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The Theatre of Glass and Shadows

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Oh wow, I was fully immersed and fully engaged in "The Theatre of Glass and Shadows" by Anne Corlett. Set in an alternative world where London has an enclosed theatre area with a long-running show, this ticked so many boxes for me. Corlett is able to conjuresup a whole world, probably due to her love of Punch Drunk theatre which creates theatrical settings in which audiences are fully interacting and participating. I totally got the obsession about the fans and their urge to return time and again. Theatre can be addictive! Whilst it was essential to the plot, some of the magic was lost when we went "behind the scenes" when Juliet joined the cast. However the mystery of the bodies in the river counteracted this. Like Stephanie Garber's Caraval, may there be more in the series! 4.5 rounding up to 5.

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I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via the publishers.

The Theatre of Glass and Shadows is a dark and spellbinding read full of mystery and intrigue.
Juliet has recently lost her father and has always been kept in the dark about her real mother and life before she can remember. She goes in search of discovering if her mother is really dead and where she came from and is certain that she came from the Theatre District where a show commences every hour of every day and has been going for centuries. When a performer takes her hand within one of the shows, Juliets life gets flipped upside down. She can finally be a part of something she's always longed for but there's a price to being part of the show - she cannot tell anyone, reveal herself as her character in the show or become close to anyone outside of it. As Juliet gets more involved in the show, she begins to suspect something is very off kilter, and her determination to discover the truth becomes a game of smoke and mirrors as well as cat and mouse....
The atmosphere of the theatre and the show is incredible and so atmospheric, giving dark undertones to the story. The mystery elements were very well woven, and I loved the contrast of characters and the mysteriousness of the performers.
From how the story ended, I have a sneaking suspicion that this won't be the last we see of the theatre district nor the end of Juliets story! And if I'm right, I honestly can't wait to read the next instalment.
If you love Caraval, this is definitely a book for you.

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For centuries the areas south of the Thames around Southwark and Lambeth were dangerous hotspots of vice, beyond the law. Author Anne Corlett has created an alternative present-day London, where the South Bank is also effectively outside the law; it is home to a theatre/performance space which, over the centuries has grown and continually pushes out its boundary walls. This is an immersive theatre, and Corlett is highly influenced by the work of Punchdrunk Theatre who have an enormous international following; they produce shows of great size and complexity, creating new worlds in which one can wonder at will, mesmerised by sound, light and aromas, and in which one may well be drawn in to a scene for just one audience member alone.
But Corlett’s theatre has a darker side – people disappear, bodies are found, and the police go no further than the entrance gates. It is to this territory that her heroine is attracted, drawn by the mystery of her late father and his possible involvement in the Theatre. In this world of performance, make-believe and pretence, no-one is quite who they seem to be; allies or enemies – impossible to tell.
Anne Corlett’s book brings the world of immersive theatre very much alive to the printed page. It will be an eye-opener to many, a familiar evocation to those already smitten, and to all a stimulating read.

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It was the book title that 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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I loved the setting of this book. I even enjoyed the mystery. I found the history a bit complex for the story. The story felt like an endless maze.

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Another compulsive read from an author who seems to do no wrong. I absolutely devoured this one… You will want to clear your afternoon to read this one straight through!

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Set in an alternative London, where the mysterious Theatre District is run by its own rules and has a highly sought after show running constantly.
Growing up in an average household with his father and stepmother, Juliet yearns to be a dancer. After the death of her father, Juliet finds clues about his past and this leads her to the Theatre District and to uncover mysteries and secrets.
This world is a wonderful one, and despite my heart racing and leaping whilst reading this book, I still wanted to find myself in the theatre district and in her world. This world is exciting and vivid and miraculous - not that I’d want this in real life - but Anne Corlett makes you want to be there.

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Okay, so I really enjoyed this book! So beautifully written and set in my favourite place, Victorian London, albeit in an alternate reality.

This was such an original premise that did also have me comparing it in parts to The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. Julie is such a likeable character and I was fully engrossed in her story. I was just as desperate to find out about her family tree as she is.

I would have preferred if the Theatre District was better described because, at times, it felt a bit empty, kind of like an afterthought, or maybe that was the authors intention? That Juliets story was at the forefront.

Either way, a very enjoyable read.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book with no obligation to review.

