Book Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

With Clara's mother murdered and her father a mayor-turned-gang-lord who has spent the past few years succumbing to his grief, Clara has become increasingly close to her unusual, story-telling godfather and harbored a crush on the beautiful statue in his shop. But on Christmas Eve, her life gets turned upside-down when Godfather's stories start becoming reality, his statue becomes a live person, and her house becomes a magical battleground. When her father gets abducted and her sister threatened, she travels to the faraway, faerie-ruled land of Cane to save her family and discovers more about herself and her family's history than she ever imagined.

Book Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand | books, reading, book covers, book reviews, fantasy, fairy tales & folklore, retellings, The Nutcracker retellings, holidays, Christmas, sci-fi, steampunk, faeries, mancers/mages


While this book did have some flaws, or maybe just aspects that were not for me, it also had some great things going for it that I want to talk about, so I’m just going to list it out.

The Good:

– Girl power. There are plenty of books with female characters who don’t need saving because they can save themselves, and this was one of them, but there was so much more to it than that. Never did a single character doubt Clara’s (or Anise’s) abilities to fight, plan, rescue, kill, etc. No one was ever like, “No, you stay because you’re a fragile, dainty female!” What’s even better was that Nicholas admitted to Clara that she’s a better fighter than he is. Even Borschalk was afraid of Clara, and he was this massive, hulking, dreadlocked faery soldier. And Anise, though pretty evil, was a great character on the feminism front, even vaguely touching on things like body image (e.g. “It’s just a body, Clara, the only one you will ever have. Why spend life ashamed of it?“).

– A possibly bisexual female lead. Clara did have feelings for Nicholas, but she also seemed to have feelings for Anise. And her feelings for Anise were treated exactly the same way her feelings for Nicholas were. Clara didn’t use any labels or question her sexuality, she just felt what she felt. I don’t normally point out characters’ sexual orientations in my reviews, but I feel like bisexual females in YA sci-fi/fantasy are hard to find, and so people might want to know that.

– A incredibly creative retelling. This book took all the aspects of the original (a man cursed into an object, the battle between rats and toy soldiers, traveling to a fairy tale-esque, snowy land), and then it twisted them all in unique, creative ways and expanded them into this elaborate story. I loved seeing how the elements of the original played out.

– Likeable characters. Not only was Clara strong, she was empathetic, forgiving, and intelligent, always paying attention, thinking, and trying things in order to save herself and her family. Then there was Nicholas. I’ve already mentioned how respectful and supportive he was, but he was also someone who learned from his mistakes, was willing to risk his life for others, and wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable and admit his flaws. *MILD SPOILER* Yes, he did something terrible, but he completely, 100% owned up to it, learned from it, did everything he could to repent, and never once tried to defend it, proving that he was truly sincere in his apology. *END SPOILER*

The Bad:

– The writing style. The book was set in historical times, and the writing reflected that with a historical feel. Writing style preference is a very subjective thing though.

– The plot dragged some in the middle. I was interested in the story and where it was going to go, but, once they were in Cane (the fantasy land where the story takes place), I wanted more to start happening to push the story forward.

The verdict:

I’m really glad I read the book! I actually did enjoy it, despite it flaws, and especially loved the creative way The Nutcracker was retold.


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  1. Anissa

    I think I’m definitely going to check this one out – the good points you listed really intrigued me, and I like historical writing style! And that cover is to die for! Great review, love it when I find something new to read! 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      The perfect example of how subjective writing style is lol. And yeah, it does have a pretty cover 🙂 Thanks, I’ll be curious to know what you think of the book!

  2. Zoe @ Stories on Stage

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I thought this was a really original and thoughtful retelling, but it dragged a bit for me as well. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    1. Kristen Burns

      I kind of debated it before deciding to read it too, but I’ve gotten really into retellings lately and wanted to read it while it was still Christmas time (even though it’s more just winter-y than Christmas-y).

  3. Lola

    The blurb does sound original and interesting. I don’t think I have read the original tale, but this does sound like a good retelling with how it takes elements of the original tale and twists them in an unique way! I have had some trouble with the writing style in a few historical books I’ve read, so I think that aspect would bother me as well. It’s a shame it dragged a bit in the middle, but overal it does sound like a nice book!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I like to read the originals (when they’re short enough) before reading retellings so that I can see how the retelling plays with the ideas. It’s just more fun for me that way. It was a shame that it dragged in the middle because I could’ve given it a higher rating if not for that, but it was amazing as far as the creativity of the retelling goes.

  4. Anne @ The Reading Life

    Claire Legrand is everywhere this year with back to back publishings (she’s everywhere on Netgalley and Edelweiss ahaha). I agree with your 3 stars review. She had the same plot-drag problem in Furyborn, but she also had strong heroines as well (just like what you said with this book).