Review: The Shadow in the Glass by J J A Harwood

I received a free eARC copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb: Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid. Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter. One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay…

Title: The Shadow in the Glass

Author: J J A Harwood

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Fantasy

Review:

When her beloved guardian, Mrs Pembroke, dies, Eleanor’s life of being a lady is stripped away and she’s banished below stairs to work as a maid. But being a lady is all she’s ever wanted to be, and when one of her secret nighttime trips to the library brings a black eyed woman who promises her seven wishes, the future she wants might just be in her grasp. But the price of these wishes is her soul and the black eyed woman always collects…

The first thing I have to note about this book is that the writing style really does throw you into the world of Victorian London immediately and I loved that. A fantastically described setting is always a winner when it comes to trapping your readers and this book manages it brilliantly. I felt like I was right there with the maids scrubbing the floors and jostling amongst crowds in the streets. It reminded me a little bit of Elizabeth Macneal’s storytelling in The Doll Factory which I loved! This world building extends from just the setting to the characters, making them all easy to visualise and connect with. Eleanor is, perhaps obviously, the stand out as we read from her point of view yet still get to see her character growth. She goes from this nervous young girl, wanting nothing more than a shot at the life she feels like she was meant to have, to a manipulative young woman who has no problem using the power of the wishes to do whatever she likes, consequences be damned. This annoyed me a little at first as she flips so quickly from innocent to cold but the more I read, the more I appreciated that we could see the wishes leaving their impact on her so obviously, even if none of the other characters really noticed.

Also, I can’t write a review for this book without sharing some love for the fantasy aspect. A lot of the book could just be billed as historical fiction but the appearance of the black eyed woman really spiced things up and got me thinking about what I’d wish for – it would have to be something pretty spectacular to lose a soul over! I liked that the chapters of the book were spilt up into each of the wishes and it worked really well for us to follow along Eleanor’s journey of losing her soul. The black eyed woman is also written really well as she felt like a character I wouldn’t want to meet but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes away from her. That sort of arresting uneasiness really came across in the writing and I loved it! I would have loved to know more about the black eyed woman, where she came from and what world she spoke of to Eleanor.

As for what I disliked, I was left with a lot of questions by the end. I’m officially putting in a SPOILER alert for this paragraph! What happened to Aoife and Daisy? And Mrs Fielding and Mrs Banbury? Did Eleanor actually murder those people? Was she the wild child that everyone remembers her being? Eleanor alludes that she might have managed to trick her way out of the black eyed woman’s deal at the very end, yet she disappears just the same. Did it work? Was it wishful thinking? I’m a reader that likes my questions to be answered by the end of the book, especially if there isn’t going to be a sequel (which I think is the case here?) so if they’re not I’m always left a bit lost. To add to that, this book is being described as a Cinderella re-telling. Now, while there definitely are similarities to the original story, if you’re expecting something light and fluffy this isn’t the one for you! Personally, I liked that even more as a dark fantasy edge is always more exciting.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re after something with a really fantastic historical feel or are a big fan of Cinderella re-tellings with a deliciously dark edge!

Rating: 4/5

Recommend?: Yes


Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!

You can always find me over on Twitter if you’d like to discuss this book (or any others that I’ve featured) in more detail 😌

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