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On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
The Nutcracker in a book!
One of the most buzzed about new books this fall has been WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand, which uses elements from The Nutcracker to create a dark new world.
It's the perfect book to read this holiday season. To me, nutcrackers are a huge symbol of the holidays!
(And, okay, I KNOW today isn't Thursday, so this shouldn't get the Twist banner BUT tomorrow, I have a blog tour stop and didn't want to slam you with two reviews in one day, so...! Forgive me?)
Clara Stole has big shoes to fill now that her beloved mother has been murdered. Her father is the mayor and the family has to appear to be holding it together for Concordia. But many of the officials are corrupt, and after Clara overhears a plan to assassinate her father by New Year's, she's blackmailed into silence. When Godfather Drosselmeyer's statue transforms into a flesh-and-blood prince, Clara begins a terrifying journey to the world of Cane. In Cane, Nicholas is a dethroned prince, and the world has been taken over by Anise the Fairy Queen. Anise will stop at nothing to destroy Nicholas and keep her throne, but after capturing Clara, the game changes. Clara no longer knows up from down or truth from fiction. All she wants to do is save her father and sister from their deadly fates before it's too late. But what if saving her family means giving up everything else?
There is so much going on in WINTERSPELL that it's hard to talk about many elements without spoilers. Those expecting a direct retelling of The Nutcracker may be disappointed, but the way the retelling is nuanced and layered into the story works very well. The world also takes on steampunk tendencies at times, and feels dark and new; much, much darker than the light, happy world Clara visits in the ballet version of the tale. The "Sugarplum Fairy," for example, is not sweetness and light. Instead, she's deadly and iron-fisted. She distributes sugar (Get it? Sugar?) to all of Cane's inhabitants, addicting them with no way out, even as she beats them down for being human. Legrand also has a way of making readers feel sympathetic toward Anise, even as they spend time hating her. Likewise, their thoughts towards characters are likely as volatile as Clara's. Who can be trusted? What is truth? This imbalance is handled well. Even Prince Nicholas comes under close scrutiny thanks to his quest to reclaim the throne at all costs. Even Clara's beloved Godfather Drosselmeyer has been keeping secrets. It is up to Clara to uncover the truth and discover the best way to handle her newfound magical abilities in order to save her family. But what can one inexperienced mage do in the face of centuries-old magic?
Legrand has also written a prequel novella entitled SUMMERFALL. This takes long before WINTERSPELL ever begins. It centers around two characters whose tale is mentioned in passing in WINTERSPELL. You can read one before the other. If you read WINTERSPELL first, you'll know what's coming in SUMMERFALL, but if you read the novella first, you'll go into the world blind and let the story take you on its journey with no preconceived ideas. Either way, the order is up to you!