4.56 out of 5 Stars
In this retelling of The Nutcracker we get to see so much more of the story that Heather Dixon Wallwork has spun around the original. Clara Stahlbaum is a pianist that hopes to catch the attention of her famous male counterpart Johann Kahler through her performance at a Christmas concert. The night before however, on Christmas Eve, she is transported into the land of Imperia where she encounters magic, evil rats, and a prince-turned-toy Nutcracker. It was delightful fun to read and perfect for the holiday season.
I really enjoyed the plot. I knew going into it that it was essentially going to be like the original story/ballet, so it was already attention-grabbing to me. I really appreciated though the different twists that Dixon Wallwork took on this story. The added depth to the characters- understanding the backgrounds of why they are they way they are- really added to the connection to what was happening. Even knowing (sort of) what was coming, I was still curios and itching to keep turning the pages. The element that really did it for me though was the Pied-Piper-esque dynamic that Erik brought with him. It was super creepy in the best way to see him turn the children into toys and hear his rationale as to why it was okay. This retelling was a perfectly even balance of unique original story and classic elements from the first story.
Clara-- Being completely honest, Clara annoyed me to no end for the longest time with her obsession with Johann. Maybe I'm a bit too much like Nikolai in personality, but I was on his [Nikolai's] side the whole time... what Clara had was painstakingly obviously not love and was actually completely made up. When she finally got it through her head that she was illuding herself it was one of the best moments of the book to me. Because that also gave room for her to realize how she felt about Nikolai so it was a win-win situation. Outside of her love life, it was slightly frustrating to she her doubt herself in her musical capabilities, but at the same time it made sense for her character and development.
Nikolai (Nutcracker)-- I felt so bad for Nikolai from the beginning. It took me awhile to catch on that the General really was just looking out for him, but I still just felt so bad for him. He was a little too doe-eyed toward everything, but it was made up though by his compassion for everything as well and his ability to lead.
Erik-- Of course the antagonist is the creepiest character, but as I mentioned earlier, it was really creepy to hear Erik's reasoning as to why what he was doing was okay. It helped a lot to have his back story in there, which I really appreciated. He was still super disconcerting but in a good literary way.
Zizi and Alexei-- These two were both really great side characters. I just wanted to quickly point out how cute I think they are and I love that there were there.
Johann-- I'm not even sure if Johann really is a character worth mentioning. He doesn't have many acting moments in the book and the ones that are there show that he is a bit awful and petty. Really, the only thing that I liked about this character is that it gave Clara's character depth.
I love this writing. There's something about it that's just so narrative if that makes any sense? I feel like this is a story you could read out loud to a child and be able to solidly hold their attention. By the way, while this is listed as young adult, I seriously think a middle-grade reader could read this as well. Back to the writing- the story just knits together so nicely without being overwhelming or confusing, yet is engaging at the same time. Lastly, I love the title of the book. I really think it's a great fit.
Dixon Wallwork is able to completely capture the story not just in words but the sensation of the music she describes. I have never before read a work where music is incorporated so seamlessly into the narrative. What's truly great about it is that it carries the essence of the music in the story inside the words of the plot and the descriptions of the music. You don't need to know music to feel the sensation she describes. The Enchanted Sonata is itself an enchanting piece of art.
Thanks for reading!