Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit.
These are the opening lines of Winterspell by Claire Legrand, and the story starts of sounding like magic. I pre-ordered Winterspell and I actually received it about two weeks in advance – it’s not set to release until September 30. I’m so glad I got it early because now I can tell everyone to mark their calendars for this book.
Winterspell was not perfect, though, and we definitely got off to a rough start.
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.
They all – Anise, Nicholas, herself – might be doomed to stay trapped in the wrecks of the world that had shaped them.
Winterspell was a book I was really looking forward to reading. I loved the premise of the book, and The Nutcracker retelling really sealed the deal. This book has a truly gorgeous cover. Seriously, whoever designed the book should be promoted. When it (finally – but early) arrived at my house, I was stunned by the book because it’s even prettier in real life than it is on-screen. It’s probably my favorite book cover this year!
Even with my cover-love, I had a lot of frustration with the beginning of this book. A lot of these problems stemmed from my dislike of the tone of the third-person narrator. I felt distanced from Clara and her emotions, more so than I usually do with third-person perspectives. I wasn’t connecting with what was happening, and because of that, I was interested in the book, but I wasn’t captivated. I also felt like there were some moments when the narrator was simply telling me what was happening – especially in terms of dialogue – instead of simply showing me. And there are times when telling does work better than showing, but in most of these cases, I felt left out of the action.
I also initially wasn’t very impressed by Clara. I felt that she jumped from Nicholas to Godfather to Anise depending on who had recently deceived her or hurt her. The reason why she was always hopping around was her indecision about what she felt for whom and why. There were also moments when I wanted her to stop and think. Many times, she realizes that, Okay something important is happening here, but she shoves it aside which frustrates me to no end.
But things did pick up. They really picked up. Winterspell has this crazy amazing crescendo where at the beginning I was just observing the orchestra, and then, all of a sudden I was there on stage with them, urging them to play faster, to keep the passion, and reach the end so I could hug them and shout for encores. About 50% of the way through, I finally felt like the action was picking up, Clara was making some bold, empowered decisions, and I could finally see Nicholas clearly. And everything was glorious after that.
I gave this book a rating of 3/5 simply because of the slow start. The writing style is beautiful, especially when we get to briefly jump into Nicholas’ head, and I really loved this retelling. This is a book I can definitely see myself re-reading!