Bestselling author of the Queen of the Tearling series, Erika Johansen, journeys to a new kingdom in this brilliant stand-alone novel—a darkly magical take on The Nutcracker where two sisters, cursed from birth, are forever changed one memorable Christmas. . . .
Light and dark—this is the destiny placed upon Natasha and Clara, the birthright bestowed by their godfather, the mysterious sorcerer Drosselmeyer. Clara, the favorite, grows into beauty and ease, while Natasha is cursed to live in her sister’s shadow. But one fateful Christmas Eve, Natasha gets her chance at revenge. For Drosselmeyer has brought the Nutcracker, an enchanted present that offers entry into a deceptively beautiful world: the Kingdom of Sweets.
In this land of snow and sugar, Natasha is presented with a power far greater than Drosselmeyer: the Sugar Plum Fairy, who is also full of gifts . . . and dreadful bargains. As Natasha uncovers the dark destiny laid before her birth, she must reckon with powers both earthly and magical, and decide to which world she truly belongs.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
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“Vengeance was a seductive idea, so beautiful in its symmetry that it seemed utterly necessary, almost a moral imperative, a path without turnings.”
(3 / 5) Ijust stepped out of the shadows of this dark Nutcracker retelling, and let me tell you, it’s a literary journey that’s both unsettling and intriguing.
It is a chilling blend of the Nutcracker, Hansel and Gretel, and a dash of Sleeping Beauty. The author, known for the Queen of the Tearling series, takes us on a haunting ride through a world draped in shadows, where every page oozes with a palpable sense of dread. The interplay between light and dark adds layers of complexity, making it a gloomily thought-provoking experience.
“Love might be real, but it was also utterly precarious, just waiting to turn to hate.”
Ultimately, I was not entranced like I wanted to be. While the Queen and Drosselmeyer add an intriguing touch, the rest of the cast is easy to despise, adding a layer of discomfort that fuels the story’s darkness.
Minimal dialogue creates an atmosphere thick with internal musings, sometimes to the point of losing interest. The author’s signature style, as seen in the Queen of the Tearling series, is less prominent here. It’s a departure from what I expected, and while the darkness is vividly painted, I missed the narrative depth that drew me into her previous works.
It is a journey into the darker corners of Christmas lore. It’s a story that makes you question the innocence of toys, parties, and people. While it didn’t captivate me as much as expected, I wonder if my limited knowledge of the Nutcracker impacted my experience. Definitely a read for those seeking a holiday tale that’s more shadow than sparkle.
General content summary: F words= 1, minimal language, intimacy (referenced), teen pregnancy, alcohol (some underage), infidelity, physical violence (kick, head injury, fight, death), flogging servants, mention of intimacy (no details), laudanum (opium mixture, multiple), multiple dead bodies (few details),
Thank you to Dutton books and NetGalley for the copy!
The book releases November 28, 2023.
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