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Winterspell #1


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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.

454 pages, Hardcover

First published September 30, 2014

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About the author

Claire Legrand

28 books4,454 followers
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of darkly magical books.

Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and WINTERSPELL, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest middle grade novel, FOXHEART, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. The companion novel, THORNLIGHT, was a Kids' Indie Next Pick in 2021. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.

Her bestselling Empirium Trilogy consists of epic fantasy novels FURYBORN, KINGSBANE, and LIGHTBRINGER.

Her young adult horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS received five starred reviews. It was also a 2018 Bram Stoker Award finalist and a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her latest novel, EXTASIA, is a young adult horror novel described as "The Handmaid's Tale meets The Craft" and was a Kids' Indie Next Pick.

Her adult debut, book 1 of THE MIDDLEMIST TRILOGY, releases in spring 2023.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 765 reviews
August 16, 2014
She thought of the statue, tall and impassive in the shadowed corner—its full lips and narrow waist, its arms in their serrated armor. As she pictured this, the flush on her skin shifted from embarrassment to pleasure, despite the danger luxuriating in the next room.

Where I come from, we call that "statue" a sex doll.

DNF at around 50%. I skimmed the rest. It didn't get any better, to the contrary, around the 50% mark was where it lost its so-bad-it's-good factor and just turned into plain old SO-bad. If you tossed ninjas and Gotham City together with the Iron Fey series, you would get this book. It is unadulterated terribleness I burst out laughing when the main character got a makeover that turned her into a dark, sultry beauty and decided to throw in the towel.
She certainly didn’t need to examine every last mortifying detail. Dyed ebony curls, falling past her shoulders and threaded with pearls and rubies; eyes outlined with kohl and tiny golden flecks; skin glistening with paint; jewels surrounding her navel; freckles masked with powder.
This book is hilariously terrible. Sure, it's based on The Nutcracker, and to be honest, I know absolutely nothing about it besides the fact that it has a Nutcracker in it (I'm brilliant) and I can prance around my living room around Christmastime twinkling my toes dancing to The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (again, brilliant). To be honest, after reading the book, I have absolutely no desire to actually find out what The Nutcracker is about. It is that bad. It doesn't sell the original book to me at all.

A good retelling should at least give me a rough idea of what the original book is about. I don't have a fucking clue what The Nutcracker's actual plot is. Something about a girl falling in love with a statue and going to a fantasy land to conquer the world (while *bleeping* the statue?). Ok, maybe not the *bleeping* part.

It reads more like a poor man's version of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series, with even less likeable characters---if the thought of Meghan Chase and Ash makes you cringe, just do yourself a favor and stay the fuck away from this book. At least Ash was appropriately dark, brooding, and attractive, if admittedly generic. At least Meghan grows up.

The main character is, for lack of an eloquent word, absurdly laughable. Her emotions and her feeeeeeeels made me roar with hilarity. Her sexual awakening is one of the dumbest I have ever read. For fuck's sakes, she gets her panties wet for a statue. Pygmalion, this ain't. She's also BORN TO GREATNESS AND IS SPESHUL AND DIFFERENT WITH HER FIERY RED CURLS. Such sad red curls.
Clara had never felt more exposed, more pinned down. She wished her hair were dirtier—they would find her red head in an instant

The Summary:
"Slowly, my Clara. You are no longer a girl; you are not even a person. You are a cat, you are darkness, you are a storm too distant to hear."
Float like a butterfly! Sting like a bee! Wait, no, Clara isn't Mohammad Ali! She's just a girl living in a high fantasy present-day New York 19th century New York, that's it! She's got it bad. BAAAAAAAAAAD. Her mother has been murdered. Her father spends his day drunk while being completely under the thumbs of the New York Mafia. Her godfather can't stop ripping off her clothes in a completely platonic manner...he's actually helping her train to fight. By ripping off her clothes.
Months ago Godfather had started ripping apart her dresses and fashioning them to be easily removable.
Because helping your goddaughter learn to remove her clothes more easily is the natural thing to do. And giving your goddaughter sexual metaphors to help with her training isn't seriously creepy at all.
At the beginning of her training, Godfather had taught Clara how to turn feline when the situation necessitated it—how to slink and prowl, how to press oneself to a wall’s contours and slide along it like a sigh.
“Like you would to a lover,” Godfather had instructed.
And to make things worse...Clara has...feelings. DESIRES. SEXUAL SELF-AWARENESS. OHNOES!!!!!
her fingers brushed against the cotton breeches she hid under her gowns every morning. To feel the contours of her legs unimpeded by the usual layers of fabric made her shudder, as though she were touching some alien thing. The knobs of her knees, the curving lines of her thighs...She drew her hands away.
Not only for the lecherous Dr. Victor...
The sight of her body in this disgraceful display would affect Dr. Victor adversely, as it always did, turning his eyes dark and his cheeks hot.
But even worse than Clara's horrified fascination with Dr. Victor and his lust...is Clara's lust...FOR A STATUE.
She stole a lingering glance at the statue’s arm, muscled and savage, covered with spikes and foreign etchings. Her heart beat practically off its hinges. She had touched the statue many times, but never had there been such...heat to it.
She nodded toward the statue. Its markings repulsed her with their new, sinister meaning, yet the sight of the statue itself still heated her blood. It had always fascinated her, even at a young age; she had made a strange, secret game of talking to it and imagining how it would answer her. But in the months following that night, when she had learned against the curves of its body how to melt into the shadows, her fascination had evolved into something more, something she couldn’t describe. Something, she often thought, alone in her bedroom, like need. She’d begun sending Godfather into the back room on pointless errands, to fetch her something or other for a project she was fiddling with, so that she could spend a private moment with the fearsome-looking thing.
ALONE TIME WITH THE STATUE. *blush* If only everything in her life wasn't going so badly. If only her father was well. IF ONLY SHE COULD STOP THINKING ABOUT THE STATUE.
Clara’s skin flushed with sudden smoldering awareness. The statue. As always, her hands itched to touch it. Her body swayed toward it. She had to fight the urge to sidle close to it.
And with her Godfather in the room! Scandalous! Such shocking feelings!

And the best part of the statue? It doesn't respond. See what I mean about a sex doll?
The truly great thing was that no matter how shocking her fancies grew, the statue never did a thing. He stood there, unmoving, and he did not lick his lips or pin her with hot, uneasy stares.
But then the unspeakable thing happens...the statue comes to life. And everything about it comes to life, if you catch my drift! *winks*
She could not stop herself from looking lower than that, eyes sliding down the man’s lean white belly—too hungry, too sharp—and down, a bit more...
Her eyes flew shut, her cheeks flaming.

Oh, but why stop there, Clara?! Go all the way! Whoooooo!

But this is bad. Statues aren't supposed to come to life. Even more, the statue probably knows all the times she lusted after it.
Her mind flooded with memories of countless stolen moments, when she had tiptoed to the statue and pressed her lips to its arm, traced her fingers down the chiseled slopes of its belly.
Well, that's embarrassing. It turns out that the statue's name is Nicholas...and he might be dangerous.

As her godfather warns her...do not touch the statue.
“Don’t touch him.” Godfather shoved Clara’s hand away.
Uh huh. You hear that, Clara? This is Godfather. The man who has trained you for combat. The man who has known you and your family for years. The man you should trust. He has told you not to touch the fucking statue-come-to-life.

Remember that.
She leaned closer without thinking; her wrist brushed against his bare stomach.
No, Clara. He means it. Don't touch him. Not even for a good reason, like preserving body warmth. He's pretty sly for a statue, that Nicholas.
Then he said quietly, “We should take off our clothes.”
“Why?” she said, watching him fumble with the sleeves of his coat, the buckle of his trousers, and the sword at his waist.
“It’s easier to stay warm skin to skin.”
Smooooooooth. Seriously smooth. But ok, hypothermia. That's one reason. Just that one time, right? No more touching him.
Dimly she registered her breasts pressing into his chest, his thigh draped over hers.
His face in the dim light was so earnest and endearingly boyish that she reached up without thinking and touched his cheek.
Oh, for fuck's sakes, stop touching him for one fucking moment.
Above her, worried eyes inspected her face. Nicholas straddled her hips, pinning her arms to the pillow.
I give up.

Keep in mind, this is half of the book. It gets worse, like I'VE WATCHED OVER YOU YOUR ENTIRE LIFE kind of worse.
““Does that make me sick, do you think? Spying on a little girl? But then again it’s not as though I could help it. And I thought nothing untoward, at first. You were this awkward, amusing thing. You made me forget myself every once in a while. It wasn’t until you were much older that I started to want..."

And it gets YOU'RE-SO-VERY-DIFFERENT worse.
Murmurings began that she was already demonstrating a difference from the rest of them.
Blah blah the rest of the complaints: The writing is just weird.


- "And yet it was so different now, this nearness, this real ness."

- "She looked away, embarrassed, but the feeling of nearness, of almost, remained in her limbs, and she was glad for it."

- "It echoed through her mind like the call of someone new and yet somehow dear—a stranger opening loving arms to her. Swift affinity. Bone-deep recognition."

- "That look crossed his face, that secret, sly look that sometimes overtook him at his most genius moments, and his most rageful."

The setting is pretty, I'll give you that, but it has no flow, and the mechanical aspect of it feels ripped straight from the pages of the Iron Fey series. The plot is confusing, and overall, this was a really long book that's best used as pre-bedtime reading because it'll put you to sleep faster than a handful of Ambiens and Lunestas. That is, if you're not constantly being jolted awake by the sound of your own laughter. This book is almost one of those so-bad-it's-good books because I was sniggering my ass off half the time.

