Saturday 25 May 2024



Title: The Theatre of Glass and Shadow
Anne Corlett
Black & White Publishing
General Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Release Date:
23rd May 2024

Sometimes the greatest spectacle hides the darkest secrets . . .

In an alternate London, the city's Theatre District is a walled area south of the river where an immersive production - the Show - has been running for centuries, growing ever bigger, more sprawling and lavish. The Show is open to anyone who can afford a ticket but the District itself is a closed world; even the police have no jurisdiction within its walls.

Juliet's mother died when she was a baby. Brought up by her emotionally distant father and even more distant stepmother, she has never felt wanted. It's only when her father passes away that Juliet - now nineteen - learns her birth was registered in the District. Desperate to belong somewhere at last, she travels to London where she hopes to unearth the truth about her identity, her mother's death and her father's years of silence - and claim her birthright.

But in the District, there is only one central truth: the Show must go on. And in a world where illusions abound, and powerful men control the narrative, Juliet has no idea of just how far some will go to ensure certain stories are never told . . .

Goodreads Link

It was the book title that first drew my attention to the book, and then when I read the blurb it made me think of Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor and Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda J Foody. So, I had high expectations for the book. When the cover was revealed, I wasn’t initially sure whether I loved the book cover or not. I felt that I wanted it to have more colour and then after reading the book I actually wondered if it should have been black and white to represent the darkness and light within the theatre district. Having fully read the book I grew to love the cover as it is. The cover actually fits the book very well, in my mind the blue is perfect for the magical whimsy of the theatre district and the white marionette/paper cut out ballerinas represent the performers the director controls. Then there are the other items that are within the book. The cover would definitely make me want to pick the book up from a book store shelf, so it fits its purpose well.

Juliet has always felt like an outsider even within her own family. Her father didn’t spend a great deal of time with her and it’s clear her step mother Clare does not consider her to be part of her family. In fact, it was her stepmother Clare that ended Juliet’s time at Miss Abbeline’s school where she was able to indulge in her passion for dance. Clare had informed Stephen, Juliet’s father that Juliet needs to learn practical skills that would enable her to get a job rather than concentrating on dance. Despite this coldness from her stepmother, Juliet has always loved and spent time with her step siblings. So, when Stephen Grace dies it soon becomes apparent that Juliet’s stepmother wants her as far away from herself and her two step sisters as possible, coming up with a legal document for Juliet to sign away any future rights to any money in the family estate in exchange for a one-off lump sum of money. Clare is also quick to suggest a temporary job vacancy she has heard about that she considers suitable for Juliet saying it would be ideal until Juliet decides what she wants to do with her life now.

When the chance arises Juliet goes searching in her father’s study for clues to who her mother was & a birth certificate. She finds a black ribboned mask, a necklace a photo, and a key. Later Clare, her stepmother reveals she couldn't get a copy of Juliet’s birth certificate when she needed one for her college application and says all she received was a letter, which says Juliet was born in the theatre district. The theatre district is basically like its own contained town so it keeps its own records and has also its own rules etc. When Clare gives Juliet money to go purchase a suitable black dress for her father’s funeral, Juliet puts her plan to learn about her mother and her past into action and heads to the theatre district.

Juliet desperately wants to 'fit in' to be 'part of a family again' as she believes she once was part of the theatre district and belongs there. From donning a black mask at the theatre district entrance on her first visit Juliet feels drawn to the district and show. Then Juliet meets Eugene, an avid “follower” (A follower is someone who has become enthralled, enchanted and almost addicted to going to visit the district and keep going back to the show).

It’s via Eugene telling Juliet that we the readers learn about the “ballot” where followers take part to win tickets to the show. If you don’t win tickets via the ballot the other option is to purchase them. Eugene wins tickets for the show in the ballot, and exclaims that Juliet has brought him luck and insists she accompanies him, saying it will be his honour to take her to her first show. Not everything as it seems in the theatre district, especially within the show, like the silver ornaments on the tree branches that Juliet touches on her first visit, it has an elderly man smiling man on one side and then on the other side the elderly man transforms into a gnome like thing that has a puckered face. Once Juliet visits the district and sees her first show it’s like she is on a rollercoaster ride that she just can’t get off. Within the show there are numerous subtle lies and tricks woven with elements of truth, all creating an amazing ever-changing illusion. No matter what happens, whatever is going on, even if someone is hurt or injured the show must go on, no one & nothing is more important than the show.

There are so many different characters caught up within the magic, promise of The Theatre District. I immediately adored Juliet and was instantly intrigued by both her story and that of the Moonshine Girl. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history, intricacies and hierarchy at the Theatre District, it was complicated yet totally captivating which made the book difficult to put down.

I really enjoyed learning about the show, and all the different people that were part of it. The residents of the theatre district are split into four main categories: Principals – who have scripted loops to perform in House of Doors, Itinerants – who have scripted loops that are performed on the streets, Nomads – who have no formal scripted activity, Ancillaries – who carry out tasks not related to the show and are all those that are not nomads, itinerants or principals, so bartenders, street performance, fortune tellers & stagehands. I loved the history of the stagehands and kind of wish there had been chance to learn even more.

I was fascinated with the concept of the Wanderers randomly appeared and chose someone to bestow attention on and who gift little charms/tokens (there's 7 to collect but it's rare for someone to be able to get all of them) & show you individual attention & show secret things, and rarity they show you 'a private scene' (hard to describe) They are all over the district. Tend to appear when someone is doing something they shouldn't.

The character of The Shadow Man an is mysterious, seemingly caring yet with a scary dangerous edge to him. The Shadow Man eloquently draws Juliet further and further into the tangled web of the show within the theatre district. He plays on Juliet’s emotional state after the recent death of her father and her blind fascination with her own history and how it entwines with the history of the show itself. It’s only when she has almost cut off her new friends Eugene and Sally, that she realises that she is in perhaps over her head and she has discovered dark secrets that could end her own life, she needs help and fast! I loved the quote about Juliet’s state of mind that it was like a kaleidoscope.

I really loved how the book was played out, there’s the main part which is where Juliet is dealing with the death of her father, her step mother’s simmering hostility and then the letters about the theatre district, and Juliets discovery of her history with the theatre district and the show within it. Then there are the other parts I totally adored were about the theatre district and the actual show. I enjoyed Eugene educating Juliet about the district, and him being a “follower”, explaining how they have their own rooms within the district with their notes on the show. He introduces her to other followers, Macy, Jan, and Esme who immediately dislikes Juliet and later becomes her rival. It’s via Eugene that Juliet meets Sally and Anna who end up renting her a room to live in within the precincts. The precincts are quite run down, on the outskirts of the district so still sought after. The precincts are also dangerous as apparently there is a killer on the loose, murdering young females and dumping them in the nearby river.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading The Theatre of Glass and Shadows had an amazing, intricate plot & characters I quickly adored, and it immediately grabbed me and kept me firmly hooked until the very end. I loved it all, the history, hierarchy and mystical aspects as well as the darkness and betrayal. There really is so much going on in this book. I feel like I could talk forever about this book. It’s difficult not to reveal too much about the book but I really don’t want to spoil the reading experience for anyone else.

Summing up, the book is really well written, the descriptions so detailed that you can visualise them. The plot is intricate and really takes you on a mysterious, magical, whimsical trail. Theres a few red herrings thrown in, the amazing back story and history of the show, the district and its inhabitants, from its almost invisible stagehands to its most sought after performers like the Moonshine Girl and the Girl in the Silve Shoes. Then there are all the politics and rules about which family the Director comes from and the different ways the families rule and run the district and the show.






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