Title: Midnight in Everwood
Author: M.A. Kuznair
Release Date: 28/10/21
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 36
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from HarperCollins UK,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
A spell-binding retelling of The Nutcracker, filled with enchanted toys, decadent balls, fierce feminine friendships and a forbidden romance. For fans of The Toymakers, Caraval and The Bear and the Nightingale.
There’s nothing Marietta Stelle loves more than ballet, but after Christmas, her dreams will be over as she is obligated to take her place in Edwardian society. While she is chafing against such suffocating traditions, a mysterious man purchases the neighbouring townhouse. Dr Drosselmeier is a charming but calculating figure who wins over the rest of the Stelle family with his enchanting toys and wondrous mechanisms.
When Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate set for Marietta’s final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. On the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, she is transported to a snowy forest, where she encounters danger at every turn: ice giants, shadow goblins and the shrieking mist all lurk amidst the firs and frozen waterfalls and ice cliffs. After being rescued by the butterscotch-eyed captain of the king’s guard, she is escorted to the frozen sugar palace. At once, Marietta is enchanted by this glittering world of glamorous gowns, gingerbread houses, miniature reindeer and the most delicious confectionary.
But all is not as it seems and Marietta is soon trapped in the sumptuous palace by the sadistic King Gelum, who claims her as his own. She is confined to a gilded prison with his other pets; Dellara, whose words are as sharp as her teeth, and Pirlipata, a princess from another land. Marietta must forge an alliance with the two women to carve a way free from this sugar-coated but treacherous world and back home to follow her dreams. Yet in a hedonistic world brimming with rebellion and a forbidden romance that risks everything, such a path will never be easy.
This was beautiful but missing something. It felt like two different stories crushed together and neither really got their time to shine. I adore Kuznair’s writing but after the 10th or 11th description of food and/or dresses I was yearning from there to be more words dedicated to the story itself. Both the World she constructed were beautiful but we didn’t really get any time to explore either. It felt like we rushed through both and they just lost something for me.
I really enjoyed the twist on the nutcracker and all the detailed references to Ballet but due to the two different settings I felt that what we really lost was the development of the different relationships in those two different settings. I wanted time to see the different relationships build. I wanted time for friendships to blossom, love to flourish and the animosity between the villains and our heroes to be carved out so we can celebrate the wins and commiserate the defeats along side the characters. I just felt there wasn’t enough development of the characters for me to really appreciate those dynamics.
I will say it is the perfect book for this season though. The first half of the book takes place on the run up to Christmas in an Edwardian Nottingham and Kuznair does an amazing job of setting the tone and making you feel all the magical anticipation of the festive season. The second half whisks us away to Everwood, that again captures that frozen in winter magic that just makes you want to snuggle with a hot chocolate. I will admit to preferring the setting of the first half.
If you love the Nutcracker and Ballet and are looking for a magical tale to just snuggle up with a blanket and read then this is a perfect book for that occasion.
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