Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

What if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother wasn’t a Fairy Godmother? What if she had an even Step-dad instead of an evil Step-mom? What if it’s not a prince at the ball but someone closer to home? What if instead of having a fairy godmother just grant her wish to go to the ball, she makes a deal with a mysterious woman that she can have all she wants with 7 wishes? To put it lightly this is not your typically retelling of Cinderella. At times, It became less a Cinderella story and more of a Faustian retelling. Eleanor or Ella as she is called is forced into service when her Guardian, Mr. Pembroke decides she is not worth spending money. Ella was taken in by his wife when Ella’s mother died and intended to raise her to be a Lady but Mrs. Pembroke died and Mr. Pembroke did not share in his late wife’s wishes for Ella. So she forced to be a servant in her own house. She loves to read and it’s her one comfort to sneak into the library and read about all the places she would have gone to if Mrs. Pembroke had lived. One night, she finds a copy of Faust out and starts to read it. As she is reading it, a mysterious woman appears and offers Ella she can have everything she ever wanted with just 7 wishes. In exchange, she just needs to give up her soul after all the wishes are done. As someone who has read the book before, you would think she would be more careful in making deals but she agrees and as you expect, things do not go as well for Ella as she wished for.

This book became increasing hard to read as it went one. Part of that had to do with the events of the past week and looking at a future where Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned, the situations, Ella and her fellow woman in service face are too close to home. The book begins with Ella’s friend and another maid being dismissed because she is pregnant after being raped by the Mr. Pembroke. Everyone knows the child is his but instead of him taking responsibility for his child, she is the one who is dismissed in disgrace. Another maid, uses her influence over the master of the house to steer him away from her but to her fellow maids to avoid their fates. Throughout the book, Ella has to find ways for her and her friends from being his next victim but with a woman with no status and no money, it’s difficult tightrope to walk. She can’t outright accuse him because it is his word against hers and it would most likely get her fired and out on the streets. So she uses her wishes to try to help her situation but like all things, the wishes don’t go as she plans for them. Someone dies because everything has a price. She tries to find ways to help herself without using the wishes but every time she does, she is blocked. So she makes a wish, thinking this time she has phrased it right that she will get the results she wants. As things spiral more and more out of control, she tries to justify each wish, each decision and how she is not to blame for the outcome. It’s not her fault people died. It’s the mysterious woman who killed them. All she is doing is protecting herself and her friends. She is trying to better her life so she can help others. She can have the love of her life She can have the money that she was to inherited. She is doing nothing wrong. Well, if you are familiar with Faust, then you know how this is going to end and it’s not the fairy tale ending that Cinderella normally receives.

This was a good book. It had a lot of good ideas and liked the Faustian twist on a fairy tale story but maybe I would have liked it better if current events didn’t put into sharp focus that Ella’s Victorian reality is not so far from our own reality.

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