Google+ Reading Teen: [Review] In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Monday, April 1, 2013

[Review] In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Cat Winters
Age Range: 12 and up
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books (April 2, 2013)
Buy on Amazon
Mark on Goodreads
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.

I just want to preface this review by saying SO MANY PEOPLE like this book.  I picked it up because two of my favorite authors loved it, and it's got great ratings on Goodreads.  As I read it, I was reminded of Masque of the Red Death, which many people loved, and I didn't finish, so there ya go.

At a Glance:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was an eerie historical fantasy about World War I, Spanish Influenza, hauntings, creepy photographs, and a girl trying to figure out the mystery behind the death of her new found love.  Though it had moments of suspense, I found the story to be too slow and the writing too stiff for my taste.  In the end, there just wasn't enough.  Not enough creepiness, not enough mystery, not enough connection to the characters, not enough romance, not enough believability, just not enough.


I love the cover!  It was one of the things that drew me to this book.  It's so ominous, and the goggles are perfect, and it's almost exactly like the book describes this photograph.


This is the most compelling thing about the book, and what kept me hanging in there, trying to finish it.  About 4/5 through I pretty much gave up, but I did skim the ending because I just had to know what happened to Stephen.


The romance started out sweet, and I love that they're childhood friends, and that Stephen appreciates all of Mary Shelley's oddities, but I just didn't end up liking it.  Their relationship was awkward.  Then when Stephen's ghost appears to Marry Shelley, he's almost hostile.  Then, there was this awful scene that one clever reviewer on Goodreads called "outercourse" (I almost died laughing when I read that, but it's SO accurate).  It was  It didn't work for me.  At all.


I did like Mary Shelley.  She was odd and smart.  I liked the way that she would tinker with machines and things.  She didn't always make the smartest decisions (lightning), but she was definitely the only intelligent person in the book.

Favorite Supporting Character:

I didn't like anyone.  Seriously, there isn't one supporting character that I liked or even liked to hate.

Something I loved:

The photographs that were placed throughout the book.  They were awesome and creepy!  I was especially creeped out by the seance photo.  *shivers*

Something(s) I hated:

Mary Shelley's aunt.  She was one of the most annoying characters I've ever read in my life.  She was nervous and whiny and annoying and just plain stupid. 


Nope, this one wrapped up completely.  I assume it's a stand-alone.

Would I recommend it?

I would recommend it to those who liked Masque of the Red Death, or if you really enjoy this time period.  I know there are tons of people out there who did like it, so give it a shot, you may love it!

Did my friends like it? 

When I said I was reading this on Twitter, I had multiple people (including Leigh Bardugo) say how much they liked it!

Will I buy/keep it?

Nope, in fact, I think I'll give it away right now.  Comment below to enter! 

Book Doppelgangers:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

  • Profanity: Mild
  • Sexual Content: Moderate
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Other Notables: Seances, ghosts, hauntings
For more information, check out In the Shadow of Blackbirds on

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I am so curious about this book since I keep seeing it everywhere. I'm curious if I'll be crazy about it like everyone else seems to be, or if I'll have a similar reaction to yours. Perhaps I need to snag it at the library. Unless I win the ARC... :)

  2. I'd love to read this book. I've heard mostly good things about it and the creepy factor is appealing to me. I am a bit nervous after I read this review, though. I can't think of any book where I didn't like any of the side characters -- or at least liked to hate. Great review and thanks for the giveaway!

  3. This sounds amazing and I really want to read it - I have heard some great things about it. Sorry that you couldn't get into it, though. :(

  4. I love the cover! And ive seen it all around lately which def makes me want to read it! But I also get books that everyone like except me. :( I feel ur pain! The pain of reading it when you couldve read something you enjoyed!

  5. I have read a lot of really awesome reviews for this. I am interested in the creep factor of it, but if the characters aren't likable I would end up DNFing it I think. Great honest review!

  6. I've really been wanting to read this. So many people have given it such great views. I hope it doesn't scare me too bad!

  7. Ohmygosh, I heard so many great things about this book! It sounds very creepy, and I love that there's photographs. Aw, I'm sorry you didn't like it very much. It sucks that none of the characters were likable. :/

  8. I've been wanting to read this and I have heard so many great things about it!! I'm sorry you didn't like it! loved Masque of the Red Death, so I think this is one I'd enjoy reading : )

  9. I would love to read this book. It sounds really good. Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me.

  10. I was really excited to read this when I read the synopsis, I mean "Apocalypse in 1918" so yes I was really excited for this.
    For me characters are the most important part of a book-So if they sucked there's no way I'd like the book!
    And LOL 'hawt scene involving ghost outercourse'-Please tell me that's not what I think it is! O.o
    Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

  11. Creepy pictures? I'm in! :)

  12. The book seems to be very interesting and the cover is wonderful.

    Thanks for the giveaway!!!

  13. haven't read it yet but i've heard great things about it and it's been on my TBR list for quite a while now. Thank you for the giveaway :)

  14. I almost DNF Masque of the Red Death either, just didn't really click with me. But I have an unhealthy draw to historical fiction books, so I still am holding out hope that I'll enjoy this one lol :)

  15. I loved the review, very honest. I have wanted to read this for awhile now...who knows maybe I will fashion a pillow after that dreaded aunt and beat on it while I read the book! :D

  16. I thought your review was good.. It would seem interesting for me to read to see if i would like it.. i have both doppleganger books on my wish list...

  17. Interesting comparison to Masque of the Red Death as I did not like that book (stupid love triangle and TSTL heroine) but I loved this one. I think I see where you're drawing that comparison though and I hope others find it helpful.


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