The first few chapters are tremendously confusing. I first thought it was a high fantasy novel, based on the prologue. Doesn't that sound purty?!

Then I realized that we weren't in a high fantasy with dragons, we were actually in New York, with the Mafia. The main character is giving a public speech. It's gotta be present-day New York, right?

Nope. Present-day New Yorkers don't wear bustles. Welp! It's actually late 19th century New York. Never mind.

In retrospect, I should have given up after the first few chapters. My confusion and boredom never abated, but for the brief moments of hilarity.

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof subject to change in the final edition.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,536 reviews9,963 followers
November 4, 2017
I have to give 5 stars to this beautiful cover!!

I quite enjoyed the storyline and I loved Clara and Nicholas.

I'm leaving my rating at 3 stars for now because I loved some things and other times I felt bogged down. This is another one I'm going to re/read later because it might just be my mood and not the book. I think it's one that I would actually love more.

I'm having trouble with forcing myself to read any books right now so that's why I think I need to come back again. I love re/reads so it's all good.

I don't really know much about the Nutcracker story but this is apparently a retelling and it's good!

Anyhoo, Happy Reading!

MEL ❤️
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.9k followers
December 28, 2016
3.5 stars

“Definitely not your grandmother's Nutcracker tale.”

Well, that is an understatement. I never thought that this classic fairytale that used to entertain me when I was a kid OK you got me I still watch Barbie in the Nutcracker could be so... disturbing.

“A kiss. A wicked, forbidden kiss. A kiss to end a kingdom.”

The result of this traitorous affair was the birth of a powerful half-breed who sought revenge against those who wronged her. A revenge that resulted in massacres, tortures, the slaughter of the royal family and a boy running for his life. The boy left his people behind and found refugee in another realm named New York, a corrupted realm where no one looked after the unfortunate souls that roamed in the streets. But the boy was cursed and could do nothing but wait, wait until midnight, until the dragons awaken and the girl uses a sword to protect him. And thus the real story begins...
“The rider and the pirate queen,
The bravest souls there's ever been,
The mason and the fiddler too-
They came for me, they came for you”

Winterspell left a bittersweet taste in my mouth and in the end, I couldn't help but feel torn. There were times I wanted to put it down and times I couldn't stop reading it. While the plot combined some very interesting elements, from faeries who control evil machines and mages in haunted woods to a criminal organisation in New York and a creepy Frankenstein-ish doctor, the characters were the source of my several issues with with this book. The main heroine made me want to peel off my skin. Clara was so selfish, coward, weak and self-loathing that thanks to her I decided to rate it with 3 stars (3.5 to be accurate. Where is the half-stars system when you need it?). She wanted to leave a poor girl helpless against her attackers because interfering could compromise her mission. She was too afraid to stand up for herself and her family that she allowed the creepy doctor to go his way around her and she blamed herself for his pervertions. She thought that everything evolved around her, that everyone's priority should be to save her father when thousands of people were famished and lived under horrible conditions and she blamed everyone for her mother's death!

She barely became tolerable during the last chapters. I liked Nicholas a lot, I had mixed feelings towards the Godfather and, surprisingly, the character with the most depth was the evil queen, Anise. I'm not saying I loved her, but I felt sorry for her, for the person she became and her little moments of humanity.

The writing was very promising though and I could certainly feel a spark of magic while reading Winterspell. It had the potential for at least a 4 stars read if it wasn't for the extremely annoying Clara.

Profile Image for Samantha.
441 reviews16.8k followers
December 30, 2017
3.75 stars!

This book took a while to get going and had some weird themes around nudity and sexuality that I could have done without, but overall I ended up enjoying this.

Could have been gayer though 💁
Profile Image for Steysha.
111 reviews212 followers
August 17, 2014
Me after finishing this book:

My momma always told me: Never judge a book by its cover. But I always do. So, can you imagine my disappointed when I found such a wonderful cover for such a lame story? I mean, it`s a retelling of a Nutcracker, I never thought it could be twisted into a boring tale. Thanks to Clara, now i know it`s possible.

So, Clara lives in New York (19th century) with her shitty father, who drinks a lot after death of his wife, and a sister, who is all sunshine and butterflies. Her father works for the Mafia, but now that he got batshit crazy, they don’t need him anymore. It means two things: 1) they’ll kill him; 2) Clara will become a wife (or rather a sex toy) for Dr. Victor – mad pervert who claims to be a doctor but in reality he just tortures poor young girls. Clara also has a Godfather who taught her to fight, so in a tough moment she could flip her inner badassness. Do you think it helped? Nah. While at the training, Clara is all catlike and strong, but when she meets one of the Mafiosi, she’s quiet, scared and submissive.
I also couldn’t grasp why nobody tried to protect her. She has a father, though drunk but still loving, as I understood, and a Godfather who obviously had a thing for her mother, but still won’t say fuck off to the guy who wants to rape his Goddaughter.
The second thing I couldn’t grasp was Clara’s love to a statue. Yes, you heard me right. She touched it, kissed it, had dirty thoughts about it and all that went with a bubbling of a prude girl from 19th century.
I was like:

It’s not right, it’s sick!
The funny thing is, imagine her shock when the statue became a boy! Who was there every time Clara decided to touch her statue in inappropriate way. Seriously, even I felt embarrassed for her and sat with a facepalm for a minute or two.

Okay, back to the plot. So, the Mafiosi guys decide that it’s time to get rid of her father, and Clara incidentally overhears them. Her training doesn’t help her much, and she gets caught. The Bad Guys give her an ultimatum: either she won’t tell anybody, or she and her sister are as good as dead. She agrees, and at that moment I was like: well, of course she agrees, and now she will think of some devious plan to save her family and kill all her enemies, MUAHAHAHAH. Like hell! She seriously thought about giving up on her father. What a role model!

But then she is temporary saved from decision-making by a sudden attack of some iron monster mice. Turns out her Godfather is not who she thinks he is, and he CAN kick some asses! Then the statue turns to a boy, all is cool, blah-blah-blah, I want to know who killed my mother, blah, it’s all your fault, blah and then, suddenly, whoopsy, her father is taken by one of the attacking mice through some portal to who knows where. Or, the statue boy knows where, actually. He says that the portal will take them to his kingdom that was conquered by Anise, the queen of the fairies and the most powerful creature in Cane. He offers to help Clara to find her father, and though the Godfather told her this statue boy (Nicholas) isn’t trustworthy, she agrees and jumps with him through the portal. That’s where the real adventure starts.
And now I want to show you some examples of why I didn’t like this book:

1) Clara is illogical. Like, when she fist came in Cane and saw a train, she immediately thought that her father was on it. Why the hell did she think so?
Oh, yes, there’s a train, so my father must be on it! Oh, but here is a tree, maybe my father is on it? Oh, but there is a stone, maybe my father is under it?
She often makes strange assumptions without any facts. She thinks that it’s her fault that this old pervert Dr. Victor dreams about raping her. How sick is that??? She claims that her only goal is to save her father as fast as she can, but she takes her time, all the way thinking about how beautiful Nicholas is. She easily leaves her friends and family in trouble.

2) The romance was just plain. I felt no chemistry, even more, it annoyed me. Nicholas was a simple character to whom I didn’t feel any connection. In the middle of the book he did something ugly, horrible, UNFORGIVABLE. I started to think that maybe he was the bad guy and the story would have an interesting twist. Ha-ha, nope. Then he just said sorry to Clara for his UNFORGIVABLE deed, and she was like: “Well, he’s so cute, so why not?”

3) I disliked ALL the characters. Really, they all were full of shit. I understand that nobody’s perfect, but those were more bad than good. The plot was okay, but it didn`t save the case. The final battle was just gross and ended before started. The only thing I liked was the writing style. It was pretty, it didn’t bug me.

4) This book is also about sexuality, sexual slavery, sexual awareness, sex and so one. Clara seems to be prude at the beginning, but then we find out about the statue. There was the moment, when Nicholas kissed her, and she was like: “Don’t touch me, stop it! Why the hell did you stop?!”, so she’s that kind of girl. Dr. Victor rapes the girls, and it has a lethal effect on them. Clara and Nicholas end up in a whorehouse for fairies. Anise, apparently, is a bisexual. You can see the pattern. I think there should be books about all this, but not in a retelling of the Nutcracker. There it just seems weird and out of place.

I can keep on and on, but I think it’s time to stop. Though I dislike this book, I`m still thinking about reading other books of this author. Hope they will be better.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews247 followers
October 8, 2014
It's finally on Edelweiss!

Arc provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers through Edelweiss

1.5 stars

TW's: Victim blaming

Some stories you casually find. Others, you anxiously wait for their release date.

Winterspell was the latter case. Since the moment I read its synopsis and _YES, I admit it! _ saw its cover, I've been eagerly anticipating its release, or as it is this case, its released arc.

This is not the first book I've read by this author. The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls was a superb middle grade book with a wonderful assertive heroine. I think Victoria will always live in my mind. I loved it.

You can see where I am going, right?

Big expectations for this one. Yes, this one would be directed to a older audience, but I was practically certain that I would love this... and that, definitely was not the case.

Every time a situation like this arises _loving a book, and disliking another by the same author _ I reach a point in which I question myself:

What is wrong with me?

But, as often happens, no matter how much I try to, I can't (couldn't ) get into this story. I tried to, and I forced myself to keep on reading it, but the thing never clicked with me, as a reader.

