In the Shadow of Blackbirds
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In the Shadow of Blackbirds

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  2,697 ratings  ·  646 reviews
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,...more
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Amulet Books
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Community Reviews

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Emily May
The lovely Cat Winters joined us over at the blog to talk about the inspiration for this novel and writing about women in 1918:

Wow. I thought this was fantastic - one of the best books I've read in a long while.

When I think of 1918, I think of a world torn apart by war. I think of trenches and Kaiser Willhelm and a general fear that your father, husband, brother and/or son will never make it back to you. When I think of death in 1918, I picture a bleak image of...more
Wendy Darling
This book is set in the year 1918, but feels quite Victorian in its immersion in spiritualism and séances. The author's note at the end confirms her interest in that era, as well as in the epidemic of influenza that killed 50 million people worldwide towards the end of the first world war. In the Shadow of the Blackbirds is certainly steeped in her research of both those eras, and the mash-up of time periods and genres work together beautifully, with historical drama, ghost story, and mystery al...more
4.5 stars

“…between the war and the flu, no one’s going to escape being haunted. We live in a world so horrifying, it frightens even the dead.”

The thought of a widespread health disaster is enough to terrify me, even today, where medicine and science is at its most advanced. Cat Winters’ debut standalone is set during 1918, the year of the infamous influenza outbreak, and the final moments of the First World War. It is a horrific period of time – one that is difficult to truly forget, despite ha...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
The Nocturnal Library: Guest post by Cat Winters, 10 Ways I Researched the Past for In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Stop by to read it and enter to win a hardcover copy from The Book Depository.

Some books should be sold with a companion novel, a cheerful, nonsensical one people would read immediately after the main story to lighten up their souls. If there was ever a book that left me in urgent need of some cheering up (and a cup of spicy hot chocolate), it’s this one. But would I change a single t...more
It excites me so when I come across a novel that shows me there can still be books that thoroughly stand out from any other in its originality and outstanding story-telling. I can not even believe that In the Shadow of Blackbirds is Cat's debut novel!

What I love most from this book is how, through impressive research, Cat achieves an exceptionally poignant historical atmosphere from a time that saw through so much death and horror. The fall of 1918 had not only the highest death toll from the Sp...more
Spoilers are hidden under spoiler tags.

What would you do if the ones you love are in danger? What would you do if the ghost of your beloved sweetheart comes back to haunt you?

Would you be willing to risk your safety-your life, even-just to find out the truth beneath it all? Would you have the courage to help him rest in peace?

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a mix of mystery, paranormal, superstition, romance and tragedy.

After reading all the praises for this book, I was r...more
Lauren DeStefano
You guys are most definitely in for something special with this. ;) More tk.
Rating: 4.5 Stars

"The road ahead may be rather upsetting for a sixteen-year-old girl. I'm afraid your delicate female eyes and ears will experience some ugliness."

"Oh, you silly, naive men." I shook my weary head and genuinely pitied their ignorance. "You've clearly never been a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918."

And thank god for that. In the Shadows of Blackbirds is historical fiction at its best - so richly atmospheric and full of true accounts that it leaves you chilled to the bon...more
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a dark and beautiful story that had me on the verge of tears.

The story takes place in 1918, during the time of the Spanish influenza. Our plucky and intelligent heroine Mary Shelley Black has never believed in ghosts, that is until her first love tragically dies in battle and returns as a traumatised spirit. Shocked beyond belief Shelley is determined to find out the true cause of his death.

It's clear that Winters has done her research, she paints a bleak and drear...more
A copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds was provided to me by Amulet Books/Netgalley for review purposes.

'Stay still. Smile. And summon the dead.'

Mary Shelley Black is a sixteen year old girl living in a war ravaged world. After her father is arrested she is forced to flee and stays with her Aunt in San Diego. After losing her father and finding out that her childhood love, Stephen, has lost his life in the war, Mary Shelley struggles desperately to cling to a reason to continue living when she's...more
I could have met Cat Winters at the ALA midwinter conference in Seattle. The thing is, we had scheduled a food tour at the same time she was signing and well…food won. As it is wont to do where I am concerned. Anyway, I wish I had met her because let me tell you this, In The Shadow of Blackbirds is fantastic. It really is. I liked it so much that it is currently a contender for the best YA debut of the year award that happens annually in my head. My head, I tell you, the place to go for fun.


