Book - 2014
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To find her abducted father and keep her sister safe from the lecherous politicians of 1899 New York City, seventeen-year-old Clara must journey to the wintry kingdom of Cane, where Anise, queen of the faeries, has ousted the royal family in favor of her own totalitarian, anti-human regime.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781442465985
Branch Call Number: / SF LEGRAND CLARE
Characteristics: 454 pages ; 22 cm


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FindingJane May 19, 2015

Contemporary re-tellings of classic fairy tales are very common these days. The usual method is to make the initial stories as dark and gritty as possible and, boy, does Claire Legrand deliver. The steampunk, grimy worldscape that Ms. Legrand creates is as far from the candy-sprinkled creation that Drosselmeyer’s nephew took Clara to in his original “Nutcracker” as you can get. The names are the same; everything else has been drastically altered.

At times, you feel the author may be trying too hard to distinguish her vision from Mr. Hoffmann’s novel. It’s as if everything about the original children’s tale is distorted as if seen through a funhouse mirror. For example, “sugar” in Cane is a word given to an addictive destructive drug, one that humans debase themselves and grovel for yet renders the faery folk merely drugged and swooning. The faeries are vile and cruel to their human slaves—but there is reason given for this brutality and the novel unfolds it in teasing increments.

Peril and corruption abounds in Clara’s existence, both in her world and that of her “nutcracker” prince. Ms. Legrand gives us a heroine who is terrified she isn’t up to the task of dealing with the evils in her home; after all, she’s not her mother who was feisty, intelligent, determined and absolutely fearless. But the author gives her no choice. Thrust into a world even deadlier than the one she knows, she is forced time and again to rise to the occasion, to bring up depths of cunning, strength, agility and power she didn’t know she possessed.

The drama is gripping, with the terrors of out-of-control mechanisms convincingly laid out on the page. There is romance but it’s not a straightforward road since the hero may be as treacherous as everyone else around him. Her attempts to survive without him and learn the meaning behind his existence and hers lend the burgeoning romance a taut edge that makes the final resolution all the more satisfying.

All these trials serve their purpose. Clara becomes a fully realized creation: strong, dominant, powerful, intelligent, sexual and every bit the fighter that her teacher strove to make her. She is a heroine for contemporary times and only a contemporary novel like this could have made her.

Dec 03, 2014

An amazing darker retelling of the Nutcracker, I thoroughly enjoyed following Clara's journey through the land of Cane, and seeing her relationships with other people. Felicity, though she was not around for most of the story, was such a strong character despite her limited screen time. I disliked Nicholas, for he was no demigod, and I truly liked Anise. Her evil did not seem to outweigh that of Nicholas, and she was far more interesting and relatable. She had far more humanity than Nicholas. I enjoyed this book greatly, to be sure, but I would have loved to see more Felicity, Bo, and Anise. This is a personal pattern, but I find books with more female characters and less male characters to be, well, much better. Winterspell took on some very heavy and important issues that still are relevant to today's society with good intentions. Clara most certainly evolved over the book for the better. It was rich and sharp and good.


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