author : claire legrand
pages : [hardcover] 464
favorite character : anise
The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.
New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.
Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.
I adore stories based on fairy tales and I’ve never seen anything inspired by The Nutcracker before. I didn’t know what to expect from that and Winterspell certainly went against any thought I might have had about the story. In fact, there is no nutcracker to be seen in the near 500 pages that make up this novel. While it is an interesting read and I can appreciate the fact that it is a standalone, not drawn into a series, it just wasn’t the book for me.
I do feel like the majority of the plot was interesting or at least held enough intrigue to keep me going through the book. Perhaps the only reason that it didn’t feel long is because it concluded in this book when I was afraid a sequel would soon be coming. I hate when authors add on books that aren’t needed; I think Claire Legrand made the right choice in keeping this as one novel. I was happy with the conclusion. In fact, the ending of this book was my favorite part of it. I thought that it worked perfectly for the rest of the book and it made me think about what else could possibly happen after the action of the narrative, without leaving the book such an ambiguous ending as to frustrate me.
I also liked the world building in this book, yet I only enjoyed it in the fantasy realm and not the realistic one. It was terribly difficult to get an idea of the political structure in Clara’s ‘real’ world; I had no idea if it was only present there or if it was throughout the entire world. I had no idea what the rest of the planet was like, only getting a glimpse of Clara’s neighborhood. I liked the journey through the magical cities and warped surroundings in the fairy world much better because I had a better sense of where everything was in that layout and what exactly was happening to that society.
I think it was the characters that needed more fleshing out for me to have enjoyed this fully. We see the worlds, both fantastical and brutally realistic, through Clara’s point of view. But she switches her personality between an ass-kicking heroine to submissive debutante too many times. There doesn’t seem to be a change in her because she had the strength within her throughout the entire novel, only it never appeared when it was inconvenient for the plot. I never got a full grasp of Nicholas, either. I wish he and Clara would have had some longer dialogues together so I could have gotten a better hold on his character. Some things happened with him that I still find it hard to forgive because afterward I felt he was so absent (not always in a spacial sense) that I couldn’t hope to connect with him again.
I really wish that more had been done with Anise. She seemed like a complex character and villain; I absolutely loved reading the scenes including her because I never knew what was going to happen next. I feel like what the author tried to do with her ultimately came too abruptly and left me a little confused.
Overall, this was an okay book for me. It is definitely not one of my favorite retellings; I never would have known about the influence from The Nutcracker if it hadn’t been for the summary and a few key names in the book. There were parts of the novel that interested me but none that stood out as perfect.