In Renaissance England, a young woman is pulled into a world of dark magic and secrets that will change her life forever. Is it good?
The Shadow Glass #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
It’s 1526, and Thomas Hughes arrives home to London and quickly reacquaints himself with old friends and beautiful new ones. All is not well, as he has brought back with him the Shadow Glass, a mirror of demonic power, which he wastes no time in testing, with the help of his friend’s wife and a mysterious doctor.
After a jump in time of twenty years, a new character is on the scene, Rosalind, who like her Shakespearean counterpart prefers to dress in men’s clothing. She is sensitive, curious, and is about to have her entire world rocked when her father reveals an enormous secret, one that ties into the events of the past.
Is It Good?
I really really wanted to like this book. On paper, it hits many of my sweet spots: female lead character, Renaissance England, dark magic. But it just falls apart in execution.
Let’s take our female lead. Rosalind doesn’t hold a candle to the Shakespearean character of the same name. She dresses in men’s clothes and goes around the city on her own! She sits like a man! So scandalous! Putting aside that this would have gotten her arrested immediately in actual 1500s London, her cross-dressing feels more like an affectation more than an actual character trait.
Her lack of character is not helped by the writing; you could use this book to teach a class on telling rather than showing. Given that this is a first issue of a brand new series, I would expect some amount of exposition to intro the world, but it goes far beyond that. Fell also does one of my personal writing pet peeves, having each character name the person they are talking to in almost every line.
There’s also a lot of melodrama, which undermines Rosalind’s character as well. There’s a moment when she literally throws herself to the ground and wraps her arms around a man’s legs as she cries, “Please NO! Don’t send me AWAY!” It’s incredibly over the top.
None of this is helped by the art, which is weirdly flat and lifeless. Fell’s panels have a lot of detail in the backgrounds and costumes, but the facial expressions change in minuscule ways. You’d think when a Cthulhu-type demon is suddenly channeled through a woman’s body, the reactions would be more than “huh”:
Most of the women are repeatedly drawn in submissive or suggestive poses, including one which gives a very odd tone to a scene with Rosalind and the man she believes is her father.
Overall, for a book with this premise, I was disappointed to be so bored while reading it. And even more that I don’t plan to stick with it.
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