In The Shadow Of Blackbirds | Cat Winters | Book Review

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.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds Cat Winters Book Cover

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

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Oh man, I LOVE/hate that feeling after finishing a book like that when you want to kick yourself in the face for putting it off. Seeing as how you’re you and I trust your opinion, I think I’ll be dusting off my copy of this ASAP!

    Plus, plagues are one of my favorite things! To read about, that is. Also, the dude’s last name is EMBERS?!? Love it, I can practically feel the smolder already. (See what I did there? embers…smolder….yeah, I’m done.)

  2. I absolutely love this book! Cat did in amazing amount of research and it just shows into the details she puts throughout the novel – like you said. Mary Shelly is so likable that it’s ridiculous. I thought she was an extremely brave and headstrong woman, especially for it being 1918. I like that that was the course Cat took instead of making her, well, more like her aunt. One of my favorite scenes with her is when she’s reading Tom Sawyer to the soldiers in the hospital, my heart broke just a bit during that scene.

  3. Yes, yes, yes to all of this! What a brilliant novel. It’s a little out of my norm range of reads but I am so thankful I gave it a chance. I want everyone to read it! lol

  4. My fave book of the year <3!

  5. Wow this sounds really awesome! Pair that with your excitement after reading it and I know it HAS to go on my TBR pile…maybe I will pick it up with my soon to come Christmas money.. Great Review!

  6. I did feel the feels. I had a lot of fun with this book. Though it was dark, it was still really fun to read. Super engrossing. And you are right about Mary. I liked her a lot. I liked how independent she was. I liked how this book covered an oft overlooked topic and era. I felt like I was reading something new and original. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I agree with literally everything you said about this book. Mary Shelley is definitely a much stronger person than I would have been in her situation, but you’re right that she is so likeable. And good. And I read this just hoping that things would work out for her because she really does deserve some happiness. It is perfect and I’m definitely excited to read Winters’ sophomore novel next year (and then her adult novel that will take place in the same time period/setting as In the Shadow of Blackbirds yay!).

  8. Okay, just after reading your intro to your review I know I need to pick this one up ASAP!!

  9. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad review of this book yet. Makes me REALLY want to dive in and read it! It seems to have all the things I love in it. 🙂

  10. I read this for a 24 hour book challenge, and it was perfect for that! Glad you liked it too.

  11. Clearly I failed you, because I should have made you read this. I’ve been slacking, April. I’m sorry about that. But, I appreciate that you thought of me when you read it. Haha. It’s SO GOOD. And she has two more books sold already about which I am excite.

    Mary Shelley was such an amazing character. She’s pretty level headed for all that it’s a paranormal, and she’s chill. But like badass also.

    And the setting is PERFECT. Gah. I want the next one NOW. Only Amulet doesn’t send me review copies, so I guess I have to wait and buy it and then not read it in the eternal cycle that is my life.