Simon & Schuster
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.
Winterspell is a darker story than the stunning cover with its whimsical font suggests, a world of mechanical monsters waiting in the shadows to reach out and drag us kicking and screaming to a faery queen who forces us to emotionally balance on the line between sympathy and fear. Ms. Legrand has a gift for detailed world building, the New York of 1899 as rich and easy to picture as the rapidly deteriorating world of Cane, the beauty and the ugliness of both cities carefully laid out for us, as strikingly full of contrasts as the characters who inhabit them.
Clara is a young woman easy to both like and dislike, her ability to keep a level head no matter what human or supernatural threat she faces something we readily admire, but the darker side of human nature also takes up residence right alongside all that makes her shine. While that may sound like a criticism, it is in fact a compliment to Ms. Legrand for writing a young woman who reflects not only the strengths of humanity in her courage and loyalty to those she loves, but also the flaws, the shadowed corners of ourselves we know exist but don't necessarily like to acknowledge. It's so easy to root for the characters who, in fiction, have the ability to make all the choices we wish we might make in the same situation–to be heroes and badasses who save the day with our fearlessness and cunning. Clara is not always that person though, instead she often allows fear to get the better of her–choosing self-preservation over self-sacrifice–and though we might like to blame her for not being a better person in that moment, deep down in those places we don't speak of, we can't help but admit to the unsavory realism of her choices.
The true beauty of Clara and her oh-so familiar flaws though is that, in crafting her as she does, Ms. Legrand gives her room to grow, to recognize that she is not currently the woman she wants to be and therefore expend the effort to change her course. She often lashes out when hurt and seeks to hurt in return, something we're all guilty of at one time or another, but on the whole she handles moments of heightened emotion extremely well, never flying off into hysterics when an ugly truth is revealed or creating drama where there doesn't need to be any. Rather, she absorbs the blow and tucks a sliver of hope that what she's seen or heard isn't what it seems deep down inside for closer examination later.
While Clara is a character of nuance and depth and the world of dark fantasy she finds herself caught up in is truly fascinating, the story does plod along rather slowly despite a not-insignificant number of epic battle scenes and romantically tense situations. Though we enjoy all the characters and recognize in them the type of layers it's an absolute joy to pull back and spend precious hours examining, there's something vital missing to fully connect us to Clara and Nicholas on an emotional level. There are select moments with each of them where we swear we can feel that connection pulsing, but it's often there and gone again before we can grasp it fully, leaving us a touch more removed from the plight of human, faery and mage as they fight to exist in a world free of a life-threatening prejudice than we'd otherwise like to be.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.