The Pace:

Awfully, awfully slow...
I understand that the author is trying to set the tone of her story. I understand that she wants us to understand each and every environment, and the consequences it would have on its characters; but long phrases, paragraphs, even pages are wasted on mind numbing details, when the plot doesn't flow!

The characters:

They had so much promise, but in the end they just felt flat and one dimensional...

The story takes place in the beginning of the twentieth century, just on the verge of the 1920 Constitutional Amendment who granted women the right to vote.

Clara who, due to the time frame and her background (wealthy and educated family), I was expecting a lot more from, ends up being a doormat of a girl, who in the first chapters intimately explores victim blaming.

Let me explain: In this story, with its mix of historical with fantasy descriptions, there's quite a number of villains. Some of them in the fantasy setting, others _lets say_ on the more realistic one. So, in this latter one there is this f******g paedophile who for years has been leering after Clara. OFF WITH HIS BALLS!

To make matters worse he is a paedophile with rank and power, and unfortunately it seems that Clara's family has been losing theirs... so, obviously, it falls to Clara to put up with this bastard's attentions, without being able to tell her father about it.

So, for long, long pages we get treated to victim blaming, because Clara _of course_ feels that the problem it's her. She must have done something to engage his attentions...

This is so wrong! I know that this happens today, and it probably will never be eradicated, so we can only imagine what it was back then.

But this is a fantasy work. If you can put fairies into a story, you should well be able to pass some assertive messages: This is never the victim fault.

This is one of the reasons why lately I've mostly been reading middle grade books: They're so less infuriating.


The author takes advantage of the fact that the characters supposedly already know one another to basically ignore the development of their relationship... which was a gross mistake.

The thing is, Clara and Nicholas can't really know one another, not with the type of "relationship" they had.

The guy was a statue for crying out loud!
How could they possibly truly know one another?


The Wicked Fairy Queen had so much promise!

Do you like love triangles?

Well, this story kind of has one... no matter how much it is diluted and disguised...

In our typical YA romance/dystopia/fantasy book, Anise would be the bad guy, and we all know that most of the time, our leading brainless female characters choose the bad guy over the good guy (exceptions made to Suzanne Collins awesome Peeta!). So why not here?

Maybe the author didn't wanted a lesbian/gay romance, but she sowed the seeds, and the thing got some strong roots! In fact, I think that had this character been properly developed, this could have led to a much more promising story route!

As it was, the whole time that Clara spends with Anise just feels like a huge waste of potential, and subsequent waste of time.

As for the remaining characters, I am afraid that with some exceptions, such as Bo and Clara's Godfather, the whole lot of them were just too insignificant to point out.

The whole YA or New Adult thing...

I got the feeling that the author felt that she needed to constantly reminds us that Clara as a young woman felt confined by society restrictions, and as such her femininity was always very on the surface... the descriptions of clothes, nakedness, what that made her feel... the butterflies, the heat, the feelings...

Another part of the story that made this book feel quite, quite long!

Too "Bloody" much telling, not enough showing

Patience hold on....

This happened through out ALL of the book. If a fifth of the time that was wasted on describing dresses and feelings had been used to show us what was happening, I would be giving this book another rating.

Most of the times the descriptions are clumsy. Reading them at times feels like fingernails on a blackboard.

I couldn't get into the story. Things were at times too disperse and not sufficiently explained.

The plot

I know this is fantasy we're talking, but the basic plot after a while was directed at throwing Anise out of the throne to be replaced by Nicholas. But I am afraid that it all felt too little. I am talking of the prince's army, I'm talking about his "not very convinced" allies. It was too convoluted to be seen as realistic... yes, the irony of that hasn't escaped me...

I guess the whole ordinary girl that suddenly becomes special, and the whole quest she finds didn't convince me.

But who knows, maybe you will like it.

In the end, one of my favourite things, was the last page _ and I'm not being mean here_ it was really well done, as were the parts told from Nicholas pov.

Profile Image for Katherine.
778 reviews355 followers
November 12, 2016
Oh you gorgeous cover... YOU SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES!!!!!

I should have known this was coming, I honestly should have. Often, when I read a book with a gorgeous cover, it turns out to be a massive disappointment. And unfortunately, this book proved me right.

Everything was going swimmingly until I got to page 16...

"The hard lines of the statue's thighs, belly, chest, scraped against her skin, snagging at the cotton of her chemise, and she found herself moving slowly so as to prolong the contact. Molding herself to the metal, she sighed. Her palms thick with sweat, she slid them up the statue's chest to cup the chiseled, handsome jaw, and pressed herself closer. She inhaled, shuddering, and tasted the tang of metal and the oils Godfather used to keep tarnish away. Curling into the crook of the statue's left arm, she let the sudden fancy overtake her. What would it feel like if that iron-muscled arm could come alive and pull her closer, it's spiked digging into the back of her neck, its cold fingers threading through her hair...?"

I think I need therapy. Or a cold shower. Or copious amounts of wine. I don't think I've ever, EVER read a YA book with a scene as disturbing as this. Why doesn't she just go on ahead and ask the statue to take her to the Red Room? They've already gone this far, apparently.

So after reading other reviews, I came to the conclusion it was all downhill from there. So for my sanity, I have to put it down.

Marissa Meyer was right. This is definitely NOT your grandmother's innocent Nutcracker. This is the crazy, oversexualized version on crack, meth, pot and every other illegal drug out there.
Profile Image for Jolene.
129 reviews32 followers
June 18, 2014
**Thank you Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

1.5 Stars

I really wanted to like this story. This is the first fairy tale retelling of The Nutcracker I've read. While I've never been a huge fan of the story itself, its linked to happy childhood memories. For that reason, I always enjoy it on some level. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about this version of it. I had many issues with this book. The pace of the story goes back and forth between fast paced action and almost stand still nothingness; there isn't a whole lot of character growth (and when there is, it happens in the blink of an eye), and the message that a guy can say/do whatever he wants and its ok as long as he says he is sorry. My biggest problem with this book, though, was Clara. She tears herself down and blames herself for the most ridiculous things. The creepy pedophile doctor learing at her? Her fault. Father wants to turn his back on the the underground syndicate he is a part of and they retaliate? Her fault. Another problem I had with Clara was her almost instant forgiveness towards Nicholas. He throws her to the wolves when certain people grow suspicious of her. He says he is going to force her to bind with him, which will strip her of freewill and force her to do whatever he commands. But that's ok! He says he is sorry, so lets forget about it. Clara almost makes Bella look like a good role model.

I'm sorry to say, there isn't much I can say I liked about this title. I did like Anise, Godfather and Bo. I wish we saw more of the Loks. A real battle with them could have been awesome. I would have like the fairies to have been more original. They were almost exact copies of the Iron Fey from Julie Kagawa's series. While I didn't care for this title, it seems almost everyone else did. I hope to enjoy the author's next book more then this one.
Profile Image for Stefan Bachmann.
Author 9 books525 followers
March 6, 2014
So much goodness. This is a YA fantasy built around the bones of The Nutcracker ballet, but with CLOCKWORK. AND FAERIES.

I like these things. Have you noticed? I do. And I know, there are a lot of books recently that combine those elements (mine, Goblin Secrets, The Falconer, Ironskin, a bunch more...) But because Claire is clever and a wonderful writer, even if you've read every single faerypunk book ever I guarantee this will not feel anything like them. It's visual and dark and lavish and action-packed, and there's a wicked faery queen named Anise who is the best. Read iiiiit.
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
Shelved as 'on-hold'
October 29, 2014
I feel really bad that I only read a quarter of Winterspell before giving up. I was really excited for it, but had a hard time with the beginning. I kept putting it down over and over to the point where I just had to stop.

Things that bothered me:

– The main character, Clara, is sexually harassed by an older guy frequently in addition to others that are alluded to. That was hard for me to read, though, I’m not saying it’s a deal breaker for a book to show this. I don’t know if this was relevant to the plot or if it was a plot device since I didn’t read far enough to find out. So don’t let this point alone turn you away.

– Clara seems to develop a strange relationship with a statue. This caused some major eyebrow raising from me. I guess he was a real guy deep inside the statue, but it was just really weird.

Things I liked:

– I love Legrand’s imagination. She’s always impressed me with how she can create something that looks nothing like what’s on my current bookshelf. I haven’t read The Nutcracker, but I know the general gist behind the plot. Winterspell is a retelling, but it definitely stands on its own.

– The descriptions and setting was very great and the best part of Legrand’s writing.

Eh, I guess this just wasn’t a Stephanie book.
Profile Image for Jaime (Two Chicks on Books).
825 reviews399 followers
June 22, 2014
Can I give this 10 stars?!?!?!?!? I just finished!!! And OMG I LOVED IT!! My heart is so happy! And it was dark and creepy and sexy and WOW!
Profile Image for Isa Lavinia.
604 reviews303 followers
January 1, 2015

arc provided by Simon & Schuster through Edelweiss

DNF @ 50%


I have to admit that, while I liked The Nutcracker when I was a little girl, since I grew up I find it absolutely terrifying. Toys and food coming to life in the middle of the night?!
When you're a kid that's all fun and Christmas magic, but once you grow up... I mean, they come to life at night! I'd be setting the house on fire and moving to another continent, to be honest.

Still, it's written by the great Claire Legrand, whose writing style I absolutely LOVE, as you can see from my reviews of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows .

