Fantasy Historical Fiction Thriller

The Shadow in the Glass – JJA Harwood

9 September 2021
The Shadow in the Glass Book Cover The Shadow in the Glass
J. J. A. Harwood
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller
3 March 2021

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.

A smouldering, terrifying new spin on Cinderella – perfect for fans of Laura Purcell and Erin Morgenstern.

Before sharing how I feel about the story, I’d like to point out how beautifully and cleverly written The Shadow in the Glass is. Somehow, Harwood successfully makes the black-eyed woman appear on every page, despite only appearing when Eleanor summons her or when she whispers into Eleanor’s mind, tempting her to make another wish. Harwood drops several red herrings, leading the reader to believe the story won’t end well, even for Eleanor. I strongly feel three-quarters of the novel is an illusion scripted by the black-eyed woman, just to trick Eleanor into thinking their deal is valid, when, really, Eleanor’s soul is already imprisoned by the black-eyed woman the moment Ella agrees to make seven wishes. What I mean is Ella never really wakes up to the world she knows before encountering the fairy godmother.

The black-eyed woman clearly tells Ella, “I know you better than you know yourself,” so it wouldn’t surprise me to believe she’s capable of mimicking the other characters, making them appear real to Eleanor. The imagery is so intense that it sucks me into the novel, as though I am a part of Eleanor’s world, wanting so badly to save her. Then I realize she doesn’t need saving. Ella outsmarts the black-eyed woman when she subconsciously wishes to be beyond the reach of the law. So when Harwood says, “Ella knew it wasn’t going to end well,” you are led to think Eleanor will meet her downfall, when, really, I believe the black-eyed woman finally meets someone who outsmarts her. I haven’t read a story with outstanding writing like this in quite some time.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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