I was obsessed with the Nutcracker ballet when I was a little girl…like listened to the music year-round and danced with my Nutcracker doll every night obsessed! I actually started ballet lessons because of my love for it, and eventually was able to perform in my dance school’s yearly production. To this day, the Nutcracker ballet holds a very special place in my heart and will always bring back amazing childhood memories. I can’t really remember when I first heard of Claire Legrand’s adaptation of this classic, but I can tell you I was immediately intrigued. The Nutcracker always had a mysterious and darker quality to me, and I was so pleased to hear that someone was writing a book that drew on that inspiration and played on its themes.
After reading Winterspell, I can say it is unlike any book I have ever read before and it not only met, but far exceeded my expectations.
Winterspell is dark, sinister, mysterious…even creepy at times. It was such an interesting comparison to see how Legrand’s New York City so closely mirrors her fae world of Cane. The worlds that Legrand built-in this story are corrupt, dangerous and ultimately, shells of their former selves. On the other hand, both worlds are ruled in very different ways; one by a power-hungry faery Queen willing to do whatever it takes to completely beat down her people, and the other by a weary mayor who can’t control the corruption in his town. The world-building as a whole is on a completely other level. I felt transported into the lands of this book and applaud Legrand for crafting worlds that are so detailed and filled with history and legend. The alternate world of Cane is mystical and filled with beauty, but also frightening and dangerous.
The characters of Winterspell are as fully formed and compelling as the worlds in which they travel. To watch Clara’s transformation and character arc is so satisfying, and I found myself cheering out (and crying out) for her several times during my reading. She has spent her life wondering how her life ended up the way it has and the spectre of her mother’s death always hangs over her. When she begins uncovering the truth about her mother’s death and is faced with the abduction of her father, she does whatever it takes to find the answers. Even if it means forcing herself to break out of the prison of self-doubt that holds her back.
There are SO many amazing characters in Winterspell and I could easily devote a paragraph talking about each, but that would make this review crazy long! I will say that each and every one of her relationships is complicated, intense and riveting. From her godfather Drosselmeyer who knows so much more than he lets on, Nicholas who bursts into Clara’s life to help her unlock the clues to the fate of her parents, and the faery Queen Anise, one of the creepiest and most confusing villains I have ever encountered. Throughout the novel Clara never quite knows who to trust and Legrand does a fantastic job of portraying that confusion and distrust to the reader. I constantly found myself changing my mind as to who was really there to help Clara. Which I absolutely loved as a reader because it kept me on my toes for all 454 pages.
Like I said, I could seriously go on and on about Winterspell. I mean, I could stop right here and then start all over with a second review. But I’ll leave it up to you discover all of the magic and intricacies of Clara’s life-changing journey. If you like complicated and dark tales that weave the stories of heroes and villains together into one, then you’ll truly enjoy Winterspell.
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 not human. 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.