Author: Claire Legrand
Clara Stole is haunted by her mother’s murder. Stifled by the corruption surrounding her father and his inability to get passed his wife’s death, Clara’s only solace is her Godfather’s lessons in stealth and sparing. Clara soon discovers there’s more to her mother’s murder than meets the eye and the one person she thought she could trust has lied to her. When otherwordly creatures attack her family’s Christmas party and the statue that sat in her Godfather’s shop for years suddenly transforms into a real life man, Clara discovers the terrible stories of another world her Godfather once told her as child are real. In order to save her family, Clara must travel to the world of Cane where a faery queen rules ruthlessly over humankind.
“Gathering her strength, crying out in pain as her bruised back twisted, she thrust her sword toward the lok’s midsection and prayed that her blade would find a gap in the strange, corded harness wrapped around its middle.”
Claire Legrand’s Winterspell is unusual in many respects. It is the first retelling of The Nutcracker I’ve come across and its protagonist is not who you would usually think of as a heroic figure. It is 1899 and Clara has grown up in an era and a society where looking the other way is the norm. She’s insecure, struggles to see her own merit and is constantly reminded of her own powerlessness. While I think it’s important to showcase protagonists who may not be physically or mentally strong, I felt that the story put Clara in uncomfortable and confining situations over and over again in an effort to illustrate her lack of control. The problem with this is it eventually felt superfluous when it was made clear early on that she is fearful, sometimes making her easy to manipulate.
The setting for Winterspell is really interesting. There is both magic and machinery, where faeries are capable of manipulating human inventions for their own gain. There is also a history of an ongoing war between faeries and humans that is sort of explained, but I wanted a little more backstory describing how both sides came to regard the other with such contempt. At times Winterspell is beautiful and whimsical, but I found the only character I actually liked, at least for the most part, was Clara. It seemed that everyone was lying or deceiving her in some way and I found myself frustrated with everyone. I did appreciate that Clara eventually learned to take her life into her own hands, but she was far more forgiving than I would ever be.