Not to mention that Kate Beaton managed to prove that The Nutcracker can lend itself to worthy retellings:

© Kate Beaton

Still, I was a little apprehensive - Susana disliked Winterspell, and we tend to like, or dislike, the same books... Not to mention the fact that I really disliked the Summerfall novella...

There was nothing to do but to read it myself. I mean, I've had it pre-ordered for months now, and I was really, really looking forward to having the actual book in my hands - and I was fortunate enough to receive an arc!

Sadly, I really couldn't connect with this book.

The pacing is dreadfully slow, I couldn't bring myself to like Clara, I abhorred the victim blaming that permeated the whole book, and, worst of all, there was the disappointment that Legrand wrote this.

I don't understand how Claire Legrand writes such amazing Middle Grade books only to end up writing... this. I read up to 50% mark and I had to give up, I felt guilty somehow, for disliking it so much, I mean this is Claire Legrand!

I love how she has always written mature, determined and independent female leads - Victoria and Olivia hold a special place in my heart. They feel real, they are strong, you root for them, and you love them long after you've read the books.
And while I held some hope - not for Clara, but for Anise, this hope was dashed.
The relationships Legrand writes in MG are amazingly complex and satisfying. To quote myself: "Claire Legrand writes perfect little one-day-maybe OTPs".

So I was extremely excited to finally read an actual OTP. Imagine my disappointment when the relationship was underdeveloped, their ~love~ rushed and senseless - she didn't know him, after all! He was a statue! - and the whole thing extremely boring.

Besides, while supposedly YA, it read an awful lot like New Adult... which I hate.

All in all, I was extremely disappointed.
I can only hope Claire Legrand will keep writing Middle Grade books, she truly excels at those.

Profile Image for Nasty Lady MJ.
1,060 reviews16 followers
October 7, 2014
To see the entire motion with gifs click here


This Motion arises from a a hellish reading experience from the accused. The blogger (MJ) alleges that the Reading Gods should grant her a motion to forget. Hence, said blogger is very stupidly filing a motion to forget pro se, even though she’s actively trying to forget this book. The book, also known as Winterspell, has committed acts of WTF-ckery causing the reader to have a valid reason for a Motion to Forget to be granted.

Statement of Facts:

The reader was excited about Winterspell. Winterspell was supposed to be a Nutcracker retelling. The poor blogger (me) loves the ballet. And is sort obsessed with it. And has been waiting a long, long, time for a Nutcracker retelling. Which was why she was willing to give this book a chance, even after wise friends warned her not to.

Then she read it. And there was nothing remotely like The Nutcracker. Oh, sure there were characters that shared similar names to characters in the ballet, but that was it.

Because quite honestly, while the child version of Clara might’ve have viewed her nutcracker as an awesome toy. She didn’t have feelings with it. Let alone want to have sex with it.

Then she knocked against the statue in the corner, and it was such a shock, such an awakening, that she had to gasp. Jolted out of her trance, her senses reeling she used the statue to pull herself to her feet-and promptly forgot to breathe. The hard lines of the statue’s thighs, belly, chest, scraped against her skin, snagging at the cotton of her chemise, and she found herself moving slowly so as to prolong the contact. Molding herself to the metal, she sighed. Her palms slick with sweat, she slid them up to the statue’s chest to cup the chiseled, handsome jaw, and pressed herself closer. She inhaled, shuddering, and tasted the tang of metal and oils Godfather used to keep tarnish away. Curling into the crook of the statue’s left arm, she let the sudden fact overtake her. What would wit feel like if that iron-muscled arm could come alive and pull her closer, its spikes digging into the back of her neck, its cold fingers threading through her hair…? (16-17)

Obviously, this caused MJ (the blogger) to be a little outrage. But since there is a lot of unsuitable attraction in YA (see the bestiality filled Shiver) she just shrugged it off contributing it to the insta love that she figured that would happen.

So, the poor naive blogger moved on. Getting some sense of a plot in the first fourth of the book-there’s some crazy mobsters, one has Frankenstien’s creator’s first name. The other seems to be a very odd take on the Sugar Plum Fairy character who’s suppose to be a good character. But maybe their was going to be some Wizard of Oz type of thing going on here.


Forget about that first quarter of the book. Those real weird moments of sexual harassment are irrelevant to the rest of our novel-save for the last chapter. You want to know about why these characters are so evil? Yes, you never find out. Obviously, this contributed to the blogger’s awful mood. MJ also wondered if it was really this necessary that we had this much violence of the sexual nature in the book. Perhaps, the character would grow and it would be a novel about female empowerment. Instead, it was just a plot point and another example of WTF-ery.

Once the reader got into Cane-she realized the book was about fucking faeries.

This was something had no intention reading about. Sure, there’s the Sugar Plum Fairy in the original source material. But she’s not even mentioned in the book. These are outright annoying faes who mythology doesn’t make sense except it involves sex and that’s pretty much it.

Oh yes, sex. MJ was sad to discover some more disturbing sex stuff that makes little to no sense. You know, she should be championing this book for having a bisexual character. But since there’s little to no motive for this characters action she’s unimpressed. And once again, it contributes to the WTF-ckery.

Besides, the weird sex scenes the blogger really couldn’t make much sense of the book. The main character has magic. There’s a kingdom taken over by an evil fairy (she didn’t want to read a god damn fae book), and it’s at Christmas time and she has to get back with her dad to stop the mafia from killing her little sister (who’s really her annoying little brat of a brother in the original source material) .

It’s just too confusing.

Which was why when she finished MJ banged her head in utter agony at trying to figure out this book wanting to forget this big fat waste of time.



According to the Reading Gods the elements of WTF-ckery are as followed: 1) The reader is utterly confused, 2) The book is beyond of offensive, 3) Outlandish things happen that only happen in PC and Kristin Casts novels, and 4) it fucks up something that should’ve been certifiably awesome. The above book meets the necessary elements of the reader’s experience.


The Tiger Curse standard was discovered that the only way a lot of people could make sense of the Tiger Curse series by Colleen Houck when they went onto Wikipedia. The sad thing is no one knows who updated the Wiki page, so no one can actually verify that its an accurate version of what actually transpired in the series (no one has dared asked Houck since she apparently viewed Anne Frank as a freaking romance) but since no one can actually stay awake or make sense of Houck’s ramblings in between Kelsey’s dress change and random disgusting snacks, this has been the accepted view.

Winterspell meets the Tiger’s Curse standard. The prose is probably part of the problem. The third person seems distant and hard to connect with any of the cardboard personality character. Also, little explanation is done in the world building. The scale between mystery and manners is not developed.

Further proof when MJ read Winterspell she thought the following about the book (note thoughts are in first person):

This is a novel about NYC mafia with the Sugar Plum fairy starring in it-oh wait, she’s not the Sugar Plum Fairy. But what’s Dr. Frankenstien doing in it?
Oh, there’s the Nutcracker prince? They’re going to go on a McGuffin quest. But there’ s no McGuiffin or plan to take back over his land.
Fae. Fucking fae. They always confuse me. What’s the point with them.
All these random…I JUST DON”T KNOW.
Evil villaness making out with prude herorine who causes every character to love her. What…
The end result. Running to Wikipedia.

Standard met. Big fat check mark on element one.


The beyond offensive element is defined by several factors how much the vein in the reader’s head is throbbing, does it offend humanity, is there a rampant amount of slut slamming, abusive relationship, Mary Sues, assholes, other factors may be used as well.

Based on the factor test Winterspell would meet this standard. Other books that have gone beyond the offensive standard include Big Fat Disaster like Big Fast Disaster, Winterspell caused its reader to breathe in a paper bag and want to know WTF is wrong with these characters. Living in society where you’re feared you’re going to get raped by Dr. Frankenstein and no one gives a fuck doesn’t exactly make for a pleasant reading experience.

Add in making out with statues, for no apparent reason. Or all the borderline sexual fetishes that serve no purpose at all to the story. Other than to make this book edgy.

Thus, there’s no reason for it being obnoxious.

Therefore, the beyond offensive standard is met in WTF-ckery test.


Winterspell is just as outrageous as any PC and Kristin Cast novel.

The Cast standard is an extremely hard test to meet. Other books, offensive have failed. According to one reader’s guide about how to reach the Cast offensive meter is will your liver explode if you have a drinking game of offensiveness and are there a lot of inappropriate times characters get naked or have a random borderline fetish.

If you answer yes you meet the Casts test.

Winterspell meets this test. Though no character runs rampantly naked as Neferet, there are a lot of strange passages dealing with borderline sexual fetishes give it a bizarre since of WTF-ckery much like the Neferet naked scenes.

Quote One Content: An evil queen kidnaps the main character and randomly does the following. And honestly, if one didn’t know the content I’d say there’s a lot more chemistry there than with Princey. But seriously, she just kidnapped you and you like being victimized:

Anise, bright eyed and ferocious, yanked Clara close and kissed her deeply. The kiss stung with duplicity and with horrible, horrible delight. Clara knew she should have been celebrating, and part of her was. She had said the right things. She could feel Anise’s joy thrumming against her body, and joy would make her careless. The queen whispered frantic endearments then dipped to whisper them against Clar’s throat. When she laughed, it was like morning. (328)

Quote Two Content: Some bizarre almost erotic ritual that requires the Colleen Houck method to figure out just the fuck what is going on. The passage serves no real purpose other than to randomly give a scene of pseudo erotic-ness similar to the fashion scene. Except, instead of being dark and sexy its just bizarre. This section begins on page 381. For space purposes the quote that’s being cited will be condensed. Dots will be used to show breaks in the sections being quote.

