I came across Dark Matter on a random Amazon wandering, and I was immediately attracted to both the cover, and the synopsis. A ghost story, set in theI came across Dark Matter on a random Amazon wandering, and I was immediately attracted to both the cover, and the synopsis. A ghost story, set in the Arctic during Polar Night in the 1930's ticks so many of my boxes it's uncanny. And what scarier setting than being alone, in the dark, in the ice and snow......
Dark Matter is told through the journal of Jack, who although he studied physics at University, has been forced to work as a clerk for a stationary shipping company and stumbles upon an Arctic expedition that promises to let him further explore his love of physics and take him far away from his solitary life in grey, lonely London. And although journals can be a little hit and miss as a story-telling tool, it works perfectly in Dark Matter.
Ms. Paver sets the scene perfectly with writing that really made me feel like I was there with Jack, experiencing the stark beauty of the Arctic in it's pristine isolation, and Jack's fascination with his surroundings and the initial feelings of peace and belonging that he found in a place that would be overwhelmingly isolated for any other character sucked me right in.
And although Jack is a seemingly ordinary kind of character, once he finds himself alone in the perpetual night with nothing but a team of dogs to keep him company, the book really comes into its own as a psychological mystery - it's a real page turner as gradually the story of Gruhuken emerges from the dark. I loved that Jack became almost obsessive in maintaining a sense of normality, and I really admired his strength to stay and complete his job, despite having the chance to leave several times.
Dark Matter combines both a ghost story and an examination on the effect of darkness and isolation on one man, and I found myself wondering at several occasions whether there really was a ghost, or if it was all in Jack's mind as a series of events could be either paranormal happenings or just a figment of his imagination. And this, ladies and gents is the sign of a really good ghost story - when you aren't convinced either way whether this is true, or just hallucinations.
My one, very small, issue with the whole book was that the tension was built up perfectly, but the climax seemed a little bit rushed and although I'll freely admit this book scared the hell out of me, it was also over a little bit too quick.
Overall, I really loved this book and couldn't put it down - it scared me, it fascinated me and I was cheering for Jack all the way through. A perfect book for a dark, stormy night.
From the moment I read the synopsis of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I knew I had to read it. Historical-romantic-ya-viral-paranormal-fiction? Yup, thiFrom the moment I read the synopsis of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I knew I had to read it. Historical-romantic-ya-viral-paranormal-fiction? Yup, this had my name all over it, in big pink sparkly letters. And when I received my copy and saw the presentation of the ARC, I was even more excited - the black and white photographs really add another level of spooky-realism to the book.
It's not often I talk about covers (not that I don't love awesome covers mind you!), but I think it's important to mention just how closely the cover ties into the story. It sometimes feels like covers are made pretty just to grab our initial attention, without being completely relevant to the book, but in this case it is definitely integrated into the story, and I had to keep closing the book to look at the cover again.
Mary Shelley is a very unique character - fascinated with electricity, she's brave, smart, loyal and curious, all of which added up to make her a very endearing character, and she really helped to bring all the genre-elements together in a cohesive fashion. Her friendship-come-romance with her childhood sweetheart, Stephen was so beautifully written it really felt like they were characters made to be with each other.
The plot itself is beautifully twisty, and I was hooked from the first page. Throw in some spiritualist photographers (which absolutely fascinated me) and a seance, along with descriptions of the Spanish Influenza's impact on the city, and everything is beautifully tied together. Having so many genres and sub-genres in one book and having them work in harmony is no mean feat, and Ms. Winters has done an exceedingly good job with In the Shadow of Blackbirds - nothing feels like it's thrown in just to get attention.
I was completely immersed in 1918 America - the descriptions of the Influenza, the horrors of the war and the returning soldiers, the desperation of people to have one last contact with their loved ones through whichever means necessary.
The writing is straightforward, but fits perfectly with the time period, really evoking a sense of being in the world that Mary Shelley inhabits. Although her characters are a little less than conventional, Ms. Winters makes them all work very well together.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds completely surpassed all of my expectations - Cat Winters' debut is absolutely magnificent.