts. Mary Shelley must get to the bottom of a, um, mystery and you guys time is RUNNING OUT!
Mary Shelley Black is a boss lady, hear me now. I want this girl on my quiz bowl team. She’s definitely a bluestocking and takes after her mother, who is dead, FYI. Anyway, this girl is brave and has a set of brass balls on her, I swear. She is single minded in her determination to find out what has happened to Stephen. Also? Nothing seems to scare her. How cool is that? Like, she goes to the veteran hospital and volunteers and instead of being afraid of all the injuries she pretty much dives in, because she gets things done you guys. If you like roll your sleeves up kind of girls, you will love Mary Shelley. This girl is a character after my own heart. Good on Cat Winters for making the heroine of In The Shadow Of Blackbirds so freaking likable to me.
If you like your books to be an immersive experience, In The Shadow Of Blackbirds perfectly sets the scene for World War One era America. There are all these little touches Winters puts in that make the book interesting — talking about cars and trains and women working in factories. It’s kind of amazing. Furthermore, there are setting elements that just fascinate me such as the reemergence of Spiritualism, which saw a renewed surge in popularity during this era because of the death everywhere. You guys, I love how much detail Winters goes into on Spiritualism. It felt a bit like reading a Mary Hooper book and if you guys know me, you know that is high praise indeed. Next, so much of this book is about influenza, which you guys is actually really scary. I never thought of it as all that big of deal until I saw Downton Abbey (RIP) and saw that millions of people were dying of the flu. Like, I always thought the flu was a more intense version of a fever, but in this book like your feet turn black and you pretty much die. Then there is WWI, where people go around calling Germans krauts and burning German related things. It’s like freedom fries up in here you guys. And then you have all these young men enlisting. And then people who don’t get why there is a war and so, are against it but can’t speak out. AND WOMEN ARE WORKING. It’s kind of fascinating you guys. Just trust the setting of this book is amazing.
As for the romance, yes there’s kissing. But mostly, there is a whole lot of angst. But also letters. And cleverness. And longing. It’s hard for me to type up the whole romance between Mary Shelley Black and Stephen Embers without giving something away — just note that Stephen and Mary are perfect for each other and you are totally going to feel the feels if you know what I mean. Really. That is the best possible note I can end on — YOU WILL FEEL THE FEELS.
Disclosure: Review Copy Provided Via Netgalley
Other reviews of In The Shadow Of Blackbirds by Cat Winters:
Respiring Thoughts – “I didn’t love it like I know I should have”
Cuddlebuggery – “brilliantly written book”
Books Take You Places – “In the Shadow of Blackbirds will consume you, body and soul”