In the Shadow of Blackbirds
(Image from its goodreads page)
It's 1918, and death hangs in the air. Influenza and war have ravaged not only Europe, but the hearts of the American people. When Mary Shelley Black finds out her first love, Stephen, has died, she's grief-stricken. But when his spirit returns to her, she's determined to learn more about what happened to him.
Okay, I'm not huge on historicals (you may notice that they're an endangered species here), and I rarely get through them. This is definitely one of the better ones.
It took a while to get into this book. Nothing particularly interesting happens for the first two, three chapters or so. So I was just kinda sitting there like, "It'll get better. It'll get better. Going sooooo sloooowwww, but it'll get- HURRY UP." I am an impatient person. This took me two check-out sessions from the library to get through it, just because the beginning didn't pass quick enough.
But it's like a slingshot. Cat Winters pulled it back ever so slowly, took target (your very being), and let go. Once Stephen died (it's not that big of a spoiler, get over it), it was off. And Mary Shelley the rock was speeding ahead at speeds I didn't think rocks could reach. And I enjoyed that.
The plot was faaaaabulous. It was well executed (trust me, there are so many bad ways to write a murder/ghost book) and once we reached that flying point, well timed.
The style was awesome. You have no idea (or maybe you do- maybe you spy on nerds and are freakishly obsessed about what they read) how many ghost or otherwise paranormal books are purple. Like, 'Okay, I see we know how to use our descriptors here. But what are you talking about?' I am so glad this book defied my expectations.
The characters, however, I wasn't so fond of. Most of them were fairly two-dimensional. Their actions got predictable once you found out their main characteristic. And it's never good when characters have a main characteristic. People don't usually have one personality trait that defines their existence. And I can tell you those traits right now.
Mary- She's smart. Really smart. Super smart. She does smart things. Smartly. And she's brave. Like Harry Potter if he was a Ravenclaw. Because then he would be smart.
Aunt Eva- She's superstitious and protective. She's protective because she's superstitious. Or maybe not. We'll never know.
Julius- He's creepy and no one loves him.
Stephen- He's brave and hot. Oh, and smart. I guess.
Well, that's not the entire cast, but you know. Now, I didn't mind that Mary was smart and could, thank the gods of Asgard and Vaniheim, do stuff by herself. She didn't need Stephen to give her step-by-step instructions to get the job done. She is the girl, in concept, that I have been waiting for for SO LONG. But it the whole intelligence/bravery combo thing was kind of shoved in your face. And there didn't need to be (SPOILER SPOILER SKIP THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH OR YOU SHALL DIE AT THE FIREY HANDS OF THE GODS) so much dying for her. The briefly-got-the-flu-and-survived thing was just a little much.
La, the emotions in this book. They were so deliciously well written. And there were a lot of them- you can't write about death and not have them. HAIL TO THE CAT OF WINTERS.
A good debut novel, I expect more from her soon. :D