A low 4 for me. I did quite enjoy this but not as much as I expected. It is not as immersive or detailed as the Night Circus but Juliet's story is good and the other characters are reasonably well drawn.

I could not really visualise the District, there seemed to be just a lot of empty, dusty rooms rather than anything extravagant and mesmerising. I was not immersed and swept away as I had hoped to be. There is a little mystery about who is/was who and who is a goodie or a baddie but it's not that hard to guess.

Quite enjoyable though but a bit flat and underwhelming.

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Rounding up to 4 ⭐


I absolutely LOVED the district, and the show, which must always go on.
Finding out how it worked, the behind the scenes, to be honest, the rest of the book felt like an interruption at times from that magical scene setting.
Julie seemed incredibly innocent, and trusting of anything that was told, or not told to her.
It was lovely to see her character grow as the book progressed.
A nice bit of darkness spices things up.
If there's more books set in this world, I'm definitely here for them.

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Sometimes the greatest spectacle hides the darkest secrets..

This was so good!! The writing was beautiful and so detailed, I can't imagine how long this book took to write.

Some parts had me a little confused and I felt a little windswept from taking a lot in at certain parts but they eventually all made sense in the end.

I really enjoyed this world and was fascinated by it.

I rated this 3.5 stars!

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A fantastic book that captivates from beginning to end, packed full of mystery, drama, loss and desire.
Juliet’s mother died when she was young and following the death of her father she longs to escape grief, loneliness and find a place to belong. This leads Juliet to where she believes was her birthplace - the Theatre District.
Set in an alternate London, the Theatre District has evolved over centuries and encompasses an immersive theatre show. It is no ordinary show, it runs 24/7 and is performed in a maze of bright stages, dark corners, and sleight of hand by performers and crew. Juliet hopes the Theatre District will help her unravel the mystery of her birth and find that she belongs but as she discovers, when there is no final curtain how do we know when the performance ends and truth begins. A hugely original and entertaining story, this book will have a broad appeal. No doubt fans of immersive theatre will love the concept taken to new heights, but also those who like me have never been to a show, the originality of the story and the world that it inhabits stands alone without need for prior knowledge. The Theatre of Glass and Shadows has inspired me to book my first immersive show but the book will be a hard act to follow - Corlett has created a world so vivid and a mystery so engaging that I can't see how it can be matched...maybe only by a film or a series based on the book, hint hint!
Immersive theatre fan or not, this has to be on the list of must read books of the year.

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An enjoyable story of an alternate Victorian London,
I loved the vivid descriptions of the Theatre District, with its round-the-clock immersive theatre and its dedicated, obsessive theatre-goers.
For a young woman determined to forge her own destiny despite the odds, Juliet did strike me as a little naive, and many of the characters were skated over and rather one dimensional - I'd have preferred to see some of the more key characters a bit more fleshed out.
That said, I'm sure it won't be long before we see this as a TV series, as it conjures up such rich visuals of the labyrinthine District.

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This was a great alternate London story. I thought it worked well and I could see this happening. It worked well with the time period set and the characters were interesting and they worked well with the storyline. I enjoyed the way Ann corlette wrote this and how she created an interesting world with the great characters. I love the idea of the ballet elements in this book. And it really was a great story to read. I love that it had a suspenseful feel to it was beautifully done.

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Exquisitely written, with a rich and vivid setting.

This book was a departure for me – much more literary than my typical read. It throws the reader into the deep end of a fascinating world unlike anything I've ever encountered.

It reminded me of The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong, which is no bad thing.

On a separate note, PDFs… Gah! I hate reading PDFs. Why do publishing companies hate epubs readers so much? PDFs offer all the disadvantages of print with all the disadvantages of ebooks and the advantages of neither.

Now I remember why I so rarely read ARCs from publishing companies. Bastarding PDFs, that's why.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an ARC of this (even if it was a bloody PDF).

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the chance to read this ARC, in exchange for an honest review. I loved The Theatre of Glass and Shadows it is so rich in mystery and suspense, historical depth, twists and turns. Juliet is a fantastic heroine, not sure I warmed to Ethan but no spoilers. It’s five stars from me.

