Book Review: Winterspell

Posted August 25, 2014 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 12 Comments

Book Review: WinterspellWinterspell by Claire Legrand
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 30th 2014
Genres: retellings, young adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Author
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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 nothuman. 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 NutcrackerWinterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

After reading A Year of Shadows, I was anxious to jump all over Legrand’s newest novel.  I love her books, and the description of her new novel reeled me in like a fish on a hook.  A very very VERY crazy fish on a hook. The cover sent me overbaord and on a frenzy, and the description about a dark retelling of The Nutcracker sent me into insta-lust for this book.

I must admit – I was shocked by the direction of the story! Nonetheless, it felt like a Legrand book, and returning back into her imagination was well worth the wait!



The book was dark and abrasive – something I wasn’t expecting with the Nutcracker. This brazen ballet-inspired novel is for anyone wanting to see a Tim Burton-inspired tale based around sugar and young love. I loved the imagry and how the story tied together. The nutcracker stand-in, a handsome brass soldier, was a wonderful twist of the old story.

Steampunk and all that jazz.  The book was a lovechild of steampunk and high fantasy. I am a sucker for magic and gears.

Our Leading Lady. Clara was a mixed bag. By the end of the story, I loved the direction of her character.  She honestly wants to do the right thing, but she just lacks the conviction to step outside her meekness.  Sometimes, the story was staggered by her own insecurity, but the book picks up about a third of the way in. In a way, the reader is growing along with Clara, watching her emerge and become reborn by her trails. She slowly gains her confidence over time. At times, her hesitation seemed to grate a bit, but her transformation from spineless mouse to a sassy bad-ass made the novel very fun.

Hot and cold. The romance ventured between tempting and heavy-handed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Nicholas, but the romance was a bit on the heavy side at times. I know I often look at novels that steer away from romance-inspired novels, and this one lets attraction run the train.

The secondary characters were nice. I really loved Godfather, and Bo was very adorable. However, my favorite character deserves her own line…

Anise. Here is a complex character that totally took me by full surprise. The author hinted that Anise was possibly attracted to other females, or wished for a girl companion to the point where loneliness morphed into passion and a need for affection in any form. Anise was a character driven by intensity, and her entire character was a  mixed bag of confusing signals and warring judgement.  This woman was evil, but her desperation reeked through the writing. I could identify with a character that was out of her mind with unhappiness and sorrow.  Her raw emotions and the devil-may-care attitude towards her own sexuality was a fresh breath of air as well.

Speaking of….sexuality is a strong thread inside the fabric of Winterspell.  At times, I squirmed a little, because the ideas in the novel stepped outside the boundaries that I am use to seeing in fiction driven towards young girls and woman.  However, I think the narration brought up a wonderful point for our youth – don’t be afraid of your bodies. Don’t shy away from shame and social standards. Your body is YOUR OWN, and you should celebrate it instead of despising it.

Not for the faint of heart! If Cavendish made you squirm, then this book will make you crawl out of your skin. It took me a month to read this book because the imagery was simply overwhelming to my system at times. Seriously, the creep factor is HIGH.

Less sugar, more spice. Don’t expect saccharine fae and a sweet sugary atmosphere. I like to use words like brazen, eerie, macabre, and sassy jump into my mind.



This book honestly took me by surprise.  I wasn’t prepared for Sin City Meets Christmas ballet.  However, the story was fresh, adventurous and bold. The romance was heavy, but I would take this over insta-love any day. Sexy and heroic, fans of dark and gritty retellings will want to snatch this one up.



12 responses to “Book Review: Winterspell

  1. YAy! I was deliberating about the book because although I usually swing on the side of positive reviews when it comes to ARC’s, I was about to go with negative ones this time around. But I am sold once again! Sin City meets Christmas Ballet? Seriously, you shoulda blurbed the book. XD Gonna start on this right now.
    Stuti recently posted…The Witch of Salt and StormMy Profile

  2. Haha, now finally everyone will see how scary Nutcrackers really are!!!! No one believed me when I was young, but they will now O.o 😀 *ahem* I think that this one might be a bit too dark for me currently, but I’m also intrigued. It’s just good to know what to expect so that I pick the right time to read it ya know?
    Anya recently posted…Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke eARC {5 Stars}My Profile

  3. MJ

    I’m really excited about this one, but skeptical at the same time. I’m glad you had a positive review, because the ones I’ve been reading lately have been sort of negative. So, at least it’s not a hopeless cause. What interests me the most about this one is the dark take this book takes. The original story is a lot darker than the ballet, so the fact that Legrand went the darker route gives me hope.

  4. I’m ashamed to admit that I have yet to read anything by Claire LeGrand…but she shows up multiple times on my tbr shelf and I WILL read her soon dammit. Anyways, as much as I enjoyed darker fare in my YA reads, I wonder if this one might be too dark for me. I’m a huge scaredy-cat but I still want to give this one a go. The fact that it pushes on the usual sexual boundaries and sexuality definitely makes this one a must-read to me. And the combination of steampunk and high-fantasy has me drooling just thinking about it. Glad you enjoyed this one Lyn and thanks for the thoughtful review ^^
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: ScorchedMy Profile

    • Lyn

      She is a true artist. Start with The Year of Shadows – that is her best work, and it is so emotionally charged and very touching!

      It is a very dark novel! If this isn’t your cup-of-tea then give her lighter work a shot.
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

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