It’s December 1899 in New York City, and teenager Clara Stole fears for her life. Her father, the mayor, is deeply entwined with the elite gang Concordia. Her mother was brutally murdered, and Clara is certain that Concordia knows more than what they’re telling. Her enigmatic godfather, Drosselmeyer, trains her in self-defense at his curiosity shop. Those fighting skills come in handy on Christmas Eve, when otherworldly creatures crash her party, destroy her home, and kidnap her father. Oddly, Drosselmeyer is the only one who understands what is going on. But his refusal to explain everything convinces Clara that she cannot trust him. Besides, she must find her father or Concordia will harm her family for treason. Secretly, she and Prince Nicholas, a cursed royal who appeared at the party, travel to the barren kingdom of Cane. The supernatural threats that they meet in Cane are far greater than they ever expected. Meanwhile, the beautiful and powerful faery queen Anise is desperate to kill Nicholas in order to secure her throne. Will Clara be able to save her father and get home unharmed?
I really wanted to adore Winterspell. I love The Nutcracker, and Legrand’s previous book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, was wonderfully creepy. However, I was not able to completely immerse myself in this novel. First off, Winterspell should not be billed as a spinoff of the (Nutcracker) ballet. Besides the Christmastime setting and a few characters’ names, it has a whole life of its own. Also, while I appreciated the time that was put into describing assorted settings or emotions, it caused the book to drag. As for Clara, I understand that Victorian-era girls are not famed for being tough. But since she was put in so many perilous situations, I would have liked to see her be more resilient and clever. Her love interest, Nicholas, was manipulative and often lied to her. The faery queen was not the villain that I expected. To be honest, she seemed like an extremely psychologically imbalanced Princess Elsa of Frozen fame. On a positive note, the magical world of Cane was very thoroughly mapped out. The kingdom’s people were diverse, its cities well-detailed, and its history was explained. The book also included modern social criticism about different hierarchies and lifestyles. Essentially, Winterspell has an interesting skeleton. Readers, likely teen girls, who enjoy their Christmas season with a dash of fantasy will be pleased with the romantic tale.