Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ARC Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Published: September 30, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
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Synopsis:Darkly romantic and entirely enchanting, this reimagining of The Nutcracker from Claire Legrand brims with magic, love, and intrigue. New York Times bestselling author Marissa Meyer (Cinder) says “this is not your grandmother’s Nutcracker tale.”

After her mother is brutally murdered, seventeen-year-old Clara Stole is determined to find out what happened to her. Her father, a powerful man with little integrity, is a notorious New York City gang lord in the syndicate-turned-empire called Concordia. And he isn’t much help.

But there is something even darker than Concordia’s corruption brewing under the surface of the city, something full of vengeance and magic, like the stories Clara’s godfather used to tell her when she was a little girl. Then her father is abducted and her little sister’s life is threatened, and Clara accidentally frees Nicholas from a statue that has been his prison for years. Nicholas is the rightful prince of Cane, a wintry kingdom that exists beyond the city Clara has known her whole life.

When Nicholas and Clara journey together to Cane to retrieve her father, Clara encounters Anise, the queen of the faeries, who has ousted the royal family in favor of her own totalitarian, anti-human regime. Clara finds that this new world is not as foreign as she feared, but time is running out for her family, and there is only so much magic can do...

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the published via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion***

"Dark and richly romantic" is the perfect way to explain this book. It combines this creepy and beautiful world with dubious characters, and a plot full of intrigue and action to create an engaging and enjoyable story that is perfect for fantasy fans.

I think my favorite thing about this book is the dubious nature of the characters and situations. Everyone in this book, except our main character Clara made me wonder at one point or another if they were good or bad. Clara however, I instantly loved. She is tough and intelligent but kind and cares so much for others. She's slightly reckless and slightly rash but completely charming and the kind of multidimensional strong female protagonist that is so enjoyable to root for. The secondary characters aren't so easy root for. In fact throughout most of the book I wasn't entirely sure who I trusted and who's side I was on. My opinion of the characters changed along with Clara's. As we learned more about a person or spent more time with them my opinion of them would change completely or I would want to trust them but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Everyone was the perfect combination of empathetic and abhorrent, making them the kinds of characters that I always love.

But I can't talk about the characters without talking about the romance in Winterspell, because this, is the kind of romance that I love. It was the perfect combination of insta-attraction and slow burning love. We all know that in the Nutcracker our heroine falls for a doll come to life. In Winterspell this is the case. When our male lead, Nicholas, was a doll Clara felt an unexplained attraction to him including the urge to touch him and talk to him. Then when he comes to life she is struck by how attractive he is and feels that draw again. However she is not declaring her love right away and circumstances don't make it that easy. Even when we think our ship has sailed it doesn't go according to plan. When it comes down to it the romance was just delightful and I completely adore this ship!

Then there was the genius world of this book. Yesterday I read a post on The Midnight Garden with Claire as part of the Winterspell blog tour. She talked about the Nutcracker ballet and its influence on her. I am not intimately familiar with the Nutcracker story but it always struck me as a combination between creepy and beautiful. This is how Claire explained it and it is obvious when reading Winterspell. Both the tone and world of Winterspell create this contradiction. While reading the book I was struck by the uneasy felt I felt by the beauty and ominous nature of the writing. Nothing explains this more than the world of Cane. It is a "fairy wonderland" with a beautiful fairy queen where magic is possible but it turns those tropes completely out the window. Things in Cane are much darker than the glitter and magic would lead you to believe. It is a world of oppression and fear. Where the sweet nature of people seems creepy and unrealistic. It all creates this air of mystery and distrust where there should be trust.

This contradictory nature of the world and tone lead to an interesting and engaging plot. The story combined magic and mystery in a perfect blend with just enough action and adventure to keep me reading. I loved Clara's struggle to find her father and help the people of Cane at the same time. She had a great "Hero's Journey" throughout the book as she learned more about magic and herself. The pacing however was a little problematic. This is a world within a world kind of fantasy story and there are two concurrent and unrelated conflicts within both worlds for our hero. There is an attempt to combine them in the beginning but at the end it is as if there are two separate climaxes and they both seemed a little rushed. After tons of rising action I would have preferred see a more aggressive climax, perhaps even one that tied the two conflicts together.

I give Winterspell by Claire Legrand 9 out of 10 stars

Winterspell is a entertaining and engaging world within a world YA fantasy with complex and dubious characters, a world feel of ominous contradictions, and a mysterious plot full of magic and action. Fans of creative retellings like The Lunar Chronicles and YA fantasies like The Grisha trilogy and Throne of Glass will enjoy this Fantasy standalone.

Have you read Winterspell? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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