Godfather was saying something, but at first she did not hear. HE cleared his throat and said again: “You may now disrobe.”

Hands shaking, Clara stood. Across the pyre Nicholas mirrored her. Her toes burned with the closeness of the fire, but that was nothing compared to the flush of her body as she shrugged off the robe. For a moment she longed to reach for it, but then she thought of Anise, which was such an incongruous thing to think of at this moment that it almost made her laugh. But the memory of standing on the rooftop with nothing between her and the snow but the night air, was oddly a comfort.

It’s just a body, Clara, the only one you will ever have.


Godfather placed two daggers on the alter before them. “You may begin.”

This would be the hardest part. To maintain the wanting, the willingness, despite the pain. WHen Clara gripped the dagger’s hilt, it nearly stripped away. Her hand was sweating.

Then Nicholas was there, his hands gentle at her waist. She was glad to feel in his touch that he was nervous as well. HE whispered “Brave Clara” against her cheek, raised his blade to her shoulder and cut.

It did hurt, but Clara gritted her teeth past it and continued. Once the first cut was made, the rest had to follow soon after. She cut his right shoulder to mirror her left, and then her eyes rose to meet his. (381-82)

Because of the above listed quotes, the Cast element has been met because there’s no purpose for either of these scenes and they’re just out of place.


The Nutcracker is an amazing ballet. That excites both young and old. There are so many directions that this story could’ve used the original source material and explore an abstract world. However, Winterspell abuses its source material according to Reading Gods Precedent.

Reader Gods Precedent for defecating source material is anything worse than what Tim Burton did to Alice in Wonderland. That’s a very high standard to meet.

Wonderland abused its source material, but at least kept same characters and world. Though, really, The Mad Hatter as a love interest?

Winterspell worse than that movie which makes absolutely no sense and can at least give itself a pat on the back for trying to tell a story that made a bit of sense and not doing stupid anything goes fae world building like this book.

Like that movie though, the barest source material was used to create a new improved, darker story. Tim Burton could do better than this. Or at the very least he would’ve added more gore than statue sex.

Statue sex. Reading Gods that has to give this poor blogger a mind wipe.

Furthermore, in the source material while a romantic relationship does eventually develop between the Nutcracker and Clara, Clara doesn’t try to molest the nutcracker. And though creepily engage when Clara hasn’t even hit puberty yet, they don’t do anything and there’s no instant love between them. Or at least the instant love is more understandable because, well, he gave her the show of her life.

There’s something also to be said when the reader is listening to the soundtrack of the ballet when reading this book and there’s no connection.

This case is similar to Second Star. This book met the Burton test by only using the characters names enough to get readers and to create an obnoxious love triangle. Any other relation to Peter Pan was not seen here because Wendy Darling is not a druggie, despite her horrible taste in men (seriously, guys in tights unless you’re Lois Lane it’s not going to work). Like Second Star, Winterspell only resemblance to its source material is primarily with its marketing and love interest. However, unlike Second Star this book doesn’t even have sexy pirates to compensate.

Because Winterspell meets the Burton test, the blogger meets this element of WTF-ckery.

Prayer of Relief:

The Book Gods should be generous to this poor reader. She has already endured things that no reader should endure. The fact that all the elements of WTF-ckery are met should be reason enough to grant a Motion to Forget.
Profile Image for Kristin Hackett (Merrily Kristin).
215 reviews3,662 followers
July 19, 2016
Originally posted on Super Space Chick:

Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a YA fantasy stand alone novel that is a retelling of the classic Christmas tale, The Nutcracker. The description alone and the whimsical wintery cover had me so excited to spend some of my December in the world of Cane but I can honestly say I have never been so disappointed in something that initially seemed so promising. I had numerous issues with the book which I’ll outline below but if you would also like to see a video discussion of the book you can watch the most recent episode of the Spines with Wines Book Club. The first issue is that Winterspell has little to do with The Nutcracker. The author took this magical story and twisted it into something that is completely different, and not in a good way. I understand wanting to stray from the source material in order to create an original story, but without being told Winterspell is a Nutcracker retelling, it would be near impossible to draw any parallels between the two tales.

The biggest issue that I had with Winterspell is the overabundance of sexualization within the story. Our main character Clara begins training with her jealous and overprotective Godfather at a young age and he instructs her to “press oneself to a wall’s contours and slide along it… like you would a lover.” She also develops feelings for a statue, “Something, she often thought, alone in her bedroom, like need,” and she would send her Godfather away so she could share private moments. With a statue. That makes her feel heat when she touches it. I kid you not. Said statue happens to come to life a little later on and his first suggestion to Clara is that they both take off all of their clothes. We also have the Dr. Frankenstein-esque Dr. Victor who is not only a pedophile, but he also takes pleasure in torturing little orphan girls by chopping them up. Then there’s Anise, the fairy queen and the only character I actually liked, who immediately invites Clara to sleep in her bed and shares kisses with her. The entire time I was reading I did not get the impression that Clara is of an age where all of these adults should be trying to take advantage of her. It definitely happens in real life and that type of story has it’s place, but how it’s connected to The Nutcracker is beyond me.

The first hundred something pages of Winterspell are spent describing Concordia, the corrupt government in New York while Clara lives and the majority of it drags on and feels irrelevant to the story. Then once Clara is transported to Cane, and we reach Book 3, the Summer Palace, the story actually becomes interesting. Until we get to Book 4. Once Clara returns to Concordia, everything is tied up there within 30 pages which seems like too quick of a resolution after being about half the book. The two things I will give Claire Legrand are that 1) her writing style is quite lovely and if the plot and characters had been completely different I could see myself having liked this book and 2) she did a great job of world-building with Cane. The characters who are intended to be the “good guys” have morals too questionable and make mistakes too large to ever be redeemed in this reader’s eyes and I would love if I never had to read about a character like Dr. Victor for the rest of my life. I also really disliked Clara as a main character. I had completely ambivalent feelings toward her the whole time I read and once I finished and spent some time reflecting I realized how much she bothered me. She is extremely contradictory in nature, and she gives up on finding her father too quickly once she realizes she has all this extra time in Cane to hang out at a brothel with her new friends.

Final Thoughts: Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a YA retelling of The Nutcracker which follows a little girl named Clara after she’s transported to Cane. If you’re looking for a whimsical and uplifting holiday read, this is not the book to pick up. The characters have very questionable morals (even the “good guys”), the main character is oversexualized beyond reason, she also has feelings for a statue and the overall story is a chore to get through. If I hadn’t had to read this novel for book club, I would’ve given up very early on. Not my cup of tea!
Profile Image for Ash S. H..
82 reviews
November 8, 2014
SERIOUSLY? Seriously.

This is what reeled me in:

1. Stunning cover.

2. Nineteenth century New York.

3. Retelling of the Nutcracker.

I have to admit, I was intrigued. The NUTCRACKER, people, The Nutcracker. As in, something I'd learned of in school, had been taught of as a child. As in, something I was completely ready to experience in twisted, beautiful YA novel form.

Damn cover-maker for doing his or her job. Damn setting for drawing me in (even though the execution failed miserably). Damn reputation the "retelling of The Nutcracker" status gave it. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Because this book took me two entire weeks to read (a testament to its atrocities and mind-numbingly boring narrative), I can't quite tell you what happened in the first one hundred pages.

Except that it was complete crap.

Nineteenth century New York? Honey, please. More like the author just threw up her hands and said, "Oh my gosh, I want to write about nineteenth century New York. Except I'm too lazy to research it. So I'm just gonna dress all the girls up in pretty dresses, change some social conventions, and call it a night."

It was the least believable thing in the book.

And I say that when there was INSTA-LOVE. Oh, yes.

Let me just say something for a minute. Excuse the sidebar, but it's a rant that needs to happen because this just freaks me out.

Nicholas was eighteen. Then he became a statue. Then he watched her for eighteen years while she grew up. HE WATCHED HER GROW UP. How fucking pedophilic it is of him to fall in love with her. So basically, he's thirty-six and she's what? Eighteen? And then, by the book's end (I won't reveal much), he's technically forty-four and she's twenty. So . . . that's fucked up.

Rant over.

Anyway, so this book's premise and cover drew me in. What could I NOT love about it? This train of thought was so freaking wrong. Everything, everything, everything. And I wasted eighteen dollars on this. I wouldn't say it's the WORST mistake of my life, because I'm going to keep the melodrama to a minimum in this review, but I will say that it was up there.

So the book began. Clara snoops, becomes one with the shadows and shit, reminisces about being turned on by a statue, and that's pretty much the first twenty pages. Then it's boring for the next eighty pages. Dr. Victor (another pedophile in this novel) mentally molests Clara and she blames herself for it (fucked up reaction, but I guess it could happen). Then they have a party and Clara overhears the schemes of Concordia (which is basically this gang of completely unscary adults who seemed more like over-sized children who did nothing but spend the whole novel attempting to manhandle and frighten Clara, who, of course , just melted with fear).

Then Clara, who underwent some serious training in the field of badassery at the hands of none other than her godfather, Drosselmeyer, was discovered eavesdropping on Concordia's schemes. They pull her inside and - here is where Ash throws the book at the wall - she just falls to pieces with fear. This is a girl whose godfather freaking taught her to be "one with the shadows" and fucking kick a guy's ass. He trained her to be a fucking warrior and all it takes is for Dr. Fucking Victor to grab her, reek of dead girl, and her knees are as good as those fucking skinny jeans with the sewed-in pockets. And those are pretty useless. So there's that.

