Book Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

The Shadow in the Glass book cover
*I was given an arc of The Shadow in the Glass in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Harper Collins and JJA Harwood* 

CW: alcoholism, drug use, miscarriage, abortion, sexual assault, descriptions of violence, murder and death. 

Synopsis:

The Shadow in the Glass follows Eleanor or as she is called by some Ella who is a maid for the man she once called her stepfather. After the death of her mother when she was a child, the wealthy Pembroke family took her in. During this time she was brought up to be a lady by Mrs Pembroke and forms a friendship with their son Charles. 

Unfortunately, three years before this story is set Mrs Pembroke died and Ella is now forced to earn her keep and the once-grand Granborough house is now in disrepair. Mr Pembroke is a lecherous man who takes advantage of the young women in his service and when Ella’s friend is dismissed due to her condition she wants to find a way to get herself and her friends out. 

After reading a strange book in the library of Granborough house Ella is visited by a mysterious black-eyed woman who makes her a deal. In exchange for her soul, she will grant her seven wishes. However, each wish comes with a price that Ella is not sure she is willing to pay.

Review: 

As you may be able to tell from the synopsis this book is a play on the Cinderella trope. It is not something that is massively evident when reading, just little references every now and then. This isn’t a bad thing though, I actually liked that even though it is based on that story the classic Cinderella plot never overshadowed what was going on in this story. 

This ‘retelling’ was a clever one with some great twists and shocking moments. I guessed quite early on what was actually happening with the black-eyed woman, but it did not hinder my reading experience. If anything I gained more enjoyment from waiting to see what could become of my discovery. 

I’m sitting very much in the middle with my thoughts on this book. Well maybe just slightly more on the liking it side hence my rating of 3.5 stars. It starts out very slow and at times I was not sure whether I wanted to continue. The Shadow in the Glass is not separated by chapters, but parts. This definitely hindered my reading experience. 

Not being able to see clearly when I could put the book down and take a break and seeing that each section was around or over an hour-long, I found it quite daunting at times. This may just be a feature of the arc copy so do correct me if I’m wrong. I’m definitely a fan of shorter chapters as it makes me feel like I am making progress. With the huge sections, it felt like it was taking a very long time to get to the next part and I would often lose focus. 

This wasn’t so bad once the story got going as every wish would pull you in further and the plot would get more exciting. However, it did take quite a while to get to this point. 

The overall plot was interesting and exciting and as I said above and once it really got going it was great. For the second half of the book I was hooked on the story, but it’s just a shame that it took so long to do so.

The characters were likeable enough and Eleanor was quite interesting. Slowly over time, you can see a difference in her as she contemplates making a wish and wonders how the outcome would affect her. She was quite a complex character who at just seventeen had to make life-altering decisions. 

Although she could be seen as quite selfish in the end, she did always have her friends best interests at heart. Most of the things she wants in life are to better her own position in society, however, her main wish was to help the other young girls around her to stay safe.

There is a romance sub-plot that is highly predictable, but not everything needs to be a deep-seated mystery or a shock. I liked the romance between the characters and thought they were very sweet together. 

I’m never once to post major spoilers and I definitely won’t here, this is more of a minor spoiler that does not give away any plot points for revelations. If you do not wish to read even a minor spoiler then skip the next paragraph.

There was no way I would have guessed exactly how the book was going to end, but oh my was it lacklustre. It was such a non-ending. No explanation as to what has happened nor do you have any sort of conclusion. It just ended. Some people may really like this and honestly, it would work if this were going to be a series, but it’s not so I was left feeling quite confused by what happened. 

Overall I really did enjoy the plot and I loved reading a chilling story set in a gothic Victorian London. The Shadow in the Glass was an inventive retelling that plays on the darkest parts of the Cinderella story.

Check out The Shadow in the Glass when it is published March 18th!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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