Review: Winterspell

Title: Winterspell 18475593

Author: Claire Legrand

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: As a former ballet dancer, Winterspell was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was incredibly interested to see how Claire Legrand would use her imagination to expand upon the world of the Nutcracker Prince’s kingdom with the Sugar Plum Fairy as the villain. It was this imagination, along with the descriptions of the setting and magic that were the components of this book that worked best for me. Otherwise, I have very mixed opinions on the rest of the book.

For example, the pacing traveled from action-packed to long spells of inactivity. The beginning of the story, as Clara goes through the motions of her life at home (and what a weird life she lived, with people doing nothing about the doctor sexually harassing her), was stale enough to require days for me to trudge through the pages. I did not understand Clara’s character due to her way of blaming herself for everything, nor did I understand the world she lived in. Other than that, I also did not comprehend the sexual fascination she held for the statue (who turns out to be the prince) in her godfather’s shop. The sensual tones (and the way they were described) throughout this book did nothing for me.

Rather than have a Rat King be the villain, a faery named Anise is the antagonist of this story, and she surprisingly has what I believe is now considered to be “steampunk” elements to the magic she controls. As someone who has never been able to get into the steampunk thing that has become popular I could only do my best to try to grin and bear it. If you like to read steampunk then I imagine this element of the story will suit you quite fine.

Nevertheless, even with all of the problems I had with the story, I still wanted to know what happened next. It is a weird position to be in: I had wanted to read this book because it was a re-telling of The Nutcracker, yet it was the end of the book and the possibilities it opened to an entirely new adventure that intrigued me the most.

(Note: This book is not one of a series; it is a stand-alone).


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