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In the Shadow of Blackbirds


In the Shadow of Blackbirds Cover

ISBN13: 9781419705304
ISBN10: 141970530x
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.


"Winters's masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery." Publishers Weekly, starred review


"Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity." Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Cat Winters was born and raised near Disneyland in Southern California. She is the creator of suburbanvampire.blogspot.com, and she runs corsetsandcutlasses.wordpress.com, a group blog featuring authors of YA historical fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Beverly B, October 29, 2013 (view all comments by Beverly B)
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a set in the perfect time for a sinister ghost story - the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 during WWI and a witch hunt for traitorous Americans (anyone who did not support the war effort or had a German last name). The authentic photos of soldiers, hospitals, and medical personnel add to the bleak setting and scary plot of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. The amount of history author, Cat Winters, is able to seamlessly work in to the story is impressive. From the descriptions of the overcrowded hospitals and the bizarre home remedies that were supposed to offer protection from the flu, to the heartbreaking descriptions of the Red Cross Center for wounded soldiers and the explanations of the subterfuge used by shyster psychics preying on grieving families, it all moves the plot to forward to its frightening climax. Everyone is paranoid about catching the deadly illness that is wiping out entire neighborhoods in a matter of a few days, paranoid of being overheard saying something that could be considered un-American, and in overwhelming fear of receiving news that the soldier in their family has been killed in Europe. Mary Shelley is living all three fears. Her father is in jail awaiting trial for sedition, San Diego is ravaged by the flu, and her childhood best friend, now teen love, has been deployed to the trenches in France. It is no wonder Mary Shelley starts seeing and hearing ghosts. Mary Shelley is an unusual teen for the time period, but she is believable and interesting. Readers will admire her tenaciousness and independence and hope for a sequel.
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Dieveney, June 24, 2013 (view all comments by Dieveney)
Incredibly well researched, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is not only chilling because of the spiritualism and ghostly photographs that haunt its pages but the because the horrors lurking in real life 1918 are enough to give one nightmares. An incredibly clever and realistic telling of everyday life during the Spanish Flu pandemic where neighbor's bodies are piling up in the lawn and all the eligible young men are being shipped home from the trenches in boxes. Thank goodness for the captivating and highly entertaining heroine Mary Shelley who brings light to the harrowing subject. May keep you up flipping pages or for other reasons.
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Go Flash Go, March 30, 2013 (view all comments by Go Flash Go)
1918 is a scary time in American history. We are at war with the Germans, a people portrayed as closer to animal than human, while at home, we battle an outbreak of the deadly Spanish influenza: "Children dropped dead from the flu, boys got transported out of the country to be blown to bits, and the government arrested citizens for speaking the wrong words." Mary Shelley's father is one those arrested, and she's shipped off to live with her Aunt Eva in San Diego as a result. She soon learns that her first love, Stephen, was killed in battle. Mary Shelley can't escape her grief, in no small part because Stephen visits her as a ghost. His family lives nearby, and his brother, Julius, is a self-professed spirit photographer. He makes a killing (sorry) selling ghostly portraits of the deceased to their loved ones. Mary Shelley believes he's a fraud, and she wants to expose him, believing that the only thing Julius truly captures is the hope of grief-stricken people who have lost loved ones to war or disease. Aunt Eva, on the other hand, is a believer.

When I first read the synopsis of the book, I had no idea how the title might tie into the story. Maybe it was a metaphor? The answer (or a piece of it) becomes clear about a third of the way through, and it sends Mary Shelley down a dangerous path to uncover the truth.

Winters creates a fantastic atmosphere of fear. It seems that death is lurking around every corner, and Winters' descriptions of overrun funeral homes, ambulances with day-long waiting periods, and people with gauze-covered faces to ward off germs capture the feeling perfectly. Mary Shelley is cautious, but not paranoid, while Aunt Eva is in full-on panic mode. People drape themselves in garlic and onion to ward off the flu, and I can't help but wonder what commonly-held beliefs we have today that will be debunked ten, fifty, or one hundred years from now. If you don't make a habit of reading the author's notes, you should do so in this case. I was particularly interested in how much of this time period was fact or fiction (yes, I should probably already know this!), and it's clear that Winters' research was thorough and meticulous. I got a kick out of a restaurant that served "liberty steaks," because no one wanted to be associated with German-sounding hamburgers. It brought to mind the ridiculousness of "freedom fries" shortly after 9/11. Remember when we were all supposed to be angry at the French? The more things change...

The book is enhanced by the inclusion of old photographs at the beginning of each chapter. Some illustrate the impact of the influenza epidemic. Others are haunting (or haunted?) depictions of possible ghosts. Or maybe they're just a trick of the light. Chapter 13 shows four people seated around a table with their hands resting upon it. It also shows what appears to be a ghostly hand reaching up from the ground to grip the table. Depending on your belief in ghosts, this photo may have a major spook factor.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds crosses over various genres: romance, historical fiction, paranormal, and suspense. All are done well, but my favorite was Mary Shelley's romance with the doomed Stephen, portrayed in flashback. It is sweet and passionate and filled with longing. It's easy to see how Mary Shelley could be consumed by Stephen, both in life and in death.

Do you believe in ghosts? I don't, but Cat Winters makes me WANT to believe.

Note - I received an ARC from the publisher for review.
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Product Details

Winters, Cat
Amulet Books
Horror & Ghost Stories
Children s-Scary Stories
Edition Description:
Hardcover w/Dust Jacket
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in
Age Level:
from 12

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In the Shadow of Blackbirds Used Hardcover
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$11.95 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Amulet Books - English 9781419705304 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Winters's masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery."
"Review" by , "Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity."
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