I will have to say it: ‘I am Anya and I am nothing’. I will look down at the floor as I say it, so that I don’t see the smile on my aunt’s face, so she won’t see the defiance in my eyes. She will get her victory. She always wins these battles. I know it, she knows it. But one day, one day she will not.
Orphaned at the age of 10 in circumstances that she refuses to explain, Anya grows up trapped in the house of her abusive aunt where she and Eva, her Shadow, are treated as slaves. As her aunt tries to break her and the punishments become increasingly life-threatening, Anya struggles to find affection and self-esteem. When the inevitable showdown arrives, where will Anya find the strength to survive and escape? And if she does escape, what then? An arduous walk across an unforgiving desert to a city where an even worse danger lies.
This is the story of two girls coming of age in a world which does not value women. It is a world that is carefully and beautifully drawn, and is both familiar and strange. Walk with Anya and Eva as they wonder at sights and smells of the empty desert and the teeming city.
Girl in the Glass is the first book in The Healer’s Shadow Magical Realism Series; the second is Love of Shadows and it currently concludes with The Company of Shadows.
INTERVIEW WITH ZOE BROOKS
How would you categorize The Healer’s Shadow series?
With difficulty. It wasn’t until I published Girl in the Glass that a reader pointed out it was a magical realism novel. But if you search for magic realism novels on Amazon you will see that they can be in all sorts of genres. In this case I would say that the genre is probably women’s literary fiction, even feminist literary fiction.
Why create a fantasy setting for the book?
I was inspired by women writers like Angela Carter, Alice Hoffman and Ursula Le Guin, who have shown that speculative or fantasy fiction novels can offer a great way to explore important themes in a way that is entertaining and imaginative. Magical realism is particularly good for this.
Tell us a bit about Anya?
I fell in love with her, when I wrote this book. I wanted to create a strong female lead, which I did – she is a survivor, a battler – but she has her flaws and her weaknesses. The trilogy follows her as she matures and becomes the woman she is destined to be.
I was influenced by my work with a women’s helpline, and with charities for refugees and the homeless. I heard the stories of women who had suffered physical and psychological abuse or forced marriages, who had lost everything and been forced to build a new life as immigrants in a strange country. Anya experiences all these things. Like the many women I met, she is inspirational.
And what about the healer’s Shadow? Is Eva Anya’s sister or twin, or is she something else?
I can’t answer that without giving away the plot – not just of this book but of the whole trilogy. The idea of the Shadows and their humans was the first thing that came to me when I started writing. It’s what gives the books their magic realism, and it also makes them metaphysical novels. Let us just say that the relationship between Anya and Eva is exploring something profound about human nature.
I notice that you are now calling these books a series – it was a trilogy. Does this mean there are going to be more stories?
Yes, I hope so. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of new releases here.