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4.0 out of 5 stars First Hand Review - Girl in the Glass, 10 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Girl in the Glass (The Healer's Shadow Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Girl in the Glass is a magic realist novel about Anya, orphaned after the death of her father and her healer mother and forced to endure a young life in servitude to her wicked aunt. The huge family home she lives in (in a town on the edge of an impassable desert) is her world and her prison, that is until Anya and her twin/Shadow Eva escape...

Zoe Brook's novel is a true magic realist story. Its setting is a world that is not ours but is nonetheless recognisable. It is a novel in which the almost magical and vaguely supernatural are an accepted reality. Reading it, I couldn't help but be reminded favourably of other authors. The setting and Anya's sprawling and occasionally grotesque family put me in mind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Having said that the harsh, epic landscape of the story and the fable-like quality of a narrative held shades of Paulo Coelho.

But more than those magic realists, this book put me in mind of the science-fiction/fantasy of Anne McCaffrey. Like McCaffrey at her best, Brook's setting exists to serve the characters. The world she has created is fascinating but not as fascinating as the engaging, dynamic and (above all else) sympathetic female protagonists of the novel.

Girl in the Glass is a book of people over plots. It is (watch out - big word coming up) a bildungsroman which follows Anya's development from childhood to womanhood. Brook's story subscribes to the idea that anything that does not kill us makes us stronger because it is through adversity that Anya grows and survives. Anya is pitted against some truly vile characters, many of them wolves in sheep's clothing, who attempt to destroy, belittle and objectify our heroine. At times, reading this novel, it does feel as though if something can go wrong for poor Anya, it must go wrong. In fact, if it weren't for the balance introduced in the shape of a few altruistic souls Anya meets along the way, Girl in the Glass would be too darkly pessimistic for my tastes.

It is a gripping read with only a few niggling problems.

Because it is a book of growth and travel and change, Girl in Glass is quite episodic in nature. There are no characters to share our entire journey from beginning to end apart from Anya and Eva. And, because their flight from various pursuers necessitates a number of name changes, even Anya and Eva do not remain constant.

The only other issue I had was that, perhaps because of its self-published nature, the book has more typographical errors than I'd care to see. Nonetheless, it is a beautifully formatted book with better functionality than a lot of professionally published Kindle books. And, given its low cost, it represents far better value for money than many books on the market today.
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