This is a spoiler free review. [I will do a small spoiler section on Goodreads, so if you are interested, check out that review here]
Written by Claire Legrand
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Retelling
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Recommended Age: 14 and up!
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.
I must admit, I almost did not pick this book up. I’ve actually had this on my shelf for at least a year and I never picked it up because there were so many negative reviews and I was scared that I would hate it and no, I could not have that. I have a thing where I want to love every book that I ever read which isn’t even remotely possible. I do tend to DNF books but this was not one of them. Yes, it was a little odd and I had some issues with it [as I usually do] but I enjoyed it for the most point.
Gorgeous cover, come to me!!
This is one of the most beautiful covers that has ever graced my bookshelf. I love how they got Clara’s hair right and how it is covering part of her face. I also love how there is mist/smoke in the background, almost covering the gates behind her. Ugh, I wish I designed this cover.
This book had excellent world-building. I actually knew where the characters actually were supposed to be [compared to some books where I have no idea where the heck these people are supposed to be. Do they even exist?] But the land of Cane is so complicated and eerie and perfect. A lot is up to the imagination and it was done so perfectly.
Then there are the characters.
Clara weirded me out at the beginning a bit. Especially the whole bit with the statue. [Please get that off of my page, it was weird and creepy and kinda gross] But otherwise, she was a strong female heroine. And she was definitely bisexual which was cool because LGBTQ characters is something that Fantasy authors tend to shy away from. And they almost never make a gay/bi female character. She was honestly one of the best female characters. She had such strength in her. She was thrown into this weird adventure and she had absolutely no idea what to do. People just told her she was an entirely different person then she had once thought, and she has to accept it. The feminism is so strong in this book, which makes me proud. She is able to defy the thoughts that a girl/woman can’t save herself. Clara does not by any means need a man to save her.
Ummm. I had a couple of issues with Nicholas. The first one being that he goes from nice to possessive and borderline evil in .02 seconds. And that happens quite a few times. Yes, there was apparently some damn curse put on him but I had no idea what Claire Legrand was talking about half the time. I did not know what curse, they were talking about and why did it make him want to rip Clara’s innards out especially when Anise was like obsessed with her. Why would she want Nicholas to kill Clara then? Nicholas also bored me. I mean he was supposed to be the Knight in Shining Armor, right? I mean, what else is the main male lead supposed to be. He fell flat, delivering whatever he was supposed to and I didn’t like him. Plus, I didn’t want him near my precious Clara for half of the book. #ProtectClara2k17
I adored Anise and I’m so mad that she was the villain. To be honest, she had so much potential. Anise didn’t seem like such a villain to me. In fact, she was more of a misunderstood female in a world where she had to show her strength in order to maintain her power. I’m really upset that she and Clara didn’t end up together because their sexual tension was way higher than the tension between Nicholas and Clara. Plus, I feel like she did actually care about Anise even though she didn’t always act like she did.
CLARA’S SISTER [FELICITY]
One more thing that I wish was different was that I wish that Clara could have brought her sister with her. Instead she left her in the real world where it felt a lot more dangerous than in the land of Cane but maybe that was just me. Like please, Clara. Please take her with you. She was a young, vulnerable girl who needed protection. [The protection that only Clara could give her]
Family was supposed to be the main focus of this book. She was going to Cane to save her father and her father’s life and her own life but that is not what I felt the ultimate goal the book reached. I feel like it was more on Clara ‘finding herself’ and being with Nicholas and ugh. I like it when the focus is friendship and family which is a much more needed book trope but alas.
The plot wasn’t all that great at the beginning. In fact, it took me a lot longer than I thought it would but it picked up later and I was anticipating everything and it did keep me on my toes in the end. Many people have said that it is boring and left them in utter boredom and that was not completely true for me which makes me happy. It’s a retelling done at its best. The word ‘retelling’ was totally used loosely. It is almost completely different from the original but that’s what I always want from a retelling.
I could write an essay on the romance in this book but I won’t. I’ll keep it short and sweet.
I was NOT a fan of Nicholas and Clara’s romance, which makes me sorry to say. Usually, I really like either the romance or the male lead but in this book I feel like some of it was a borderline unhealthy relationship. Take the quote below for an example. Nicholas says this to Clara. Sure, he spends much of her younger life as a statue in her Godfather’s shop but still. This is just plain stalkerish and kind of gross. *shudders*
““Does that make me sick, do you think? Spying on a little girl? But then again it’s not as though I could help it. And I thought nothing untoward, at first. You were this awkward, amusing thing. You made me forget myself every once in awhile. It wasn’t until you were much older that I started to want..."
Then we have the other relationship that unfortunately was not the canon relationship. This was between Anise and Clara but this wasn’t that healthy either. I was just not pleased with the relationships in general.
The writing was where there was actual strength. I loved the writing. In fact, it was some of the best writing that I have read since The Star-Touched Queen and that is saying something. It was eloquent and I liked the font and it was so so pretty. [like the cover]
Beware of this book. Everyone has different thoughts so don’t trust everyone on Goodreads or who reviews it. I happened to enjoy this work. I loved that it was a Nutcracker retelling which is something that is hardly ever explored. And there are two bisexual characters. One of them is even a main character. But in other words, the romance isn’t great and the male character is borderline creepy and stalkerish. If you are down for an interesting new kind of retelling, I encourage you to pick this up and try it yourself. Who knows what you might think.
Quotes from the Book:
“A kiss. A wicked, forbidden kiss. A kiss to end a kingdom.”
“You cannot shy away from yourself. Look the world in the eye, and it can do nothing to hurt you.”
“You’re powerful, Clara. Or you could be, if you would let go of your fear long enough to realize it.”
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Crowns