Friday, September 20, 2013

In The Shadow of Blackbirds

In The Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters
387 pages
Released: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet
Source: purchased

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds was going to be on my reading list regardless, but when my book club begged me to return and told me we were reading this book, well, let's just say it got moved up on my list.  Quick note: it would be so easy to make this review spoiler-ish, but I'm going to try very, very hard not to.  As result, it might be vague.  It might sound kind of blah, but IT'S NOT!  In The Shadow of Blackbirds is one of the best books I've read this year.

When sixteen year old Mary Shelley's father is hauled off to jail for trying to keep young men out of the draft during WWI, she moves in with her aunt in San Diego.  Supposedly the air is better out west and will help keep the Spanish Flu away, but by the time Mary arrives the Flu epidemic is in full swing there, as well.  Anyway, Mary's never believed in ghosts but her aunt is a fan of a photographer who claims to be able to capture spirits in his pictures.  As a result, Mary is sucked into a world with ghosts and a public desperate to reach into the afterlife and speak with the deceased loved ones.  Adding to that, the novel is peppered with a few very creepy photographs, which I adored.

But there's more.  Mary Shelley is in love, but before you think there's going to be a sweet romance in the novel, let me tell you the boy, Stephen - brother to the aforementioned photographer, enlisted in the army and is overseas in Europe.  Still, while the couple isn't holding hands and swooning every other page, their romance is evident through letters and a little background from the author.  The two seem so well suited for each other, I was really rooting for them.

What else can I mention to entice you without giving away dramatic plot points... there are seances!  Those are always good for some old-timey, creepy fun.  And I should mention Mary's aunt, Eva, who is in fact only in her twenties.  Still, for the time period she is something of a spinster and a cat lady, though instead of a cat she has a bird who likes to chatter at people and is actually something of an integral part of the plot.  Eva might have been a little paranoid, but she was a great character.

I have read paranormal books in the past and I have read historical fiction, but never before have a read a novel where the two genres were married together so perfectly.  The book is rich in historical accuracy and the fact that it takes place in such a traumatic, isolated time in American history works so well with the paranormal aspect.  As a result, the paranormal in this novel seems much more realistic than it might have otherwise.  Even if you don't think ghosts could exits, this book will keep you guessing about what's real and what's not.

Five stars!  This book is perfect for this time of year - fall and Halloween is right around the corner, so go pick up In The Shadow of Blackbirds immediately.

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