She's threatened from there, they bring in her little sister, Felicity, who is the LEAST believable twelve year old I think I've ever read. I mean, come on. She acts like a fucking twenty-eight year old socialite. She adjusts Clara's fucking skirts and scolds her. I'm pretty sure twelve year olds aren't too busy micromanaging and patronizing their older sisters. But wait until I get to Bo. Who is ten. And decidedly worse. But I guess she surpasses the blandness that is Felicity.

Moving on. Later that night, Clara hears Godfather, who breaks in and boards up the doors, screaming some nonsense about his wards and people following him. With him, he holds the statue that had turned Clara on many a time before. Then Clara kicks some ass because these weird things called loks show up, and somehow, in the face of fucking mutated rats the size of fucking people, she is more calm and focused than she is in the face of the fucking rapist and orphan-killer that is Dr. Victor (when, in reality, if he hurt her in any way, he'd face all the force of Godfather and her own Dad--who was pretty much absent in the beginning of this story, which is odd because of what happens). So you can see the logic. Right? These scary mutated rats that are the size of people scare her less than a pedophile who can't actually hurt her because he'd be fucked if he did. That makes sense.

Also, side bar. Concordia's leaders? Plum and Dr. Victor and that butcher dude and company? Not convincing as villains (or, at least, good ones), and highly underdeveloped.

So anyway, the statue ends up coming to life and - oh my gosh, the inanimate object that has turned her on for so many years turns out to be this super hot prince. Lucky Clara. They run off together, to this other land called Cane and, while the setting change was more bearable and actually engaging for a time, its positive qualities melted away as the story progressed and I lost interest.

That's as far as I'll summarize.

Bo enters quickly after and she's perhaps too brave for a ten year old, and perhaps too . . . mature. I'm sorry, but that's my take and I stand by it.

Later, things happen with Nicholas. Something very awful (there were actually two instances in which this occurred, but the second was arguably less forgivable), that I almost cheered because of, for my hopeful dream was that he'd finally be eradicated from the story. But alas. The dream was not fulfilled.

She was parted from him, weird stuff happened with the antagonist, the sadistic Queen Anise. I liked how Legrand added that side to her - the loneliness. It made sense that she'd been hardened by her world. After all, everyone hated her. Some of those who hated her were malicious and acted out. Others feared her. Those that feared her became those that served her, because she gave them security. They didn't love her. And she never forgot that. It made sense, Anise's repulsive sadism.

I still think Legrand took it a notch too far, however. If there is compassion in Anise somewhere, I don't think she'd be ruthless (those types of villains don't really exist in reality, so I don't understand why authors are so insistent upon writing them).

And now we've arrived to the rant-about-the-insta-love portion. Clara and Nicholas spent a grand total of twelve-ish days together before he screwed her over and they got separated (which was actually where the book got interesting). When they are reunited, Nicholas catches himself from confessing his love. Like what the ACTUAL fuck? What the actual, ACTUAL fuck? They knew each other for like twelve days! And they barely talked! Unless, of course, you count the, eghrm, eighteen years of creeping on her as a young child where he eventually began to "want" her. Which is something that he LITERALLY almost said aloud at one point.

Anyway, by the last hundred pages, I was just skimming. I needed to be free of this boring, crappy book. The writing, I will compare to Cassie Clare's. It's bland. Dull. Also, for no reason whatsoever, Legrand insists upon repeating Clara's similar trains of thought over and over. However, I will give her this: there were moments - very rare, very brief ones, but moments nonetheless - wherein Legrand will weave a particularly beautiful sentence. But do not be fooled. This is very rare. Indeed, this was a sentence:

Soon. SoonsoonsoonSOON.

Yes. I'm serious. That's actually from the book. Is this what writers are passing off as intensity these days? Because all I see is some pretty tacky syntax.

Clara is boring. She whines. She's a prude, yet she insists upon having sexual thoughts about others throughout the book. Seriously. Picturing people doing it, picturing her and the inanimate statue doing it . . . Pretty messed up stuff. She's irritating. And the inconsistency with her actions around Dr. Victor versus the loks and such in Cane: goodness, Legrand. It's not logical! Seriously, this is Clara around Dr. Victor:

And this is Clara in Cane, around things she's never seen before, things that would frighten just about any other sane person far more than Dr. Victor would:

Where is the sense?! And while Dr. Victor is a scary man (yes, he mentally molests her and yes, he kills orphans), but LOKS? Are you serious? Mutated rat things the size of humans? They're basically monsters. The stuff of nightmares.

Also, her hair "is a beacon" even though red hair does not glow like a fucking fire as Legrand seems to think. I facepalmed every time there was a reference to her "shining" "beacon"-esque "fiery" red hair that would "ensnare anyone's attention". Um no. When I see a redhead in the crowd, I don't go, "Whoa, brah. Your hair is on FIAHH." No. No, no, no, no. NO. It is red, and I don't take much notice. I'm sorry, but seriously. That does not happen.

I will say, however, that some of the banter between Clara and Godfather and Clara and Nicholas was cute. Though, it seemed far too colloquial for a girl from nineteenth century New York . . .

Finally, and I think this is the last good thing I have to say about this book, but I loved how Nicholas's italicized narrations came together at the end. It was a sweet moment and I kind of felt that magic of storytelling (I know, finally) when that was revealed, and I liked that he was actually telling Clara these stories after their little makeout sesh. Another thing I liked about this was that it was slowly revealed that Nicholas was narrating these little extra parts. It was clever.

Probably one of the only clever things in the goshdarn book.

Okay, okay. I'll give you that one. It's melodrama. I swore I'd keep it down. I'll try harder next time. Sigh.

All in all, it was pretty darn awful. Boring, and it dragged on. And it's not like I can't handle slow plots. I can. Have you ever read These Broken Stars? The plot isn't full of action, but it is and will remain one of the best books I've ever encountered. This book had action, but These Broken Stars killed it by far. By far. That is where we see the difference. Legrand is not nearly as skilled as Spooner and Kaufman in the realm of storytelling.

Bottom line: This wasn't my cup of tea. It didn't hold my interest. Despite the fact that my opinion may not be yours, I still wouldn't recommend it. It just had so many weird elements that drove me mad. I skimmed it, for god's sake. I don't SKIM books. I don't. It doesn't happen. In fact, it was so awful that I was this close to not finishing it - and that has never happened before. Seriously. I've been reading Perfect Ruin for a year. I don't give up.

What did you guys think? Love it? Hate it? Don't know how you feel?
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews843 followers
August 26, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (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.

What I Liked:

Umm, I didn't know this was a "The Nutcracker" retelling. Well, the synopsis does say that it is "inspired" by "The Nutcracker", but still. I'm not entirely sure I saw the influences. Or maybe it's just been that long since I've watched "The Nutcracker". Anyway. I agree about "dark" and maybe "fairy tale", but ehhh about "timeless". Just saying.

Clara's mother was murdered. Clara's father has basically gone mad. Clara's godfather has been training her in defense and knives and fighting, all the while obsessing over something else. Clara has been struggling not to recoil when a Dr. Victor touches her, leers at her, threatens to basically take her innocence... all the while, Concordia is falling to corruption, especially with Clara's father (the mayor) not doing much. One night, everything basically goes to s*** and Clara finds herself with her godfather who is not human, the statue who is now a flesh-and-blood "human" not-human who is a prince... and a missing father. She must bring her father back before Dr. Victor and a politician destroy her life - but to do so, she must travel with Nicholas, the prince, to Cane, the magical land from where the prince is. Where the evil half-faery, half-human queen resides.

The plot, overall, was good! The beginning was very slow (I'll get to that later), so I honestly just kept flipping and skimming pages at one point. Things really don't start to get interesting until like, 20% in, or whenever the "loks" show up (not entirely sure what they are). Then Clara meets Nicholas, finds out that her father was taken, and enters Cane with Nicholas.

I liked everything up until Clara and Nicholas were separated (not giving more context than that, but I think this is important and you should know that it does happen). Clara and Nicholas are an excellent pair. They bicker and boss each other around, but they are also fierce and protective and immensely loyal. I love that Nicholas sticks with her no matter what he needs to do for his kingdom. He isn't perfect, and he contemplates terrible things, but he is such a great character. Nicholas is... not faery, so he's human? I think he's human. But he's a royal, and that literally means power.

So I liked Clara, and Nicholas - and I especially liked them TOGETHER. The romantic scenes in this book are few and far between - which was extremely disappointing, because I thought this one was pegged as "dark" and "sexy"? It's dark, ish, but not sexy. Not really, anyway. The queen, Anise, has a heck of a lot of sensuality, and it gets weird when Anise and Clara are holed up in Anise's Summer Palace... weird.

Read on for what I didn't like! Balanced review for the win!

What I Did Not Like:

One of the first things I mentioned above was that the beginning is slow. Oh, is it slow. Clara's life in New York is so dull and frightful and boring and aggravating. I totally get the historical authenticity of Clara's situation, but snooooooooooozzzzzzeeeeee, and not interested. I liked it when the magical part to this book was introduced. Otherwise, this would have been one BORING historical fiction novel. And you know that I know a lot about historical fiction novels, since I read so many of them (adult and Young Adult). In general, this book moved slowly - I bet about 100 pages could be shaved off this book, and it'd move only slight faster. *snores*

I didn't like how the romance panned out. Clara and Nicholas have chemistry from the start - which I liked a lot. I had such high hopes for this book, because from the start, sparks fly. Heck, flames fly. Clara and Nicholas are one big mess of chemistry. So much sizzle.

