Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book Review: The Shadow in the Glass

Nothing like the mid-week slumps, am I right? I was doing so well this weekend but as we inch towards the end of the week, I'm starting to feel like a damn slug. Which... ugh.  

The Shadow in the Glass - JJA Harwood

A deliciously gothic story of wishes and curses – a new dark fairy tale set against a Victorian backdrop full of lace and smoke.

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…
You know I love a good retelling, and when I saw this one coming down the pike, I immediately went for it. Judging by the name Ella, you would be safe to assume this is a Cinderella remake, but not quite. I definitely could see the similarities, and glaring differences, I just wish this gave me more. 

Instead of an evil stepmother, we have a lecherous stepfather who really ought to be in prison because he's disgusting. We learn early on in the book that he takes a liking to the young women in his employ and once they end up pregnant, they are sent off in shame. Ella is fairly naive, but also kind of not, it's hard to really get a read on what she knows and doesn't know. She knows enough to watch out for the younger girls though. She doesn't have evil stepsisters, but there are definitely other servants that don't like Ella at all and make her life an absolute nightmare and make it impossible for her to leave. 

What they can't take away from her are books. When her stepmother was still alive, she taught Ella how to read. She taught her other things as well, but reading was a mutual love of theirs, and Ella seeks refuge in the books when her stepfather is out getting drunk or once he's asleep in his stupor. She does have a fairy godmother of sorts and though she is granted seven wishes, they don't come without a cost. With that twist it starts to feel like the author is weaving some other classic fairytales into this so it doesn't feel like a Cinderella remake totally. 

The story itself is darker than I thought it was going to be. I also went through the entire book with the ending I wanted in my mind and I won't tell you what that was, but I will tell you I very much did not get it. In the end, though I was mad at the ending immediately following, the longer I sit on it the more it felt right. There is a line on page 400, almost the last page, that reads: 
"Why, why had Eleanor thrown her trust away on this puppet? The only person worth putting her faith in was herself." 
Isn't that a lesson we all learn at some point? I felt like Ellie was such a likeable character, one that you can't help but root for because we're all a little bit of her at some point. Also, this book is classified as young adult, and as a whole I would agree with that, but the story does dip into horror at times and is definitely more macabre than what a young adult audience is used to, I think. It would definitely be worth mentioning to someone that this gets kind of dark. To me it had the dark feel like The House of Salt and Sorrow, and you know I loved that one. I would have to give this one a solid 4 stars.

Thank you to HarperVoyager for sending me a copy for review!
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