Four and a half stars: An amazing, well researched, haunting debut!

Mary Shelley Black boards the train. She is surrounded by a sea of frightened, masked passengers. They are leaving Portland, Oregon headed to San Diego in hopes of escaping the deathly Spanish Flu. The flu epidemic is sweeping the country and killing people in record numbers. Every sneeze or cough sets people on edge as it is viewed as a possible flu contamination. Mary Shelley, however, refuses to let the flu hold her back. At t...more
Carina Olsen
I just finished re-reading this book. You can read my new book recommendation for it below :) And at the bottom I have posted links to my old review, and my new rec on my blog.


I'm not sure I have words for how perfect this book is. I just finished reading it for the second time, and I cannot wait to read it again and again. It's just stunning. The writing is perfect. And really beautiful. Cat Winters writes really well, and I cannot wait to read more from h...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
You know what I love? Books that are wholly unique among all the ones I've read. Though In the Shadow of Blackbirds does remind me of a couple other books, it is clear and distinct and beautiful in a way all its own. Cat Winters' debut blew me out of the water, teetering on the edge between realistic historical fiction and paranormal in a startling and compelling tale.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is one of those books that will be first up on my list of young adult books to recommend to those who...more
This book! It's more than 5 stars.




In 1918, where a war torn earth was on the verge of a great misbalance, outbreak of a deadly plague frightened the human and ghost alike-the epidemic Spanish Influenza. It scares me to think what it was like back then when humanity was on verge of eradication. Not the Influenza but also in the war ravaged world, many lost their loved ones in the terrors and trenches of World War I. Every single glimpse of it we can picture while reading In The Shadow of The Black Birds. There is no doubt the aut...more
Jen Ryland
Apr 05, 2013 Jen Ryland added it
Shelves: netgalley
*I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher*

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a unique and haunting story, beautifully told. It's rare that I read historical YA fiction in which the main character actually seems like a teenager. Mary Shelley Black seems not only like a real teen, but also a teen of her time. She's smart and stubborn and a little rebellious, and you can literally feel her chafing against the limitations on women in 1918, a time in which men had gone off to war, but most Am...more
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
In the Shadows of Blackbirds was a surprisingly wonderful book. It's a small slice of history, one of my favorite things in books, with some paranormal elements and a great main character. This book made me a little nervous (anything paranormal does that to me because so many are poorly done), but it did almost everything right.

The main character in the book was exactly my type of girl, strong-willed, intelligent and practical. Mary Shelley Black, named after the famous author of Frankenstein, c...more
May 21, 2013 FREEBIRD rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People who enjoyed A Certain Slant of Light.
Recommended to FREEBIRD by: Basically everyone on Goodreads.
Read-a-long with Brandi!

(Disclaimer: Well, it was a read-a-long until someone got greedy and decided to read the entire book in one sitting. Not saying any names though. *coughBrandicough* ;)).

What an absolutely fantastic tale this is. It's 2:20AM and I should be asleep considering I have work tomorrow, but I just had to finish this book. It gripped me. It stole my breath away and took me into its pages where it would not release me until I had devoured every single last word.

(view spoiler)...more
4.5 stars. An excellent read! Loved the historical photographs and the super-creepy ending!
Serendipity Reviews
Originally posted on
As soon as you hold this book in your hand, you feel an eerie presence about it. There is something rather dark and Gothic about the presentation, that only grows upon you as you flick through the pages. Every few chapters you come across an old black and white picture that will shock you a little. Each photo represents events from around 1918 and show how America dealt with the Spanish influenza epidemic that swept through the country killing mil...more
Interview with Cat Winters

