Book Title: Midnight in Everwood
Author: M.A. Kuzniar
Release Date: October 28th, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
My rating: 4/5 Stars
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.
As someone who is incredibly familiar with the Nutcracker, I was very interested to read this darker twist on the tale. During this particular retelling, Midnight in Everwood took some interesting liberties with the story that I did not see coming, but I thought were really well done.
The world of Everwood was excellently detailed and crafted, and each description brought the world to life in clarity. It was exactly as I’d imagine the Land of Sweets to be if it had darker undertones to it. The world building was probably my favorite part of the novel, as well as the tie ins to the original story, which I’ll get into a bit more later. Never once did I have an issue with imagery or envisioning what was happening around Marietta. Sometimes I thought there were a little too many descriptions, but even those were so well done it was hard to mind.
While I did enjoy this story, it took a while for me to get into. I think I was expecting Marietta to travel to Everwood a lot faster than she did, so it was difficult for me to sit through all of the scenes in her regular life, but they were all necessary to the story, and I completely understand why they were there. I think the pacing might have been a little off in the beginning as well, as some scenes I had trouble putting down, and others I had difficulty keeping my focus on. Still, once she arrived in Everwood, I was completely hooked.
As for the characters, Marietta was an interesting protagonist. You wanted to root for her, because her ambitions were so high, and she was determined to follow her dreams instead of living the life society had laid out and expected her to take. This was certainly admirable, and I enjoyed watching her journey as the plot evolved. However, she was interesting in the way that while you wanted to root for her, she was also hard to like at times. She could be so set on her goals that she became self-centered and disregarded the feelings and aspirations of those around her, which caused a few problems. She did acknowledge her actions later on in the book, though, which I definitely appreciated. Her arc was well-developed, but it was hard to like her at times.
I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Marietta, Dellara, and Pirlipata. What started out rocky and untrusting soon developed into a bond unbreakable by distance or time. The three lifted each other up and were consistently supportive. They were willing to endure anything to ensure each other’s safety, even if they were unable to admit it at times. This plot line added another layer to the story, and I thought it was done well.
Finally, I want to discuss how impressive some of the tie ins to the original story of the Nutcracker were. A lot of the references were rather discrete or subtle, and if you weren’t entirely familiar with it, you might’ve missed them, which made the references all the more rewarding when you were able to pick them out. Some were incredibly obvious, such as Legat being the Nutracker and King Gelum being the Mouse King, while others you had to search for. This was one of the biggest reasons I had so much fun reading Midnight in Everwood. While I liked the story as a whole, the satisfaction of correctly pinpointing which parts were references and which parts were made new for this story was delightful.
While I did have some issues with Midnight in Everwood, I really liked it overall, and I’d definitely recommend it for those who are fans of the Nutcracker, or like me, who have danced in it over ten times. Either way, this will be a great read around Christmas time, so be sure to add this one to your list!
Have you read Midnight in Everwood? If so, what did you think? Did your opinions differ from mine in any way? I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
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