Saturday, February 7, 2015

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Released: September 30th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: bought/hardcover

Goodreads | Amazon

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. (from Goodreads)

Here's a little bit of trivia about me that many people don't know - I took ballet for six years when I was in middle/high school. I know that's not a particularly astounding fact, but my point is I got the opportunity to perform in the Nutcracker twice in those six years. I love the Nutcracker. The music still remains one of my favorite compositions to date. Dancing on stage with the lavish backdrops and beautiful costumes that the production requires is nothing short of magical. 

Winterspell follows in that magical vein, but ups the ante by 1000%. 

At its heart, this book is about two women who don't fully belong anywhere, but in an ironic twist have the power to alter the course of the world. I think it's a concept that many young girls can relate to (except the whole... alter the world part). Clara Stole has grown up her whole life wearing a mask, being forced into a diminutive role in her society and feeling so worthless and weak and helpless with little to no outlet. It's something I could relate to instantly, having been bullied in school. While bullying in 1899 is significantly different from now, the emotions are the same. And that relatibility made it so easy for me to follow her narrative, to feel it with her. 

Like Clara, Anise was born into an oppressive world, but Anise went a different route. She seized power and took everything from those who would have done the same to her. Clara couldn't be more different than Anise, and yet they share a stigmata that defines the future of Cane. One of the things I found interesting about this book was seeing how differently Clara and Anise dealt with their shared burdens.

All that being said, a Nutcracker retelling would be nothing without its Prince. But, in true Legrand fashion, he's a Prince with a twist. I have a soft spot for flawed princes, so it comes as no surprise that I fell for Nicholas hard. He's passionate and loyal, he listens and cares, and he's pretty much everything a girl could want, and yet through the narrative Nicholas demonstrated how those "ideal qualities" aren't necessarily ideal, and that in a war, much like life, you have to choose sides. What do you believe in? What would you die for? Is there something more important than the love you hold for one person?

To top it all off, Claire Legrand brought her own style of beautiful prose to a whole new level and completely blew me away. The way she weaves words to form full bodied characters and worlds is pure beauty and genius. Cane is a war-ravaged land, the people are suffering - this is real stuff! And it FEELS real while reading. Hands get dirty, blood is shed. And love is shared, dreams are awakened.

There are few books that I have encountered as purely enchanting as Winterspell. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend this book to all who wish to be transported to a world of magic and mayhem and romance and enthrallment. 

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