But. So little chemistry-filled scenes.

Disappointing, no? For such a hyped-up, "sexy"-tagged romance, it was very not-explored. There was no physical romance between these two, despite the fact that the chemistry was sizzling. Clara bolts in the ONE SCENE, and the next one is not actually real, and that's it. Two scenes. Disappointing.

Then there was Clara's time at the Summer Palace with Anise. Talk about... weird. I'm personally not a fan of girl-on-girl action, but if you are, good for you. Things get frisky between these two. I'm totally serious. At first, I thought Clara was just going along with Anise, and trying to manipulate her, so she could escape. But then... I think Clara actually enjoyed things. So I'm not sure. *shudders* This is like, a good chunk of the book. Perhaps one fourth or maybe even one third of the book is the leg of the love triangle in which Anise and Clara get it on. I was not amused. And then the author tried to play it off in the end like Clara was just really similar to Anise, in terms of abilities and whatnot, but whatever. No. Call it empowering, call it feminism, call it whatever you want - I don't read lesbian fiction.

In any case, I find that Clara was kind of a dunderhead. She is pathetic, which is how she is supposed to appear in this time of history, but she ACTS the part and IS the part. Literally lets everyone do all the hard work for her... ew. I sort of liked her in the very beginning, because I felt bad for her, but when we reached the magical realm, my liking of her plummeted. She couldn't stand up for herself for s***.

The book seemed kind of... not convincing. I'm not sure how to approach this feeling - but like, the prince has NO ARMY. No one recognizes him, because he was in "Beyond" (New York) for years, and time in Cane moves four times faster. How in the WORLD did the prince and company defeat Anise's minions? Not realistic, even though we're talking about a fantasy world.

For that matter, the fantasy was a bit disappointing? There are mechaniks, which are like any other robot or steel creature or whatever unoriginal nonsense Legrand came up with. Meh. Not impressive. And what the heck are "loks" - I don't even know myself! What was up with that train - are there trains in Cane? What happened to it? I have no idea what happened directly after Nicholas and Clara entered Cane. Anise - not impressive. Selfish, beautiful, young-looking despot, claiming the lands as her own? SOOOOOO original.

The ending was SO WEAK. So I can get past Clara's actions with Anise. Maybe. But then... the ending... the romance... it's "happy", ish, but not really. I can't explain it without giving things away. Time works differently in the "Beyond" world (New York), and in Cane (Nicholas's world). Time moves faster in Cane. So. Um. Yeah. No me gusta al fin.

Would I Recommend It:

Meh. I know everyone seems to be excited for this one (hey, I was too!), so go read it. But no, I wouldn't recommend it if you're bored or have never heard of it. Read it if you already WANTED to read it. It's an okay story, the cover is pretty, the hero is likable, and hey, maybe you like scant (and weird) romances, disappointing endings, unoriginal fantasy tropes, bisexual love triangles. I know many reviewers are like OMG SO GOOD, so it might just be me...


1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. This one wasn't that great... and I didn't love it, like I wanted to. I wouldn't re-read it, nor would I buy it, nor would I pick it up or look at it. Which is totally a shame, because I wanted a hardcover with that cover. Oh well!
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews547 followers
October 4, 2014
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Morbid story brimming with magic, betrayal, and romance. Legrand puts a very unique, dark, and sexy spin to the classic tale of The Nutcracker.

Opening Sentence: Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit.

The Review:

Clara Stole has never felt like she fit into her life. She is the daughter of the wealthy mayor and was raised to be a proper young lady. But deep down Clara has always had a wild spirit and she has spent her whole life keeping it contained. Then a year ago her mother was brutally murdered and her father has gone into a deep depression. Now it is left up to Clara to run the household and try to save her father from ruining his career. She is also secretly being trained in self-defense by her godfather, which is not considered to be ladylike. Her life is crumbling around her and she doesn’t know how to stop it.

Then on Christmas Eve almost exactly a year after her mother’s passing, her house is attacked by mysterious creatures that look very much like giant rats. During the battle Clara’s father is kidnapped by an evil faery creature and taken to the land of Cane. To save her family Clara must rely on a cursed prince and her own wit to get her through this dangerous journey filled with magic, inhuman monsters, and a beautiful faery queen.

Clara was an amazing heroine that showed so much growth throughout the book. She started out as this timid girl who let everyone step all over her. It was actually rather painful at times to watch her be treated so badly and she just took it. But as the story progressed she discovered herself and grew into someone you could root for. Her journey wasn’t easy, it was full of pain and betrayal, but it was also full of hope and love which made everything she had to endure worth it. Clara obviously had flaws, but she was a character I grew to love and respect. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read her story!

Nicholas was a prince that had me falling head over heels for him right off the bat. From the first moment I met him I was captivated by his charm and gorgeous looks. His story was a sad one but the way he handled himself was something I could respect. He is in no way perfect and there were actually a few times I wanted to hit him upside the head, but overall he is a good person with a good heart that does the best he can. The relationship between Clara and Nicholas was epic. It was full of forgiveness and trust, which are both so important in a real relationship. Also, for a young adult book this was a little on the sexier side which personally I loved, but maybe would be a little much for anyone that is shy about that kind of thing. Overall, I thought that Nicholas was a very swoon worthy man and a great love interest!

Winterspell is a dark, sexy retelling of the beloved classic The Nutcracker. I wanted to start off by saying that I loved the fact that this is a perfect example of a dark fairy tale; it just makes me smile when I get to read books that represent the name of our blog so well! I was surprised by how dark the book was, but personally that was one of my favorite things about it. The beginning of the book was a little slower paced, which was perfect because it allowed you to fully appreciate and take in the world that Legrand created. The setting was morbid, creative, and so intriguing. It actually reminded me a lot of the world that AG Howard created in Splintered, and if you know my feelings about that book you will know how much of a compliment this is. As the story progressed the action picked up and you are thrown into this amazing adventure that keeps you interested until the very last page. Then you have an ending that was pure perfection. It was realistic, heart wrenching, and just beautifully done. Just thinking about this book makes me giddy with anticipation for everyone else to feel the pleasure I felt while reading it. This is going on the list of one of the best books of the year so far. I feel like I can’t say enough good things about this story and I highly recommend it to all young adult fans!

Notable Scene:

She had fantasized about this for years, half in shame, half in giddy defiance—her statue-suitor coming to life, wrapping his arms about her, gathering her against his body. It was happening now, Nicholas’s hot gaze fixed on her mouth. Soon he would lean in and whisper against her skin, tickling her neck. He would kiss her there, on the soft skin behind her ear.

He did lean in, and she let her eyes flutter closed. She allowed it to happen; she willed it to, fogged with her own swift euphoria. When he kissed her, it was lightning, a jolt that left her aching. When his tongue parted her lips, she went limp against him. One of Nicholas’s hands cupped that back of her head; the other down to stroke her thigh.

She gasped, made a small sound of surprise, and his grip on her tightened. A low groan escaped his lips, and it was that sound—the deep rumble of it, the masculinity—that made her stiffen.

FTC Advisory: Simon Teen provided me with a copy of Winterspell. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Danny.
244 reviews186 followers
December 26, 2015
I'm a little on the fence with this one. On one hand I did really enjoy it, the world was fantastic and the story was interesting. The only thing I didn't really enjoy were the characters. The main character was a tad annoying, the prince I didn't like he was a jerk and I never felt any connection to them as a couple. The only characters I actually liked were the Godfather, and Anise. I actually kind of wish Clara and Anise were together, because it honestly felt like they had way better chemistry.....

overall I would say its a great book to read around this year with it being a nutcracker retelling, I just wish a few things had been changed to really make it a 5 star read.
Profile Image for Athena of Velaris.
512 reviews134 followers
December 20, 2020
“You cannot shy away from yourself. Look the world in the eye, and it can do nothing to hurt you.”

This was better the second time around. I was able to appreciate the subtleties of the plot, and the character development that occurred. This book was fully unique, unlike anything else in the genre. It had romance, betrayal, magic, history, multiple worlds, developed characters, politics, and fight scenes. The Nutcracker element was not overdone, though it was easy to see references to the source material. The plot was pretty fast, and though some characters had no reason to do the things they did at the start, their motivations became clearer as the story progressed.

“You’re powerful, Clara. Or you could be, if you would let go of your fear long enough to realize it.”

Clara, as a character, started out rather passive, but grew into herself due to the situations around her. Her loyalty to her family, as well as her desire to help the world, made her fun to read about. Though she was betrayed numerous times, she always came back from it stronger, giving forgiveness to those who had wronged her, for her sake, not for theirs. She shared parallels with the main villain, and though she understood Anise, she did everything in her power not to become like her.

“So many stories yet to be told, so many secrets to be unearthed. It would happen soon; Clara would make sure of it, and if Nicholas tried to evade her, well, she still had her daggers.”

Anise was a fascinating villain, for she was motivated by the same hate as the main love interest, Nicholas. Both had been wronged by the other, and both had reacted poorly. The difference between them became clear as the plot developed, but it wasn't obvious at the start. Anise's loneliness, as well as her desire to be understood, made her compelling, despite the terrible actions she took. Nicholas learned to puts his hate behind him, and the fact that Clara didn't immediately forgive him made their relationship stronger.

“She had forgotten how to care about the city that had taken so much from her. Forgetting was the only way she had found to keep moving every day.”

