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Winterspell Paperback – October 27, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Legrand's YA debut is set in two worlds in 1899: New York City and the magical world of Cane, a country of humans, mages, and faeries. Seventeen-year-old Clara Stole's mother, Hope, dies a gruesome death, leaving Clara and her family grief-stricken and at a loss. The teen is determined to uncover who was responsible for her mother's murder. Clara uncovers photos of her mother's body with markings on it matching those on the statue in her godfather's shop. Does he know who killed Hope? There was a curse placed on the statue that Godfather breaks, and the statue becomes human. Godfather and Clara fight the magical creatures that come for Nicholas, the former statue, but they take Clara's father instead. She and Nicholas enter a magical door into Cane and the quest to find him begins. In the process of finding her father, Clara gains courage and learns who she is and what she is capable of. Readers will appreciate the in-depth character development and the action-packed pace in this stand-alone novel. The connection between the two world isn't very cohesive, but teens won't mind. In this unique retelling of The Nutcracker, the author weaves the original story and characters together seamlessly with a rich setting and spins a romantic and dark new tale.—Jesten Ray, Seattle Public Library, WA --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
What a mesmerizing whirlwind of a story! I was simultaneously horrified and enchanted by the land of Cane, with all its passion and mysteries, magic and mechaniks. Claire Legrand's writing has the grace of a ballet, but this is definitely not your grandmother's Nutcracker tale.--Marissa Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of Cinder
Top customer reviews
I was extremely excited for this book due to The Nutcracker being my ultimate favourite ballet and it would be intriguing to see a YA version of this gorgeous and magical tale. I was expecting light, charming, sweet and something more similar to children’s literature, but I got a grim, gritty and quite a shocking story with the tone being more similar to a New Adult book. And, to be honest, I don’t even know if I entirely liked this surprising outcome, but there was something compelling about this steampunk version of it.
What I liked:
The magical world of Cane and its fate was overall obviously dark, ugly and quite descriptive: all the experiments, “drug” addictions, almost-prostitution, torture, voyeurism, oft nakedness, graphic description of dead bodies, slaves, girl on girl kissing, appalling treatment of particular groups of residents (eg. humans, mages), etc – all presented and shown in a not so nice way, far from it. While it was something I needed get used to, in the end, I quite liked this take on this wold. If you like kinky fairy-tale-like YA then this story is 100% for you!
There was a multitude of icky, creepy and despicable characters you simply had to hate and when I say despicable then I really mean very devious. I was definitely not indifferent towards them and that’s a good thing. I liked that it wasn’t strongly based on the original and took heaps of inspiration, but not all details and it wasn’t a retelling. Also, the pace of the book was great, there was never a boring moment, all the time something was happening and the story moved with speed.
The world-building was phenomenal: detailed, twistedly gorgeous and lifelike/realistic. And as I mentioned, the story didn’t only highlight the good, but also the wicked and evil side of both these two worlds/cities - Concordia and Cane. Thus, it was considerably more believable.
I liked that Nicholas wasn’t entirely a good guy, he had a lot of grey area, did some selfish things, was somewhat deceitful and didn’t always act as a gentleman should. I wish there would have been more insight into his mind.
Drosselmeyer was just as creepy as I’ve always seen him as – great! Full stop.
What I didn’t like:
Clara was simply so unfortunate and in a constant position where I felt sympathy for her or with a mentality that everything was her fault or that she had to take responsibility – her martyr routine was kind of tiring. She had all this power, but she still came across weak and slightly pathetic to me. I understand that she was clearly in a sticky position, but I felt more for Nicholas and the poor residents of Cane.
My personal complaint (slightly spoilery): I’m starting to get tired of these special snowflake heroines. I mean, come on, again a girl who discovers there is more to her than visible and, naturally, she end up being the top of the food chain or something like that. Everyone will fall short in competing with her power and her most important asset – the power of the heroine. This trope is awesome when done right, but when you don’t even particularly like the heroine then it can become bothersome.
Oh my, how I couldn’t stand Clara’s annoying no-good father, well at least in the state he was presented during this story.
A very morbid, sexual and adult take on the beloved ballet Nutcracker. And although, I had serious issues with the heroine, I was still intrigued and impressed by the direction and tone of the story. It was certainly quite imaginative and very well written.
Clara is an interesting heroine, and full of contradictions: fearful and courageous, repressed and uninhibited, loving and vengeful. But really, I think it's her emotional turmoil that makes her seem the most human - it really fleshes her out as a character.
And Nicholas, the cursed prince of this tale, was for the most part easy to root for. Despite a certain moment in the story when I (and Clara) wanted to punch him in the face, he is genuine in his affection for her. It is a very deep-seated feeling, and that's what made it beautiful.
The land of Cane...where do I begin? It is grotesque, wild, strange, unnerving, and brimming with magic. The book really picked up momentum once Clara arrived in Cane, and there were a lot of tense moments, and quite a bit of action, too.
As for the villain of this tale, Anise, she was - not what I was expecting. At all. I did feel at bit sympathetic towards her, but then something would happen that would completely crush that feeling. The time Clara spent with her disturbed me, I admit. But I think that might have been the point. Things are warped in the faery queen's kingdom, and it needs to be made right.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read, full of surprises, intrigue, betrayal, magic, love and - happily - a good ending.
Ruled by a half-fairy, half-human queen who is as temperamental as she is vindictive and vengeful, both the humans and the land are at the mercy of her whims. Forced into servitude, addiction or sent to places that are uninhabitable, forced into overcrowded cities policed by fairies who loathe them, monitored by the queen's mechanized creations, forced to live in constant fear, life in Cane, with its continually shifting landscape, isn't what it once was for them.
When Clara Stole's father is taken on Christmas Eve she will have to make a choice - blindly follow his captor through a magical doorway to an unknown destination for the slim chance she can find him and bring him home or forget about him, leave New York and flee to safety but leave her sister behind with the ruthless Patricia Plum and the sadistic Dr. Victor.
Both choices would be dangerous. Both choices would require sacrifice. But leaping through the door would require a bravery she wasn't sure she possessed. Not until she landed in the frozen, deadly land of Cane alongside someone she could hardly believe is real.
WINTERSPELL is a spellbinding and beautifully written story. It's a thrilling and epic adventure. It's a story that will transport readers to a faraway land tainted by dark and twisted fairy magic, filled with hatred, suffering and fear. It's a story brimming with secrets and betrayal. It's a story about bravery and strength and sacrifice. It's a story about love and forgiveness, about empathy and acceptance, about the devastating consequences of anger and revenge.
It's a world you won't want to leave, with characters you won't want to say goodbye to. It's a story you won't be able to put down.
And whether or not you're familiar with the Nutcracker story, WINTERSPELL will be a story you can thoroughly enjoy. It's magical. It's delightful. It's beautiful. It's disturbing. It's sweet and sad. It's romantic. Its characters are charming, fascinating, lovable, diabolical, deceitful, fearsome, wicked, redeemable. It's a journey worth taking, with an ending that is completely satisfying. And it's an amazing start to a series that looks to be even more so.
Most recent customer reviews
I've decided to review this book because, while it did have some flaws, or maybe just aspects that were not for me, it also had some great things going for it...Read more
Perfectly twisted, a perilous read, Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a wonderful winter tale for those who...Read more