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.
Festive, whimsical and filled with lavish descriptions of delectable confectionery that made me crave sugary goodness like never before, Midnight in Everwood is a delight from start to finish.
This retelling of The Nutcracker has everything it needs to craft a captivating tale of adventure, love, self-discovery and independence. As a disclaimer, I should say: I haven’t read the original (yet!), though I intend to remedy that ASAP, but I saw the ballet a few years ago right around Christmas-time and remember walking out absolutely enchanted by it. I was delighted to find the same feeling while reading Midnight in Everwood, which included some of the well-known elements of the tale while including some very original new developments and nuance.
Marietta, the protagonist, was definitely the star and I loved watching her grow through her experiences in Everwood, learning from those she meets there. She is passionate about her dance and willing to fight for what she believes in, and even though at times she appeared somewhat irrational and unnecessarily stubborn, I loved seeing her mature without losing her fire. I particularly appreciated how the romantic element developed and was weaved in delicately, without overpowering the main story and, most importantly, without Marietta changing herself and her dreams for it.
The rest of the cast is beautifully varied and colourful, making it easy to empathise with the more positive ones and fully hate the villains. I was especially fond of the female friendships that developed and how those characters evolved.
The setting deserves a special mention, as thanks to the vivid descriptions it almost takes life, between gorgeous dresses, sumptuous meals and frosty forests. It’s also a world where not everything is as it seems, and I loved slowly unpeeling the layers to get to the truth with Marietta. My only issue with this was that at times the descriptions were slightly too rich and detailed, and this sometimes didn’t really feel like it fit in with what was happening and slowed the pace. This is entirely personal preference though, and it absolutely didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book overall.
Midnight in Everwood is a gorgeous, masterfully crafted tale giving new life to a Christmas classic, and one that I’ll look forward to revisiting in Christmases yet to come. Best enjoyed while sipping hot chocolate underneath a comfy blanket.