Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today it’s time for me to share my review of a wonderful book, and an especially wonderfully Christmas book, Midnight in Everwood. This retelling of The Nutcracker was utterly beautiful, and swept me away.
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.
M.A. Kuzniar is hugely skilled when it comes to summoning up atmosphere, and anything that involves describing food frankly should be enough to give her a writing career by itself. Do not read this book without a large stack of sugary goods nearby, because you will be SAD. I speak from experience.
Marietta as a character comes across as somewhat reserved and abrupt at first, struggling with the confines of her life while still failing to see her privileges, as we all have done at times. Throughout the story, and her first female friendships with fellow ‘pets’ Dellara and Pirlipata, she comes to see her previous failings but also her strengths; she grows in confidence with their support, and knows what she is capable of, even while those around her might not suspect it, to their own bad luck.
The companionship between the trio of women is one of the most beautiful and powerful demonstrations of the strength of women when combined that I have seen represented and it was just wonderful to get lost in. The fact they were willing to risk everything for one another, and never leave one another behind, regardless of the dangers, was really a whole second story to get lost in.
Running beside this is a story of a girl running away from the powers of men, and the dangers they pose. All we have to do is look at the news to see that things haven’t changed in that respect around the world. However, with this being historical fiction, Marietta is also faced with situations that most of us don’t have to in a modern society. With her father prepared to force her into marriage and to give up her beloved ballet, Marietta is terrified and powerless. What she gains from her time under capture, and her time as part of this threesome, is the strength to stand tall and say, “no”. Carving her own path is the harder path, but they teach her that it can be done, no matter how scared she is.
The way Kuzniar describes ballet is sheer magic. You feel yourself lost in it, dancing along with Marietta. As a former dancer, I was transported back to happy memories of my soul flying as I danced also, and I felt that raw, brilliant power of love that Marietta held for her art. The fact that she has the support and admiration of the people around her who are supporting her despite her confinment allows the dance to continue to be beautiful despite the danger, and take on a whirlwind of strength all of its own as Marietta learns to use it to work for her as well as working at it.
Thank you for joining me for a magical review, with minature reindeer and sugarplums and finding love for yourself in the best of ways. It’s the perfect book for yourself or for a gift this Christmas.