Saturday, January 11, 2014

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Cat Winters
400 pages
High School

In the fall of 1918, Mary Shelly Black's life is coming apart.  Her father has been arrested for sympathizing with the Germans, she must move from Portland to San Diego to live with her aunt, the flu is everywhere, and her childhood friend Stephen has gone off to war.  Even worse, she hasn't heard from him in weeks.  At least his family is in San Diego and she can get some answers about what's going on with his life.  Only issue with that: she has to talk Stephen's half-brother Julius, a 'spirit photographer', who she wants nothing to do with.

Once in San Diego, life isn't improving much.  Julius wants her to pose for him again since the first photo, taken years ago, turned out so well.  He has grown famous from photographing people's passed on loved ones, giving comfort to those grieving.  But Mary Shelly hardly wants to talk to him, let alone pose for him again.  She only wants to know what is happened to Stephen, where the package is that he left for her, and if he is alright.  When word comes of his death in the war, she is devastated, running outside into a lightning storm to be struck.

As she is struck, strange things start happening.  She ends up in a tree, looking down at her body, ends up returning to it, but the weird things are just beginning.  Her dead uncle's compass now points at her, she can taste emotions, and more.  Most of all, she can communicate with Stephen, but his madness is threatening to overcome her. What happened to him?  Why are the blackbirds attacking him?  And are there really spirits in all of Julius's photographs?

First of all, wow, what a book!  Along the same line as "The Diviners" by Libba Bray, but much faster moving than that book.  Excellent ghost story with history and romance thrown all together.  Had a lot of fun reading it, even if I couldn't read it late at night in the dark...

Some major themes in the book: importance of families, loyalty (to family, to country, to justice), and action verses inaction.  I'm sure there are others, but that's what hit me in this reading.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.  I enjoyed it a lot, it had a fast pace, lots of mystery, and a good portion of the paranormal without it being cheesy.  High school age for the gruesomeness of some of the war imagery, plus scene between Mary Shelly and a ghost (alrighty then...).   Good book, will look forward to other books by this author!

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