The Shadow in the Glass

J.J.A. Harwood. Harper Voyager, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-00-836809-8

Harwood debuts with a half-baked Gaslamp fantasy take on “Cinderella” that asks what collateral damage the rags-to-riches fairy tale might cause. Orphan Eleanor Hartley was taken in by the Pembroke family and raised well until age 13, when Mrs. Pembroke died. For the past four years, Eleanor has been a maid in the house that used to be her own—and Mr. Pembroke has a habit of “interfering” with the maids. She’s 17 when her fairy godmother appears to her, offering seven wishes in exchange for Eleanor’s soul once she has used them all. Resolving never to make the final wish, Eleanor takes the deal, hoping to rescue the staff from Mr. Pembroke and restore herself to wealth. But power comes with a price: each time she uses a wish, someone dies. When Mr. Pembroke’s dashing son returns to England, Eleanor adds a future with him to her list of desires—but is getting what she wants worth the cost? Harwood’s tale is dark but never quite chilling, wandering into an ethical morass without ever taking a stand. And while a late revelation expertly recasts Eleanor’s character, readers will be frustrated with her perceived obtuseness for much of the beginning. Fans of retold fairy tales will be drawn to the premise but disappointed by the execution. [em](May) [/em]
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