This book takes place in two setting. The Gilded Age New York gang setting from the very start and end of the novel was fictional, though grounded in reality. It added more realistic layer to the book, and made the world of Cane more mystical. Cane, the world Clara fell into, was interesting, with technology at war with classic beliefs. Faeries had risen to power under Anise, and the humans were no better than slaves. The sectioning of the country made the story more interesting, especially because of the stark difference between each.

"Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit."

The reason this book didn't receive five stars is that the romance was a little iffy, and Clara got too powerful too quickly. She seemed to be mortal one day, and then not the next, having to put in little effort. I also didn't love the romance, especially because it was built on shaky foundations. I liked how it ended, and though the fact that she stepped away from it shows that any future relationship could be more stable.

“His eyes shone with an anguish Clara understood well. Loss, horrible loss. Pain and anger, and the world being pulled out from beneath one’s feet.”

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Winterspell, and would recommended it for fans of the Nutcracker and darker fairytales. As someone who has read other Legrand books, this one is not quite as good as the Empirium Trilogy, at least in my mind, but it was still enjoyable and totally unique.
Profile Image for Jessica Lewenda.
Author 1 book262 followers
December 15, 2014
I am so disappointed by this book. The first 100 or so pages made me so sure that I'd give this a high rating, and when Clara begins to have a romantic, almost sexual relationship with Anise, the supposed evil queen, I decided that it would be a 5 star book, simply because I thought it would deviate from the norm.
I don't know why I'm surprised. I should have known that an author and publisher--and everyone else who worked on this book--wouldn't seriously stick to something as important and as ground-breaking as a queer relationship.
I honestly thought that Clara being queer and falling for Anise would have been the twist. That the 'evil queen' was good all along. But now, knowing what I do, it feels cheap. All those charged sexual scenes between Clara and Anise turn into queer-baiting. Re-reading with what I know now, I can see the clear distaste Clara has for her Sapphic relationship with Anise. Even though she shares a kinship with Anise, and even though she realises that Anise's weakness is her loneliness, she still just decides to be with her prince Nicholas because he's really hot, and she's practically been getting off to the hot statue of him for her entire life.

I am so disappointed that Clara is made to feel like her relationship with Anise was something wrong, was something she had to pretend in order to get wheat she wanted. It hurts, as a queer person, to see a flicker of representation, only to have it doused by an ocean of NOPE.
Profile Image for Miss Clark.
2,552 reviews200 followers
June 25, 2015
If there was a stronger rating than "did not like it", I would slap that on this.

This was a terrible book. I dislike saying that, but I loathed it. I should have just put it down and I fully acknowledge that. However, I kept thinking "No, I can finish this."

A grave mistake.

This book left me feeling dirty and sickened. As if my mind had been dragged through a filthy mire all the while whilst in the grip of a drug-induced nightmare.

The number of times the words obscene and obscenity are used throughout the first hundred pages would have been a great indicator of what was to come had I cared to pay attention.

Apart from the constant connection/ lust between Clara and Nicholas (and I am not even going to dwell on her weird fetish with what she thought was a mere statue) - I won't even talk about the brothel make-out scene - there is the added factors of lesbian Anise, the manipulative authority figure Plum, and the disgusting Victor who spends most of the book hacking up young girls whenever he is not lecherously attempting to accost Clara.

This parade of salacious indecency simply would not end. Everything is disgusting, rotting, corrupt, broken ... My mind was soaked in despair unattended by purpose or merit.

This is a very long book that has no reason to be this long. So much of what takes place has no direct bearing on the plot and in no way changes Clara. And there is actually precious little plot in this book. Even the take-down of Anise at the end was not a plan, but fortuitous happenstance. Clara did nothing to earn that. Normally, we spend the book trying to take down the villain rather than partying with the villain and exploring our sexuality with them. Note, whether Anise's character had been male or female, I would still have been disturbed by everything to do with the sleeping together and touching and kissing.

Anise, bright-eyed and ferocious, yanked Clara close and kissed her deeply. The kiss stung with duplicity, and with horrible, horrible delight.

That is a very tame example of what went on for over a hundred pages. I cannot be bothered to dredge up a Nicholas craptastic scene for comparison, but I assure there is a superabundance of them.

Actually, most books would have explored more to do with the racial issues and perhaps had something remotely meaningful to say about prejudice, forgiveness, and choosing our own paths apart from what we are taught as children when what we are taught is wrong and evil. Nicholas was raised to hack fairies to bits. He was encouraged to hate and loathe the fairies. Anise was raised by individuals who treated her as an abomination because of her mixed blood and who lost her family to the war. Whatever evils they committed against one another (and they seemed to both be massively to blame for the current situation), perpetuating the cycle of hatred, retribution and fear will never gain either side victory.

But that is not the case. This book never gets close to anything resembling this.

It is a very shallow book underneath the veneer of sensualized angst and "finding herself" journey Clara undergoes which is pointless. She doesn't learn anything other than "I'm magically powerful."

Only factor of positivity that I can dredge up was that the idea and concept holds potential. That was a huge part of why I kept going, hoping that there would be an eleventh hour save. The parallel worlds, the godfathers, the whole idea of fleshing out this ballet.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
1,001 reviews113 followers
July 17, 2014
Winterspell was fantastic! I can't even begin to explain this amazing story. I knew this was going to be a great read but I hadn't imagined it being as good as it was. I loved the story, the characters, the writing and the echoes of The Nutcracker story. Oh and let's not forget the unbelievably excellent world building. Just perfection!

Let's talk about Clara. I really liked her. At first I thought her a bit weak when she let herself be pushed around by Concordia, especially Patricia Plum and Dr. Victor but she sure made a huge change, gradually, through the book. It was character building in its finest. And I love her she gave Plum and Dr. Victor a taste of their own medicine in the end.

There's quite a few side characters that play a pretty big role in this book like Prince Nicholas. I liked him, but I wasn't too fond of him when he made some decisions that didn't sit well with me. But still, he and Clara had some really great chemistry going and I love that in characters that are or will get romantically involved.
Then there's Godfather Drosselmeyer. He was a great character. He kept a lot of things from Clara but I still liked him anyway. He was like a second father to her and he was just so interesting to read about!
And finally, there's Anise, the faery queen. I had expected to really hate her but I ended up being a little sympathetic to her in some way. I do believe she was really lonely, afraid and just wanted a friend. But she was kinda crazy though. Crazy and evil.

Like I said it has amazing world building. It really does. I was so impressed by it because it's been a while since I read a book with at least some decent world building.
The ending was perfect. I was getting kind of worried about what would happen with Clara and if she would ever return to Cane. To know if she does you'll just have to read the book and find out on your own.
The only slightly negative thing I felt when reading was that the book was so long. For the last 40% of it I was ready for it to be over but that's just me.

Overall, Winterspell was a dark, greatly imagined with elements of steampunk, retelling of The Nutcracker that left be speechless. It was unlike anything I've read before and I loved it. Claire Legrand did an fantastic job with this tale that almost everyone knows. I simply loved it!
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,009 reviews378 followers
September 15, 2014
3.5 Stars
Who could resist a story rich in detail as well as plot? A story truly reminiscent of the classic tale of The Nutcracker but with a slightly more sinister tale to tell?

With villains you love to hate and the good guys you will love even more so With just the right touch of magic and fantasy and romance all blended together to create something truly fun and imaginative?

Not I.There is no way I could resist this tale and not like it.

This was a great read and everything I described above. The writing was fantastic and the plot very much action driven, all set in a time where the world was constantly changing and anything was possible, even the unknown and the magical.

I love finding those YA treasures that are truly unique and fun as well as dark and gritty.

Legrand did a superb job in blending the retelling with the new and I would most definitely read anything else she has to offer us, in this world or otherwise.

Profile Image for Stacee.
2,740 reviews712 followers
December 29, 2014
I was in love with this book as soon as I saw that gorgeous cover and read the synopsis. A dark Nutcracker retelling? Count. Me. In. Sadly, I was horribly disappointed.

I didn't care for Clara and that made me struggle to continue reading. There were huge sections of the book that just took forever to get through. I couldn't stay interested and put it down several times.

I did enjoy some of the world building and the last few chapters were pretty good. I wish we would have gotten a bit more of an ending, but where it stopped was still satisfying. Overall, the idea of it was fantastic, but it wasn't what I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Travis.
738 reviews7 followers
February 20, 2019
So this definitely wasn't my favorite Claire Legrand novel. It was a very different Nutcracker retelling and I appreciated that. But I think there was disconnect for me in how the story was executed. But I still enjoyed this book.

Now the world building was top notch. I literally felt like I was traveling through the world of Cane. Legrand's writing was very descriptive and imaginative. I did enjoy the magic system as well however I wish we would have spent a little more time with it. I just needed more exploration. The story was good. I really appreciated the different take on the nutcracker. It was very loose.

Now the things I didn't like were the characters. I felt very disconnected from all the characters. I almost found myself not really caring about any of their actions. Anise was the highlight for me I found her very compelling, so it was sad when we didn't really spend a lot of time with her. Also the story seemed very disjointed and dragging. Even though I enjoyed myself, I found myself feeling like I wasn't making any progress.

Winterspell was a nice loose retelling of the nutcracker that for me just wasn't executed well. I did enjoy the story and the world building and that is what saved this novel for me.
Profile Image for Amelia, free market Puritan.
349 reviews34 followers
Shelved as 'not-my-type'
August 10, 2014
ohh, que lastima.
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