The Shadow in the Glass is a fascinating novel that animates a dark story of murder, mystery, power, ambition, family secrets, supernatural twists, consequences, and beautifully depicted in Victorian London. The historical aspect of nineteenth-century London is brought alive with vivid intensity, as the two worlds of the rich and those that serve them are brought to life. The sights and sounds, attitudes, and the ramifications of being poor and abandoned in nineteenth-century London are distinctly reinforced throughout this novel.
Eleanor Rose Hartley uniquely experienced those two worlds while never truly belonging to either. When Eleanor’s mother, a close personal maid to Mrs Pembroke, died, she became the ward of Mr and Mrs Pembroke of Granborough House. She lived an early life that promised so much potential and opportunity, an early life where she was treated as a daughter, a life where she bonded with Pembroke’s only son Charles, where she was taught to dance and behave with etiquette and read. When Mrs Pembroke died, the master had no intent on continuing with Eleanor’s privileges. She became a seventeen-year-old servant in the household under the command of the conniving head housekeeper. A Cinderella-type fall from grace, openly scorned and ill-treated by the master and the senior housemaids. Her only friends are other young female maids who also suffer at the hands of Mr Pembroke – with unwanted pregnancies and discharge without references, condemning them to extreme poverty and homelessness.
Eleanor’s only refuge is the library from which she is prohibited but has a secret key, a room hardly ever used now. One evening as Eleanor read an unusual book, she cut her finger, and the blood dropped onto the latch revealing a fairy godmother offering her seven wishes.
“ ‘I can grant wishes. I will grant yours, if you let me.’ A horrible certainty stole over Eleanor, like frost creeping up a window pane. ‘And what would you ask in return?’ she said, already knowing the answer. The woman’s eyes flickered to the book. ‘Perhaps I should’ve let you read a little further. Your soul.’ ‘What? No, I – no!’ ‘I’m not unreasonable,’ the woman said mildly. ‘I would only collect my due if you made all seven wishes. I’ve no wish to cheat you, my dear.’ ”
Imagine if the devil had appeared to Cinderella in the guise of a fairy godmother and granted her several wishes, the consequences would have been so much different. Nevertheless, don’t let me suggest this is a demonic themed story, but certainly, the essence of evil men of position and how they abused servants will make your blood boil.
With each necessitated wish from Eleanor, there is a deadly price to be paid as death surrounds the outcomes, but it all works for the benefit of Eleanor. I know the presumption is, why not wish for riches, but being the ward of Mr Pembroke, he would get possession of the money until she turned off independent age. It is also not worth jumping to conclusions too early as there are twists in this clever plot. As the police get involved, there is a sense of impending reckoning and a race to see whether Eleanor pays the ultimate price with her soul or freedom.
I loved the balanced touch on all the themes being woven together, including the historical setting, a supernatural and demonic contract, intriguing characters, and a thriller fuelled with ambition. I would highly recommend this absorbing book from JJA Harwood, and I would like to thank Harper 360 and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.