Blog, Reviews

A Tale of Two Nutcrackers

So I know that Christmas is technically over but I think it’s ok to talk about a Christmas book (in this case, 2 Christmas books) during that weird time between Christmas and New Year. If the Christmas tree is still up, it’s ok

My two Nutcracker inspired reads, perfect December reading!

I love The Nutcracker! In the before times, I had an annual tradition of going to a viewing of the ballet at one of my local cinemas. I listen to the soundtrack from November onwards. It’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of The Nutcracker! So when I saw that there was a new book, inspired by The Nutcracker, I decided to read it. While buying it, I also found another book inspired by The Nutcracker so I decided to read both for double the festive fun!

Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!) and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker.

Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.

The Enchanted Sonata a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet wit a dash of The Pied Piper. Will captivate readers of all ages.

I absolutely loved this retelling. It followed the plot of the original ballet pretty closely; after receiving a nutcracker, a young girl found herself whisked away to a magical world where she had to fight the rats to save the kingdom.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Clara, while rather young, was a disciplined musician and was very independent. I really enjoyed them being involved in finding a solution to the problem at hand. Clara was utterly obsessed with a fellow pianist, despite barely speaking to them, I felt that this really helped me as a reader to remember that she was young as her character was pretty mature. I’m fairly certain that 15 year old me was convinced that Benji Madden (of Good Charlotte fame) was going to be my future husband despite never meeting them and being a lot younger. I thought that both Clara and Prince Nikolai had a huge amount of character growth during this book.

In addition to the two main characters, so many of the secondary characters were so fun to read about. I was so invested in Pyotr, who was the Tiny Tim of this book. I absolutely loved him and just wanted good things for him. I also loved Zizi who worked at the bakery/sweet shop, she was so cool and smart. The nuns in this book were basically an army who were ready to protect the orphans and their church, no matter how many laws they had to break and they weren’t afraid to shout at their Prince. It really felt like all of the characters in this book were described fully.

The big bad in this book was like The Pied Piper and I felt that his backstory did a great job at making sense of why he was terrorising the kingdom in such a way. I’m not saying it was rational but super villains rarely are, but you could see why they took the path they did.

The world building in this book was wonderful, the author really captured the magic of The Land of Sweets, all i want is to eat those peppermints! The forest was also described really well, i almost felt cold reading this, despite being tucked up with a hot water bottle.

I enjoyed the unpredictable fairies, there was method to their madness.I liked that the characters knew that they couldn’t rely on the fairies to save them and that they had to work together.

The ending of this book was completely unique to this book as it was not related to the ballet and I thought that it was perfect. I didn’t think it was going to happen, I wanted it to happen but I didn’t see it coming.

I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and gave this book 4 stars and I will definitely be reading this again.

There’s nothing Marietta Stelle loves more than ballet, but after Christmas, her dreams will be over as she is obligated to take her place in Edwardian society. While she is chafing against such suffocating traditions, a mysterious man purchases the neighbouring townhouse. Dr Drosselmeier is a charming but calculating figure who wins over the rest of the Stelle family with his enchanting toys and wondrous mechanisms.

When Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate set for Marietta’s final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. On the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, she is transported to a snowy forest, where she encounters danger at every turn: ice giants, shadow goblins and the shrieking mist all lurk amidst the firs and frozen waterfalls and ice cliffs. After being rescued by the butterscotch-eyed captain of the king’s guard, she is escorted to the frozen sugar palace. At once, Marietta is enchanted by this glittering world of glamorous gowns, gingerbread houses, miniature reindeer and the most delicious confectionary.

But all is not as it seems and Marietta is soon trapped in the sumptuous palace by the sadistic King Gelum, who claims her as his own. She is confined to a gilded prison with his other pets; Dellara, whose words are as sharp as her teeth, and Pirlipata, a princess from another land. Marietta must forge an alliance with the two women to carve a way free from this sugar-coated but treacherous world and back home to follow her dreams. Yet in a hedonistic world brimming with rebellion and a forbidden romance that risks everything, such a path will never be easy.

Unlike The Enchanted Sonata, this book was classified as Adult Fiction. This book was not a retelling of The Nutcracker, it was more…very loosely inspired by the Nutcracker which did make me feel a little disappointed but also a little cheated. This book kept the theme of ballet and the Land of Sweets but that was about it.

The book started with an introduction to Marietta, a 20 year old dancer, daughter of a wealthy family. Marietta dreamed of being a dancer but her father wouldn’t hear of her dancing after her 21st birthday and was ready to marry her off. Their new neighbour, inventor Drosselmeier (in this book he was not her godfather, like in the ballet) seemed like a good candidate, Marietta was not keen and after some events, they ended up in a snowy forest near to a Land of Sweets where a large castle was visible.

I found Marietta to be one of the most irritating characters that I have read about in recent history. She was entitled and rude and very childish. I kept forgetting that she was 20 because her actions would have suited a 12 year old protagonist far better. For example, after being repeatedly warned to stay away from the King, she crashed a ball and did ballet around the dance floor which drew the attention of the King, she then agreed to a request that obviously was going to lead to a bad time. She then had the audacity to blame other people for not protecting her.

The additional characters in this book were most interesting- a stolen princess and a…demon? An immortal being who was referred to as being a fairy but said that demon was a better description. I would have loved to have read a book about these characters instead.

It really felt like all of the relationships in this book were forced. The three prisoners suddenly became the best of friends, like sisters, despite there being nothing to show why they bonded so quickly. The assumption was that people locked up together with a common enemy would bond but none of the bonding was included. The romantic relationship also felt like it came out of nowhere and I didn’t buy it.

I enjoyed the big bad in this book, it was a nice twist. It didn’t feel like the reason behind his super villain status was really explained and I enjoy knowing how a character became a baddie. Maybe I just love an origin story.

I absolutely loved the forestry landscapes in this book. They sounded so vast, cold, and full of danger. The caste sounded so grand and absolutely massive!

I felt tht this book went too far with the sugary sweet descriptions. Perhaps due to the Land of Sweets. Every meal was sugar based and so sweet, everything smelled sickly sweet too. They even dusted their bodies with sugar. This book had me craving some celery in order to offset the sweetness.

The grand finale of this book was very short. The whole final event happened over just a few pages and just felt like there was a long build up to a sharp, short full stop.

I am a huge fan of ballet but often in this book, Marietta tried to solve things with the power of dance…which wasn’t something I enjoyed. It just felt forced. I suppose she was using her strengths but it just didn’t do it for me.

I didn’t enjoy this book anywhere near as much as I’d hoped. From the blurb and the gorgeous cover, I expected to love this book but it fell short for me. I needed up giving it 3 stars, rounded up from 2.5. I think that a lot of my disappointment was due to the immature main character and one dimensional characters because the plot was really interesting. The ending of the book was ambiguous as if leaving space for a sequel, I don’t think I’d be picking that up though.

Of the two The Nutcracker inspired books that I read this month, The Enchanted Sonata was my favourite.

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