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In the Shadow of Blackbirds

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  5,462 ratings  ·  1,072 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

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
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
Read this review and more on my blog

In a nutshell: A haunting and wonderfully written paranormal novel set during a time of war, disease and Spiritualism. Easily one of my new favourites!

I absolutely adored this book - it's as simple as that. It's been far too long since a book has impacted me like this and it got me out of my horrible reading slump. After weeks of very little desire to read, I devoured this almost-400-page beauty in just over 3 hours. It rendered me speechless (and sleepless) a
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 bo
Jul 07, 2015 TL rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to TL by: Emily May's review I think haha, don't remember for sure
This was one of those books that seemed right up my alley, I remember the cover catching my eye immediately and thinking 'wow, that's an excellent cover shot' (and also when I got my copy, thinking that the girl reminds me of the lead from DUFF movie). I put it on the paperbackswap list and waited my turn.

I could not put this book down, if I hadn't been so tired I probably would have read this in one sitting. I love it when an author lures you in right from the first chapter and the spell doesn'
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
Lauren DeStefano
You guys are most definitely in for something special with this. ;) More tk.
To be honest, I think the World Wars were pretty pointless. War itself is pointless. When I had to learn about the world wars during class and about the numerous people who died and how they died, I was angered and saddened because really? You want kill people because they refuse to give their land? Because they refuse to surrender? Because you cannot dominate the whole world?

See, maybe I'm wrong and I'm not seeing the bigger picture but these are just my views. Why can't people just talk it ov
So let me set the stage for this book, my friends.

It’s October 1918. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black, has fled to San Diego in the wake of her father’s arrest for treason (he’d been smuggling boys free of the draft). Spanish Influenza is sweeping through the country, World War I rages on abroad, and Spiritualist mediums prey on the grieving.

Our heroine is… she’s having a shit week, you guys. Her childhood love, Stephen, just died uselessly in the trenches on the other side of the world. (vi

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
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
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.

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
Jessica (Goldenfurpro)
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

I was mainly interested in this book because I was curious about the spiritualism era and the time period, but I ended up enjoying this book much more than I expected.

This book takes place in 1918 and which the war and Spanish Influenza, death is very common and many people are turning to spirit photographers, desperate for comfort. Mary Shelley Black moves to San Diego with her aunt after her dad gets arrested for treason (l
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
This book! It's more than 5 stars.




4.5 stars. An excellent read! Loved the historical photographs and the super-creepy ending!
Quick rundown of my thoughts:

This book is about spirit photography, San Diego, 1918, war, the Spanish influenza and the fear it spread, loss and longing.

I’m a history fanatic, but 1918 never struck me as a particularly interesting year. My favorite thing about the book is how Cat Winters combines a real historical event with a paranormal element with such grace.
This is a very well-written novel, with a setting that comes alive and intrigues you.
I could see it all very clearly. From the fea
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
Apr 05, 2013 Jen 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
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
I think I'm one of the few individuals on planet Earth that didn't enjoy this book. Damn, I feel special.
I actually keep wondering how and why I ended up feeling so disappointed. The premise was, after all, quite good, the writing was slightly above that of the average young adult novel and, as soon as I laid eyes on the grim illustrations scattered here and there, well... I just couldn't contain my excitement anymore.
But something went wrong.

Let's start with the basics, shall we?

Brief Summary:
Did not finish :(

Setting:San Diego, California; 1918

Coverley Love?:Yes! One of the first things that attracted me to this book was the eerie cover. I loved how the girl is staring sort of creepily to the reader, as if she can see your soul. I also liked the vintagy feel of the photo.

Plot: It's 1918, during WWI and the Spanish influenza is raging across the country. Sent to live with her Aunt Eva after her father has been arrested for helping young men avoid the draft. sixteen year old Mary Shell
A.G. Howard
Perfectly researched, poignant, and tragically romantic -- along with a mystery that kept me guessing till the end. Such a wonderful read! And the pictures are so evocative. Can't wait to see what Ms. Winters has up her sleeve for next time!

Set in 1918, at a time where the world is not only plagued with the flu but torn apart at the seams at war, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is an atmospheric novel that really captures fear, hysteria and above all else, the ugliness of humans. It walks us through the experience of a sixteen year old Mary Shelley Black who finds herself tangled up in a horrific mess of events in the world of the paranormal as she finds answers about her childhood sweetheart's death, whi
May 21, 2013 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who enjoyed A Certain Slant of Light.
Recommended to Julia 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)
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.
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Q&A with Cat ...: Here's where you can discuss the spoilers! 1 31 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 School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, and a 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee. Her second novel, THE CURE FOR DREAMING, was named to the American Library Association's 2015 Amelia Bloomer Project, the 2014 Tiptree Award Longlist, and VOY ...more
More about Cat Winters...
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“Don’t ever worry what the boys who don’t appreciate originality think of you. They’re fools.” 32 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.” 18 likes
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