Review is also on my blog My Friends Are Fiction

The Story:
I learned about the Spanish influenza and World War I in school; reading about the number of people who lost their lives in text books. But, I must admit it never felt real to me- just words that didn't resonate. While reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds I was able to really grasp the fear and horror of this time period in American history. Winters' words and descriptions are so powerful I could taste and smel...more
Kate Ormand
IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS is a rich YA historical novel. The story is engaging and transports you to a time of uncertainty, war, sickness and grief. Mary Shelley Black is charming and quirky, strong and courageous, and I liked her a lot. Her romance with Stephen is touching and beautiful. IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS is haunting, thrilling and very emotional. The presentation of the book is also impressive and unique - historical photographs and an eerie, striking cover. Gorgeous debut.
I wanted to read IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS because of the creepy cover and evocative title. I didn't really know anything about the story when I began. But wow, what a story it is.

Mary Shelley Black travels to live with her Aunt Eva in San Diego after her father is imprisoned. The First World War is in full swing, the young men going off to war and many never returning, or only returning in pieces. But not all is peaceful at home, because in 1918 there was a major influenza outbreak. People ar...more
Where to even start. In the Shadow of Blackbirds has so many merits, it's difficult to know where to begin.

First of all, the ambiance in this novel was astounding. I honestly thought Mary Shelley was living in a rainy, gloomy place rather than San Diego. And it's not that Cat Winters describes San Diego as such, but more her rich descriptions which provide a sense of gloom and despair. The writing was beautifully haunting and well-researched with regards to war victims and the diseases they suff...more
As an historian, sometimes historical fiction can make me cringe, especially when it's done for YA because authors either leaves out important details in the favor of plot or they gloss over/make generalizations about history because they think YA readers can't handle the darker aspects.

Cat Winters knows no fear in this regard and as a result her book takes on the real -- albeit difficult -- themes of 1918. And there is a lot to be afraid of during this one difficult year in American history: i...more
**4.5 stars**

Originally posted at:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds ended up taking me by surprise. Sure I was interested when I heard of the book because I hadn't actually heard too much about the Spanish Influenza's impact on the United States, and the cover was so hauntingly captivating that I just knew that this book would be different. However, when I started reading this book I found myself a little lost and a tad bit unexcited until fifty or so pages. I...more
As someone who loves a well-done historical novel, I was really looking forward to In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I haven't read too many books set during World War I, although the one I've read most recently - A Very Long Engagement bySébastien Japrisot - was extremely well done and quite emotional, so I was hoping this book would be in that same vein. I'm happy to report that it definitely was. Not only does In the Shadow of Blackbirds take place during the war, but it also includes even more hi...more
This book combines some of my biggest interests: the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and the spiritualism craze that swept the globe (especially spirit photography). So I was already predisposed to like it before I opened it. However, when you have an interest in a time period you are also likely to be more critical of any perceived shortcomings. Luckily, Cat Winters did an incredible job with this story and I was impressed all around.

The imagery and atmosphere Winters has created is unbelievable....more
I have to admit that I was uncertain about reading this book, I was unsure if it was something I really wanted to read and it took a while for me to get around to reading it. I am so glad I finally did pick it up because In the Shadow of Blackbirds is really quite impressive.

It takes place in America during World War 2 and is largely influenced but the Spanish Flu Epidemic that was rampant at the time. Being British my history lessons tended to revolve more around the plague where disease is con...more
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Q&A with Cat ...: Here's where you can discuss the spoilers! 1 23 Jul 02, 2013 12:28PM  
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Cat Winters’s critically acclaimed debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, was named a 2014 Morris Award Finalist, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, a 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013. Her upcoming books include THE CURE FOR DREAMING (Amulet Books/Oct. 2014) and THE UNINVITED (William Morrow/2015), and she’s a contributor to the 2015 YA horr...more
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“Don’t ever worry what the boys who don’t appreciate originality think of you. They’re fools.” 10 likes
“And all the while Stephen started at me as if I were something magical. Not the ugly way other people sometimes stare at me, like he was meeting someone in a foreign country who spoke his language when no one else could. That's how it's been between us ever since. We understand each other, even when we astound each other.” 9 likes
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