I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: rape, abortion
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 to decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay it.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
It’s funny how coincidences happen. I don’t think I’ve read a Cinderella retelling in years, and then two come along within two months of each other! They were very different approaches, and this one resembled the well known story less, though you could see the little hints laid along the way. Some were particularly brilliant that were laid out very clearly from the start but didn’t properly fall into place until the ending.
THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is a very dark Cinderella retelling that explores the price of power and what someone will do in order to escape. Rather than being a timid and nice girl, Eleanor is going to fix things herself – except everything goes horribly wrong. I loved that she was conniving and determined. Yes, she tries to help her friends and is trying to escape her situation, but she’s willing to take advantage of people and hold every scrap of power she can to get her own way.
The book explores the disadvantaged position of women in a society that overlooks them. Policemen who seem sympathetic, but then “have their hands tied”. The master of the house (the husband of the woman who took Eleanor when her parents died) is just horrible – the sort that makes your flesh creep and you reach for something to hit him with. And then you remember he’s not a magical evil, just a horribly human one.
The exact historical period was never specified, but I think it might have been Victorian, based on some of the clothing and transport options. It felt very grey and cold and oppressive, with some lovely passages about her using it as a metaphor for her life.
I did guess that way the crimes were committed early on, but that added an extra element of how that would play out – and I didn’t expect the tone of the ending. It fits so perfectly the frantic, desperate feel of Eleanor’s situation, but I was honestly expecting something… neater. I loved it! I love being blindsided by an ending even if I’ve guessed the steps leading up to it.
Read my reviews of other books by J. J. A. Harwood: