Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

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 not human. 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 Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

What I Liked:

Umm, I didn't know this was a "The Nutcracker" retelling. Well, the synopsis does say that it is "inspired" by "The Nutcracker", but still. I'm not entirely sure I saw the influences. Or maybe it's just been that long since I've watched "The Nutcracker". Anyway. I agree about "dark" and maybe "fairy tale", but ehhh about "timeless". Just saying.

Clara's mother was murdered. Clara's father has basically gone mad. Clara's godfather has been training her in defense and knives and fighting, all the while obsessing over something else. Clara has been struggling not to recoil when a Dr. Victor touches her, leers at her, threatens to basically take her innocence... all the while, Concordia is falling to corruption, especially with Clara's father (the mayor) not doing much. One night, everything basically goes to s*** and Clara finds herself with her godfather who is not human, the statue who is now a flesh-and-blood "human" not-human who is a prince... and a missing father. She must bring her father back before Dr. Victor and a politician destroy her life - but to do so, she must travel with Nicholas, the prince, to Cane, the magical land from where the prince is. Where the evil half-faery, half-human queen resides.

The plot, overall, was good! The beginning was very slow (I'll get to that later), so I honestly just kept flipping and skimming pages at one point. Things really don't start to get interesting until like, 20% in, or whenever the "loks" show up (not entirely sure what they are). Then Clara meets Nicholas, finds out that her father was taken, and enters Cane with Nicholas.

I liked everything up until Clara and Nicholas were separated (not giving more context than that, but I think this is important and you should know that it does happen). Clara and Nicholas are an excellent pair. They bicker and boss each other around, but they are also fierce and protective and immensely loyal. I love that Nicholas sticks with her no matter what he needs to do for his kingdom. He isn't perfect, and he contemplates terrible things, but he is such a great character. Nicholas is... not faery, so he's human? I think he's human. But he's a royal, and that literally means power.

So I liked Clara, and Nicholas - and I especially liked them TOGETHER. The romantic scenes in this book are few and far between - which was extremely disappointing, because I thought this one was pegged as "dark" and "sexy"? It's dark, ish, but not sexy. Not really, anyway. The queen, Anise, has a heck of a lot of sensuality, and it gets weird when Anise and Clara are holed up in Anise's Summer Palace... weird. 

Read on for what I didn't like! Balanced review for the win!

What I Did Not Like:

One of the first things I mentioned above was that the beginning is slow. Oh, is it slow. Clara's life in New York is so dull and frightful and boring and aggravating. I totally get the historical authenticity of Clara's situation, but snooooooooooozzzzzzeeeeee, and not interested. I liked it when the magical part to this book was introduced. Otherwise, this would have been one BORING historical fiction novel. And you know that I know a lot about historical fiction novels, since I read so many of them (adult and Young Adult). In general, this book moved slowly - I bet about 100 pages could be shaved off this book, and it'd move only slight faster. *snores*

I didn't like how the romance panned out. Clara and Nicholas have chemistry from the start - which I liked a lot. I had such high hopes for this book, because from the start, sparks fly. Heck, flames fly. Clara and Nicholas are one big mess of chemistry. So much sizzle.

But. So little chemistry-filled scenes.

Disappointing, no? For such a hyped-up, "sexy"-tagged romance, it was very not-explored. There was no physical romance between these two, despite the fact that the chemistry was sizzling. Clara bolts in the ONE SCENE, and the next one is not actually real, and that's it. Two scenes. Disappointing. 

Then there was Clara's time at the Summer Palace with Anise. Talk about... weird. I'm personally not a fan of girl-on-girl action, but if you are, good for you. Things get frisky between these two. I'm totally serious. At first, I thought Clara was just going along with Anise, and trying to manipulate her, so she could escape. But then... I think Clara actually enjoyed things. So I'm not sure. *shudders* This is like, a good chunk of the book. Perhaps one fourth or maybe even one third of the book is the leg of the love triangle in which Anise and Clara get it on. I was not amused. And then the author tried to play it off in the end like Clara was just really similar to Anise, in terms of abilities and whatnot, but whatever. No. Call it empowering, call it feminism, call it whatever you want - I don't read lesbian fiction. 

In any case, I find that Clara was kind of a dunderhead. She is pathetic, which is how she is supposed to appear in this time of history, but she ACTS the part and IS the part. Literally lets everyone do all the hard work for her... ew. I sort of liked her in the very beginning, because I felt bad for her, but when we reached the magical realm, my liking of her plummeted. She couldn't stand up for herself for s***.

The book seemed kind of... not convincing. I'm not sure how to approach this feeling - but like, the prince has NO ARMY. No one recognizes him, because he was in "Beyond" (New York) for years, and time in Cane moves four times faster. How in the WORLD did the prince and company defeat Anise's minions? Not realistic, even though we're talking about a fantasy world.

For that matter, the fantasy was a bit disappointing? There are mechaniks, which are like any other robot or steel creature or whatever unoriginal nonsense Legrand came up with. Meh. Not impressive. And what the heck are "loks" - I don't even know myself! What was up with that train - are there trains in Cane? What happened to it? I have no idea what happened directly after Nicholas and Clara entered Cane. Anise - not impressive. Selfish, beautiful, young-looking despot, claiming the lands as her own? SOOOOOO original.

The ending was SO WEAK. So I can get past Clara's actions with Anise. Maybe. But then... the ending... the romance... it's "happy", ish, but not really. I can't explain it without giving things away. Time works differently in the "Beyond" world (New York), and in Cane (Nicholas's world). Time moves faster in Cane. So. Um. Yeah. No me gusta al fin.

Would I Recommend It:

Meh. I know everyone seems to be excited for this one (hey, I was too!), so go read it. But no, I wouldn't recommend it if you're bored or have never heard of it. Read it if you already WANTED to read it. It's an okay story, the cover is pretty, the hero is likable, and hey, maybe you like scant (and weird) romances, disappointing endings, unoriginal fantasy tropes, bisexual love triangles. I know many reviewers are like OMG SO GOOD, so it might just be me...


1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. This one wasn't that great... and I didn't love it, like I wanted to. I wouldn't re-read it, nor would I buy it, nor would I pick it up or look at it. Which is totally a shame, because I wanted a hardcover with that cover. Oh well!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. Oh Alyssa, so sorry you didn't enjoy this. I have it for review too, and oddly, your negative review has made me want to read it even more! I'm not really into the girl/girl thing either but I am curious to see how it all comes together. The story sure sounds a lot like the Nutcracker, so we'll see! In any case this is the first review I've read of this book and I want to see what other bloggers think too.

    1. You should definitely check it out, especially since you're already interested in the book! Hope you like it more than I did, Tammy :)

  2. ugh, the slow beginning would torture me, but glad to hear that Clara and Nicolas are good together

  3. Clara was only "kind of" a dunderhead? You are far more generous than I.

    And it's not just you. It was bad. :)

    1. IT'S NOT ME, IT'S YOU, BOOK :D And I was like half comatose while writing this review, and then I went back and edited out the angry parts and made everything seem nicer... maybe I should have left everything in LOL.

  4. Oigh, so sorry to hear you didn't like this one! I just read Summerfall last night and loved it, so I was very pumped to read Winterspell, now I'll be sure to not have my expectations way too high, just in case!
    Thank you for the very honest review and the warnings!

    1. I hope you enjoy it more than I did! I'll be interested in seeing what you think.

  5. Sorry you didn't love this one. The blurb and the cover looked so promising.

  6. Your review saved me from an unwanted purchase, thank God. This is definitely NOT a Danielle book. I'm disappointed because I was really looking forward to it, and the cover is so pretty! :( But I would have been really upset if I had purchased it for myself - I would have gotten to the weird bit with the evil lady and want to throw the book away lol.

    1. PHEW, right? This one was not an Alyssa one either. AND EXACTLY. As soon as Anise entered the picture, I was like... nope nope nope lol

  7. Noo, so sad ): I was hoping for a cool retelling of The Nutcracker! Bah. I think I'll leave this one for now since I don't have as much time for reading.

    Awesome chemistry but no results make me so sad. How unfortunate.
    Thanks for the review, Alyssa!

    1. It was a bit of a disappointment, overall! Which is unfortunate, like you said :/ I hope you read something awesome instead, Cyn!

  8. HMPH. I am not happy with you, Alyssa :D But I do understand you. <3 Somewhat. Not. Hah. I loved this book so so much. <3 Sniffs. I'm so so sorry that you didn't like it. Grrr. That is depressing, hih. But anyway. Great review sweetie :)

    1. Awww, well, at least I gave it a shot! I'm glad you loved it so much, Carina. Thank you!


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