Monday, December 25, 2017

Audiobook Review: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire

Title: Hiddensee: The Once and Future Nutcracker
Written by: Gregory Maguire
Published: October 31, 2017 by William Morrow (HarperCollins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists' colony—a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann—the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann's mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier—the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky's fairy tale ballet—who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults—a fascination with death and the afterlife—and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

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

I’m a big fan of Gregory Maguire and I was so excited to hear that he was coming out with a new retelling about the Nutcracker. I saved it to read this time of year because I wanted to read something seasonal and I'm glad that I did because this was an entertaining and interesting Christmas read.

Maguire is great at setting the atmosphere in a story and that’s exactly what he was able to achieve here. The interesting thing about this book is that I’m not sure if it reads like historical fiction or fantasy. It was a little bit of both and a little bit of neither. But it was a great world. It pulled you in and drew you into the world. It was also the perfect setting for this kind of story. It had magic and wonder but was still grounded in reality and I really appreciate me that.

In addition, Maguire’s writing it as fantastic as usually. It had a great lyrical quality to it that gives it just as much a sense of wonder as anything else in this book. I listened to the audiobook on my drive home for the holidays and it translated perfectly to the audio format. Although it was so peaceful that at one point into lulled me into a state that you definitely don’t want to be in while you are driving. But it was still really fantastic a tone and audio.

As fast as the plot goes, it was an interesting retelling. It was kind of a retelling and kind of a Nutcracker origin story. I typically prefer a plot driven book and this book was definitely more character driven. It focused on the story of Drosselmeyer and how he became a toymaker and godfather to Clara. It wasn’t uninteresting but it wasn’t super engaging either. If you are a big fan of the Nutcracker you might appreciate it and pick up on more of the elements of the original story but I am not super familiar with it. Plus it had a travel element to it. Throughout the book you adventure throughout Germany with Drosselmeyer. It was fun to see but I’m just not that much of a fan of travel stories. To me that just isn’t enough for a plot, I wanted more. I think that is basically how I felt about the plot in general, it was good but I wanted more.

Being that this is a more character driven story, the characters have to be likeable, and here they were. The main character here of course is Drosselmeyer, or Dirk. I really liked Dirk. You saw him grow up from a child to an old man. He is incredibly sympathetic as he spent most of his time trying to find where he belonged and a family. I did enjoy him and being along for the ride. And along the way there were plenty of good secondary characters. Felix was one of the most interesting and I feel like Maguire did a great job in making you connect with them.

In general I think this is a good Christmas book. It has beautiful writing and am atmosphere that will draw you in and make you feel in the holiday spirit with likable characters. It’s not my favorite kind of read but it was really good.

I give Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of the Nutcracker, or character driven Christmas reads then check this out. But if you are looking for a fantastic and action packed retelling this is probably not it.

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

1 comment:

  1. I'm slightly obsessed with the story of the nutcracker so this would be perfect for me, I think!