Monday, September 29, 2014

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Release Date - September 30, 2014
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 464 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads 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.
This is certainly not the Nutcracker you'll remember from your childhood. Claire Legrand is offering up a dark, sexy, twisty take on the classic tale. One that is filled with just as much wonder, whimsy and magic as the original, but also embraces it's own voice to become something entirely new and fresh.

Fans of the iconic story will delight in the nods woven throughout the story. Character names, scenes, and objects all pay homage to the ballet from which this draws inspiration, sometimes in surprising ways. I anticipate that you'll get more enjoyment out of it as a fan of the Nutcracker, and do recommend pairing a watching of the ballet with reading this novel so that it's fresh in your mind.

This is a sensual, decadent take on the Nutcracker tale. Those darker undertones are present in the source material, but they are pushed to the forefront in this retelling. The sensuous, lush writing style only adds to the steamy tone that is woven throughout many scenes in the novel. Clara, herself, is having an awakening of sorts. She timid and shy about sex. Her experiences have not been positive as she lives in fear of drawing attention to herself. This awakening is paralleled in the magic that is infused in every single aspect of Cane. It's intoxicating, and alluring and all part of Clara's journey. They are meshed together in a very organic way that worked well rather in the story.

I've heard much talk in reviews of the fact that Clara is attracted to Nicholas when he's in his 'nutcracker' form. For me, this aspect, while highly unusual, worked well within the story. It paid homage to the curse from the original while incorporating it into this sexier, and more dangerous adaptation. The connection, built from her younger years, makes their subsequent interactions feel more authentic. While Clara was sharing her secrets with Nicholas, she was also keeping him from going insane. There is plenty of chemistry between her and Nicholas and that stems from this bond that was formed without either of them really knowing it was being built.

Clara also has some real sparks with Anise. Their storyline is rather intriguing, but spoiler filled so I won't say much. I will say that it goes in directions that I was not expecting and completed Clara's journey.

The world building, while adeptly done in some cases, was not descriptive enough for me in others. I had a hard time picturing the world of Cane. Clara's New York and it's gritty, dirty underbelly was an easy setting to bring to life. However, Cane was much more difficult to imagine. In particular the mechanical creatures that have overtaken Cane. Also illusive to picture was the constant tearing down and rebuilding of the land that Anise was doing. I could not picture how that would work, or what it would look like. It made picturing these fully formed characters harder because their surrounding canvas felt like a mystery.

All the characters have themes of betrayal, forgiveness, prejudices, and survival strewn throughout their journeys. The political struggles between the various groups (humans, mages, and fairies) was well constructed and believable. It's this aspect of the story that shone the brightest because it felt timeless. Anise wasn't a one dimensional villain. Her treatment and was pushed her to the Anise we see in this story was horrendous. The novel stops short of excusing her actions though, and instead presents the characters has having choices. Choices are what define us, and how we treat others.

The pacing, well off at times, was mostly kept in place due to a ticking clock that constantly ensured the characters did not hesitate in their actions. The readers are constantly aware that something is coming and it added a nice bit of tension to the storyline. A tension that would have been missing if not for this element.

Claire Legrand has written a grown up fairytale for those who enjoy stories filled with fairies, kissing, snow, and magic. While I didn't fall as in love with Legrand's Cane as I wanted to, there is still more than enough to love within these enchanting pages.

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