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The Theatre of Glass and Shadows is an atmospheric and imaginative take on the world of immersive theatre, especially as practiced by the Punchdrunk Company. Whilst their shows run for years and employ vast sets, Corlett has conjured up a show which has run for centuries taking up a whole district of a parallel London. Into this world is plunged Juliet [one of a few Shakespearean nods], a recently orphaned teenager, trying to find her way in both the adult world and the Theatre District. I liked how my opinion of different characters shifted during the story and how Corlett captured the deep investment of immersive theatre fans into this intriguing art form. Juliet finds she has a lot to deal with beyond learning her lines and has to decide in the end where her loyalties really lie. After a satisfying conclusion I was left wanting to know more about what happened to the characters after the curtain had come down but also more about the past of the Theatre District before the curtain went up - sequels and prequels, please!

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I love “improbable spaces” like Celestin’s The Palace of Shadows, Danielewski’s House of Leaves or Dinsdale’s The Toymakers.
This is ”improbable spaces” on a grand scale - a whole district within London dedicated to a theatre show of interlocking looped performances. First rule: there are no rules. Everything seems to happen randomly, everything seems to shift like quicksand: storylines, cast, scenery.
Juliet Grace has grown up with a vague recollection of “belonging” to that secret world and tries to find out about her past.
This seems to be an exploration into where a stage ends and an auditorium begins - or whether you were part of an elaborate play all along.
At times, my own imagination was severely challenged by the plot’s wild imagination, I struggled to follow all the elaborate nooks and dreamscapes of the “District” and towards the end, my ickle brain was no able to follow all the “who’s who” and “who’s the baddy really”.
While this story leans heavily on Morgenstern’s “Night Circus” and while IMHO it is not really “General Fiction (Adult)” but rather “Fantastic Fiction (YA)”, I was still fascinated by it.
Oh yeah, and prettyplease make it into a film!

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Thank you to Black & White Publishing for granting my wish to review an ARC of The Theatre of Glass and Shadows by Anne Corlett.

First and foremost, Anne Corlett is a good writer - her style is smooth and engaging - her dialogue flows easily - and you can tell she put a lot of thought into the world building and creation of the Theatre District.

The plot summary intrigued me, and I had anticipated a story about a young woman searching for secrets to her dead parents and their past in the Theatre District. For the first 28% of the story that was the plot I was engaged in, especially as we saw Juliet finding her birth certificate and looking for details in the Shipping News and trying to make sense of her roots as she entered the thrill of The Show.

After that point I think the plot loses it's way, and Juliet's acceptance of the minimal information she has seen seems to take over her character in a way that doesn't feel developed, and, if anything, makes her seem unstable to the point I was worried the plot would just devolve into some sort of descent into madness. The characters around Juliet are not fleshed out enough to have a strong standing with the reader - I think this is because Juliet continuously moves from one group of relationships to the next - first her stepmother/half sisters, then the Shipping News fans, then the District, and she is immediately trusting of every instance in a way that makes me distrust every decision she makes

Then, as the plot expands quite exponentially to include a potential decades old serial murderer and multiple other threads that convolute the original intentions of Juliet - it just seems like so much danger is manufactured, but sprung on the reader in a way that is more confusing than engaging. Perhaps the summary should be about more than her search for truth on her parents and that would help? The story has larger layers and mysteries, and I think a more in-depth focus on these threads would have strengthened the story that Corlett is telling.

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Do you remember as a child when you believed in a bit of everyday magic? Maybe it was the Sunday Disney night program or when you believed MAYBE there was another world inside your wardrobe?

The Theatre of Glass and Shadow brings that magic! Emboldened with a thread of the excitement of Broadway, you can feel the energy and expectation in the Theatre District's Show.

The Show, is an ongoing, for centuries, program of dancing and mystery and acting and more that draw in the public of London for entertainment nightly. The district is a labyrinth of walksways and hallways and no show is ever the same, all controlled by The Director and Choreographer.

Our protagonist is suffering in a Cinderella type situation. Juliet years to learn more about her real mother as her stepmother treats her dreadfully. Following the death of her father she is pulled towards the Theatre District to find out more about her birth. What she finds is beautiful, complex and beguiling. When a performer offers his hand to her, the choice is hers to take it or walk away.

Join Juliet in the Theatre of Glass and Shadows, you will be bewitched and enchanted and leave wanting more!
.#black&whitepublishing #BlackandWhitePublishing #thetheatreofglassandshadow #annecorlett

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