Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: December 12, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Clara feels stifled by the life that’s been planned out for her, and clings to her only hope that something more might be possible: a mysterious book given to her by her Uncle Drosselmeyer, that recounts the tales of the magnificent warrior woman known as the Red Prince.
Decades ago, Drosselmeyer trapped the Red Prince in the form of a doll to save her from the Rats. When the magic of Clara’s selfless admiration restores her to human form, she and Clara must find a way to stand against the Rats once and for all if they hope to enjoy the life they’ve always longed for…
GENDER: cisgender, nonbinary (demigirl)
SEXUALITY: lesbian, not specified
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, not specified
TROPES: holiday romance
TAGS: new adult, fantasy, retellings, romance, queer romance, queer characters
WARNINGS: violence, physical injury, cissexism/anti-trans language (“a woman could have for the child of her womb”), sexual assault, torture mention, ableism, anti-fat language (“puffing up like a Christmas turkey”), anti-queerness mention, parental death mention
This retelling of THE NUTCRACKER was fun and delightfully queer, and an overall enjoyable read!
The two main characters, Clara and Mathilde, were lovely and I liked what we got to see of them, particularly Clara’s spirit and bravery. However, I didn’t really feel like I got to know them much, other than surface level, and including the basic characterization from the original ballet. The story was so short that it made everything feel very underdeveloped. Everything happened in such small, disconnected spurts that it was strange to follow at times. And the scenes once they were back in Mathilde’s realms were particularly difficult, because it was basically just a dumping of names and connections to Mathilde.
The romance, likewise, felt rushed and underdeveloped as a result of the story’s format. While Clara was able to (kind of) get to know Mathilde from reading the book over and over again, Mathilde really didn’t know anything about Clara, other than what she learns in the night they meet and fight together. I would’ve liked to see more of them together, actually learning each other as the rest of the plot went on.
Finally, the author is marketing this book as having a female/demigirl pairing. Which…I mean, I guess it does? But other than the author saying so, there’s not really much to indicate that Mathilde is nonbinary. Just being called “Prince” while using she/her pronouns isn’t really an indicator that one is nonbinary, so I felt kind of let down in that area.
Overall, the story was generally pretty enjoyable, but I wish there had been more to it so I could be more invested.
Kay Bashe is a disabled queer badass from the New York area, whose writing centers around themes of hope and community. Tumblr: kayla-bird.tumblr.com Twitter: @KaylaBashe