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I read an ARC copy I was lucky enough to find for free at my local bookstore.
In 1918, the world is on the verge of apocalypse what with the death, destruction, and despair from Spanish Influenza and WWI. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black, named after the author of Frankenstein, watches as desperate mourners visit séances and spirit photographers hoping to find some little piece of comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink everything because Stephen, her first love—a boy who died a hero's death on the battlefield — comes back in spirit form. Mary Shelly's every curious mind needs to know why he's come back to her.
I was so thrilled when I came across this ARC because I'd been wanting to read it for so long. I wasn't disappointed and I greatly enjoyed reading this tragic paranormal mystery set during the Great War and Spanish Influenza outbreak. And, there are even interesting time-period photos to study.
When it comes to the characters, I could really appreciate Mary Shelly Black. She's the kind of character that I enjoy reading and would like to read more of others like her. Even though she lives in the teens, she still feels quite modern and refreshing. In regards to Stephen, the use of flashbacks really makes his character stand out since although we don't really see him - in the flesh, that is.
The only reason I'm giving this story four of five stars is for two reasons. The first being that some of the few scenes with ghost romance-y stuff just didn't work for me - the flashbacks were great and so was Mary Shelly's thought process but some of that particular ghostly angle seemed odd and not in the best way. Secondly, I wish there could have been a little more wrap up when it came to certain parts of the ending.
Overall, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a fantastic debut by Ms. Winters and I recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction focusing on the Spanish Influenza outbreak and WWI as well as readers who enjoy turn-of-the-century spiritualism. Luckily for me, I'm interested in all of the above topics. I'm really looking forward to reading her newest book, The Cure for Dreaming
I read this from December 26 - 31, 2014 and my review is also on Goodreads.