Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 with 8 comments
Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Series: n/a
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

Claire Legrand's Nutcracker-inspired Winterspell isn't so much a retelling as an exploration of the darkness, the sensuality of the original tale. This novel endeavors to bring into focus the desires and wills of the characters and divine where they came from and what makes them tick. This is my first experience with this author's work, but her evocative prose and nuanced additions to the story mean I will definitely be coming back for more.

Let me just get this out of the way. This is not the Nutcracker story you grew up with. The gist is similar, but Winterspell delves deeper and deeper into the world of the Sugar Plum Fairy and all of those "delights" afforded to the kingdom, be it the ubiquitous sugar or those costumed dancers. And what you'll find is not a beloved fairy tale but a war that has been brewing for ages.

So, yes, in answer to the question that is most likely plaguing you, this story does rely heavily on faeries and magic. But that shouldn't surprise you all that much considering the source material. There are malevolent faeries and destructive humans and slippery mages in the land of Cane and none of them are  very willing to share the land. Oh, and Clara is caught unawares by all of this when her father is abducted by faeries in order to lure her to the land of magic.

The usual characters are all present in this story, though their roles have been somewhat altered from the original tale. I loved Clara's determination -- to master her future, to save her family, to discover her family's deepest secrets. She is strong but not infallible. She is vulnerable, but she will not be discouraged. I truly love what the author has done with this character above all others, but I loved the fact that, though changed, all of the characters were still reminiscent of their original selves.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was all of the clockwork and those little mechanized robots that kept tabs on the Queen's empire. I'm finding more and more faerie stories that include steampunk elements and faeries who like to tinker, and it quite endears them to me, maybe because it helps to somewhat alleviate that feeling of complete otherworldliness that clings to them. Winterspell didn't feel like any of those other steampunk faerie stories I've read, though. It's dark and stunning and utterly tantalizing.

And so, so seductive. Not just the gorgeous storytelling but also the character interactions. As I said, this is not the tale you were told as a child, and it becomes so much more sensual at the hands of Legrand. There were moments when poor Clara felt utterly indecent, but I exalted in seeing this story in  such a new and different light. I've always loved The Nutcracker, and I had a feeling I would feel similar after reading this story inspired by it, but I loved Winterspell even more than I expected.

GIF it to me straight:
I know, Jared...I'll never see The Nutracker the same way, either.
(But seriously, wowsa, I loved this story so hard.)

Summerfall: A Winterspell NovellaWinterspell

About the author:

Claire Legrand is the author of books for children and teens, including The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows, the upcoming Winterspell, and its prequel, Summerfall. She is also one of the four authors of The Cabinet of Curiosities.

When not writing books, she can be found obsessing over DVD commentaries, going on long walks (or trying to go on long runs), and speaking with a poor English accent to random passersby. She thinks musicians and librarians are the loveliest of folks (having been each of those herself) and, while she loves living in central New Jersey, she dearly misses her big, brash, beautiful home state of Texas.

Her work is represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary, LLC.

Find Claire:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr


  1. Eeep! That sounds so so awesome! I love retellings (there are so many retellings these days, it's literally so much awesome) and Nutcracker is a really cool one. I seriously just finished reading a review for another retelling. XD Heh! Popular! SO YES. I want to try this for sure, and that's awesome it's a 5-star read too!

  2. So happy to see you like this book. I have been trying to get to this one for a very long time and something keeps getting in the way. I hope to start it soon. I had really high hopes for this one and glad to see they may be justified. I love much of the original tales turned dark. Great review.

  3. Oooh, I love a good sensual book. I'm actually quite glad that it's not an outright retelling. It's nice to take a twist! Great review, Jen. I hope I can check this one out soon!

    Jess @ MyReadingDress

  4. OHMIIIGODDD I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT FOR THIS BOOOOK!!! Oh and lovely review :D It really just made me want it like a thousand times more than I already did :D
    Jackie @ No Bent Spines

  5. I freaking LOVE Claire with all of my heart! I liked this book very much! I was unprepared for the gritty, harsh retelling, but it was something new.

    Check out A Year of Shadows by Legrand. It is my favorite of her books!

  6. This one was really not for me. I loved the opening chapters, but I didn't realize this was going to be a Fae book, which is just not my thing. But I'm happy that you loved it!!!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    1. Like Jen, I'm not usually big into Fae, BUT I loved The Nutcracker as a kid. I think I might give it a try closer to December as a darker Christmas read.
      Excellent review!

  7. Ooh, that fact that it explores dark themes is a huge win for me! Can't wait to read it!

    Great review!


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