Thursday, September 18, 2014

[Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand]

Author: Claire Legrand
Series: None
Pages: 464
Genre: YA, Retelling
Date Published: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review


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.

My Thoughts:

An Open Letter To Winterspell,

Wow, I didn't know what I was getting into when I opened you up. I knew you were a retelling of The Nutcracker, which struck my fancy, but I could never imagine the dark, twisted journey that you took me on. You were filled with beautiful writing, intense word building and all the oddly sensual feels. You weren't dainty and vague like the ballet, you were bold and careless and I loved you for that.

-The White Unicorn

Winterspell is going to be one of those books that either works for people or doesn't. It's books like this that I feel are some of the best. They dare to do things oddly and they don't care what you think. Legrand has written a book that will leave you wondering how you never picked up on some of the odd themes of The Nutcracker ballet, even if you watch it ever single Christmas. Reviews are all over the place for this one, and I get it, but I have to admit that I'm in the camp of people who thoroughly enjoyed this captivating retelling of a classic.

Legrand doesn't pull any punches with her storytelling. She has re imagined characters we know into creators that we can barely recognize. She tweaked an elegant world that we're already familiar with and given it new, dark, sensual, creepy life, while still maintaining said elegance. Her words and characters bring the story to life as Legrand explores humanity as well as fantasy with edgy tact. Some of the content will make you squirm, but that's part of what makes Winterspell something that you can't look away from. Fairies are ruthless, the fact that Clara is in love with a statue (turned man) is weird (but no weirder than the original story), sugar is a drug and the rats will make you scream at night. It's perfect, and real life in New York is no less terrifying.

I do have to admit that I found fault with only one thing in this book. It's such a part of the story that I didn't mind it when things came full circle, but I have to admit that in the beginning I wasn't the biggest fan. You see, our girl Clara has a way of victimizing herself and her sexuality. There is this creepy pedophile doctor in her real life and every time he looks at her she blames herself for his wondering eyes. It pissed me off, but even though she continues to do this, it plays a huge role in her development later on in the book. Clara grows from this timid girl with hardly any self respect into someone who knows who she is so completely that it's hard to see the girl she started out as when the book is finished. So, in the end what started out as a problem became something that I adored about Clara's character development. She becomes something of a Queen, instead of the frightened young girl she starts out as.

Nicholas is quite an interesting one himself. His and Clara's love is strange. He's a statue that she talks about having feelings for and then, because of magic, he becomes a man. The way she talks about him as a statue is odd, but it sets the tone for the book rather well. Honestly, everything about this book is odd, which is why I liked it so much. The magic that flows through Cain gets in the way of their love, but things will be what they will be, in the end. I liked that Nicholas wasn't a saint. He'd done some really messed up things and you saw glimpses of the darkness even when he shone his brightest.

And then we come to Anise. Twisted, seductive, brutal Anise. She's a rather captivating villain. She's evil all right, but she has these moments where you almost believe that she could be better. She has this deep lust for love that takes control of her and it makes her feel human. But then, just like that she'll snap back into the evil Queen we know her to be. 

Legrand also makes a point to highlight other characters that we already know, while throwing some new ones at us as well. I adore the fact that none of these characters are full of light, each and every one has something dark lurking in their souls and it keeps things interesting. You're never sure who is good and who isn't. Plus, Legrand throws some curve balls at us that are rather unexpected. I want to say something about it, but I fear it would be a spoiler and I loved how much it shocked me, so I'll leave to find out what I mean for yourself.

This book is a whole lot Nutcracker with touches of Sucker Punch and steampunk. It's a jumble of mixed emotions and feels and sex appeal and humanity all rolled into one. If you like any or all of those things, you should read this book ASAP. 

Disclaimer: Though I say this book is full of sensuality and sex appeal, nothing graphic happens, it's more the tone of the book that I'm referring to.

5 Unicorns = Get your hands on this NOW!


Tracy said...

OMG this sounds amazing!! This was one of my first choices for Waiting on Wednesday and I still can't hardly wait! I honestly have never seen The Nutcracker ballet, but I read the story when I was a kid. Either way, I love your review! So excited to get my hands on this one!

Tracy @ Cornerfolds

Amber Elise said...

Oh really? I too thought it was going to be a cute *dainty* ballet read, I'm intrigued that it's dark.

Thanks for your review, it's made it to my TBR list now!

Amber Elise @Du Livre

The Avid Reader said...

Um. You had me at "dark, twisted journey". I already wanted to read this. Now I'm foaming at the mouth.

Nicole said...

Both Ashley and I are really looking forward to reading this one! I am a little scared for how I will take to Clara but I am so excited to meet Anise!