Author: J.J.A. Harwood
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.
The Shadow in the Glass is a very dark retelling of Cinderella that is nothing that you expect it to be. It is an incredible page-turner that keeps you guessing until the end. This version of the classic tale is set in Victorian, England and the characters (the prince, the fairy godmother, and even Cinderella) are all not what they seem. Although the stories are different, this novel gave me a similar feeling with the House of Salt and Sorrows, where things may appear to be one way, but there are endless twists and turns.
Eleanor “Ella” Rose Hartley is our “Cinderella” as she became the foster child for the Pembrokes at Granborough House after she was orphaned. Mrs. Pembroke treated her as a daughter and, even though she was not of status, as a lady of the house. After Mrs. Pembroke passes, Ella’s life is turned upside down and she is now forced to become a maid in the house. Mr. Pembroke is a much darker individual than Mrs. Pembroke as he has his eye on the younger maids. She begins the story as naïve where everything will eventually work out as long as she believes. Slowly, she becomes more and more morally grey as she knows she has to take action to get what she wants and to protect those she loves.
To escape her reality, Ella goes to the library using a key that she obtained from Mrs. Pembroke. Reading transports her to new places around the world that she believes she could never visit. One day, a woman appears to her in the library and gives Ella a chance to change her future. The woman offers Ella seven wishes in exchange for her soul. The soul will only be given after the seventh wish has been completed. As Ella is desperate and does not fully comprehend any potential consequences, she agrees. Ella makes her first wish and then continues to discover both the power and consequences that come as a result. Honestly, I was disappointed in Ella’s first wish as it was a fairly small one. To me, if I already made the bargain, my first wish would be to “go big or go home” and wish for stars. Even if it did not all come true, at least I would have given it a chance.
The novel itself is divided into seven parts instead of shorter chapters, which can be difficult to start and stop reading at certain parts if you read the novel in multiple shorter sittings. For me, I read this in two sittings (one through three and then four through seven). I feel that although smaller chapters would help create “stopping point,” the overall flow of the writing worked well as the story slowly became darker and darker. Although it is a retelling similar to the original tale (not Disney), the material itself feels incredibly original and you sometimes forget that this is a retelling. The time period comes across in so many ways and fits the story. The was women are treated, especially those without status, was extremely well done as they would love to stand up for themselves, but then their entire lives would be ruined.
Overall, the reader finds themselves in Ella’s quest for power. She tries to use her circumstances to gain power as she believes that is best for everyone. Her emotional journey with each wish was captivating as you can see her personality grow and change throughout. The side characters were amazing and you find yourself invested in their futures. I do wish that there was an epilogue to figure out what happened to some of the side characters, but I liked the ending to the story and felt it fit the novel well. Ella was a fantastic character that you both rooted for and questioned and I loved the way the author wrote her to become very compelling. Harwood created a very enthralling tale and I would love to read more from this author in the future!
**I give a special thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher, Harper360, HarperVoyager, for a copy of this thrilling ARC to read. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**