Where to even start. In the Shadow of Blackbirds has so many merits, it's difficult to know where to begin.
First of all, the ambiance in this novel was astounding. I honestly thought Mary Shelley was living in a rainy, gloomy place rather than San Diego. And it's not that Cat Winters describes San Diego as such, but more her rich descriptions which provide a sense of gloom and despair. The writing was beautifully haunting and well-researched with regards to war victims and the diseases they suffer once they return home. Even though this is historical fiction, and deals with spirits, I still felt a sense of reality and realism throughout the story that made an unbeliever like myself begin to question whether spirits exist or not.
Mary Shelley is the perfect narrator for such a gloomy novel. Despite facing numerous hardships with her family and loved ones, she remains positive for the most part. Her brain is fascinating, and her determination is admirable.I really enjoyed reading from her point of view, as she is a strong female character without trying to be so. Her love for her childhood friend Stephen was written perfectly. It was entirely believable, and almost reminiscent about the emotions I remember experiencing with my 'boyfriend' as a 16-year-old.
Another well-thought out part of this story was the plot. I didn't ever feel like we were diverging from the plot to add a little fluff to the story. Almost everything Mary Shelley did contributed in some way to the plot, as did the characters she met. This isn't to say that the plot was extremely complex. In fact, I guessed the majority of the twists before the end (there was one surprising element though!), but everything was just so seamlessly woven together that I still thought it was well done.