Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 454
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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.

Clara Stole leads a double life. She is the eldest daughter of the mayor of New York City, but she has secretly been trained to fight by her Uncle Drosselmeyer. She is haunted by her mother's murder, and is determined to be able to defend herself. Despite all her preparation, on Christmas Eve, Clara finds herself faced with a situation she never could have imagined. Her father is abducted and taken to a magical land called Cane, and she must follow him there to try to save him. With the help of Nicholas, a cursed prince, Clara has to navigate the world of Cane while avoiding being captured by the faery queen Anise.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed Winterspell. The story was intricately written and so unique. It had quite a bit of a slow start, because it required a lot of world building, but I'm glad that I stuck with it in the end. The one thing that I didn't love about this book was the romance and how it was handled. There is a love triangle of sorts, although I don't know if it should actually be called a triangle. I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with the way the romance was written per se, but it definitely wasn't for me. There were some weird aspects to the romance that didn't sit well with me, but I understand why they were incorporated into the story, and maybe other readers won't dislike them as much as I did.

One of my favorite things about Winterspell was the way it was handled as a retelling of The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker will always be an important story to me, since it is a show that I have either been in or seen every year of my life. I loved that Winterspell had many nods to the original story, but then also took the reader on a completely different adventure. Some references to The Nutcracker were more deeply hidden, which made me feel like I was in on a secret. But anyone who has seen or heard the story of The Nutcracker will be able to recognize some of the original elements. I also appreciated reading a retelling that hasn't been overdone. We often see a lot of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast retellings, but Winterspell seemed like a fresh new idea.

As soon as I finished Winterspell, I was left wanting more. I really wish there were more Winterspell books. The world is so intricate and unique and I would love to know what happens after the conclusion of this book. I want to spend more time in the world of Cane, learning even more about the magic system there. If you love fantasy and want to try something that is different from anything you've ever read, definitely pick up Winterspell.