Friday, December 26, 2014

Naked Nutcracker

Soooo, I was totally gonna do this post pre-Christmas, but life has interfered so I guess it will now be a post-Christmas post to extend the holiday cheer.  The book is Winterspell by Claire Legrand and is supposed to be a take on my beloved The Nutcracker.  How did this book stack up to expectations?  Well to find out, read on, but first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Clara Stole is the older daughter of the mayor of New York City and life is not going so well.  Her vibrant, brave, wonderful mother was murdered a year ago and her father has fallen into depressed grieving state.  This has given the mob/gang Concordia even more leverage over the mayor and his affairs.  Clara is left to try and manage her family affairs, and even though her strange godfather Drosselmeyer has been teaching her to fight, and equipped her with knives, Clara cannot find the courage to use this to fend off the unwanted advances of Dr. Victor, or the threats of other members of Concordia.  At Drosselmeyer's unique toyshop, Clara spends time learning fighting skills, and talking to the strange statue of a metal man in the shop.  On Christmas Eve, Clara and her beloved little sister Felicity attempt to keep their father's stock up, help host the annual party.  The party is interrupted by strange, hybrid, giant rat like creatures.  Drosselmeyer uses his strange silver blood to bring to life his clockwork toys long enough for him to partially free the statue from its curse.  Clara discovers that her mother was killed by these creatures and is thoroughly confused and angry.
 Controlling these creatures is a fairy who then proceeds to kidnap Clara's father.  In the aftermath of the chaos, some of the people of Concordia tell Clara if she does not recover her father, they will hurt Felicity.  Clara jumps with the statue-come-to-life into a magical door and arrives in the magical land of Cane.  After some more fighting and strange occurrences, Clara finds out that the metal man is really the cursed prince of Cane, who goes by the name Nicholas.  He was cursed by a human/fairy named Anise and using her mixed blood can control all the metal.  The world of Cane has become twisted and dark, constantly being built and torn down and rebuilt.  As we wander through more chaos we learn that humans had hunted the fairies because they did not understand their magic and when a human king slept with a fairy and had a half-breed baby, that baby grew up to have untold power.  To help the humans, beings called mages (the ones with the silver blood) would bond with the current rulers to help them with their magic.  Anise, not only slaughtered the royalty, but the mages as well, she then took her revenge on all the humans that hunted fairies and has turned them all into terrified second class citizens.  More stuff happens and Clara discovers that her beloved mother was actually a mage of Cane, who escaped to our world when she was sentenced to death for trying to unite fairies and humans.  This makes Clara the only other mixed blood being and gives her, her own special powers.  Nicholas wants to use her to retake his kingdom, and totally betrays her trust.  Clara hooks up with the half fairy queen Anise and finds that she is actually very lonely and wants Clara to stay with her as a companion and partner.  More stuff and things happen and Clara along with her friends save the day and the kingdom and her father.  She goes home to make things right, and then comes back to Cane to be with Nicholas.  And that is the story of Winterspell.
I am a bit prejudice when it comes to the premise of the book as I ADORE the Nutcracker, and to be honest, no story is going to live up to the original, so there was that.  A couple of things really struck me in this book.  The biggest one being how much time we spent with Clara's skin.  She started the book horribly uncomfortable and embarrassed about her own body...which considering the era, and the creepy Dr. Victor I could understand...but then we spent about a third of the book with Clara in various states of undress, in a whole lot of compromising, and/or sensual situations.  I get that being on the cusp of womanhood means lots of exploring, and confusion, and experiencing, but seriously what it actually added to the story, or Clara's character development was in no way proportional to the amount of pages spent on it.  I feel that there was some opportunities missed considering the source material.  There were some definite references to The Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer being the biggest, but also the Prince trapped as a statue/toy, some of the scenes I think tried to tie in some of the various nutcracker dances, but it was missing some of the magic, and some of the creepy dread that the book and ballet both put across.  I also thought the book which clocked in at over 400 pages could have done with some editing and been a much sleeker, more entertaining read at around 250.
 There was some great stuff in the book as well.  I did enjoy that fact that Clara had to develop her own courage for her own reasons.  Even though she had all the training from Drosselmeyer, she did not know how to utilize it in her daily life and had to work at being courageous.   I also very very very much appreciate Anise and Nicholas as multi-dimensional bad and good guys.  Anise, while very cruel, is also a product of her birth and circumstances.  She is constantly trying to make the world into a place where she can be happy, to this end, her fascination with Clara as a potential equal and partner is very understandable and adds a great dimension of soul to what could easily be a cold, cruel baddie...also she has the coolest costumes.  On the flip side Nicholas is not your typical, heroic goody goody good guy.  He is the first to admit he has an extreme hate of fairies that was taught to him from a young age.  He is also able to be ruthless to the beings he feels he needs to use to regain his crown.  I think (and I love this) that in the very end, why Nicholas is "good" and Anise is "bad" is when they both had to choose, weather to continue the hate and cruelty, or to try and bring the country together, Anise could not get past the hate, while Nicholas asked for help and admitted that he had to at least try and be better.  This idea that it is decisions that make a person good or bad and not their inherent nature is a good one.  Overall there were good parts and not so good parts.  The book was a little slow, and a little long for my particular pace and I wanted more magic and less naked.  I give this book a 6 out of 10 sugar pipes.  Happy Reading Everybody!
What story do you know will never be adapted to your liking?  Do you think I'm prudish for not wanting to read 46 almost naked, almost sexy fun times scenes in a non sexy fun times book?  How do you feel about holiday stories after the 25th?

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