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 confectionery.
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.
I received a free copy of this book for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’ve been a little obsessed with ballet ever since I was a child, so I absolutely jumped at the chance to read this magical book. Marietta Stelle is a girl ahead of her time. She desperately wants a life where she is free to indulge in her love for ballet, but her parents see a different future for her, one with a high place in society with children and a husband, one where her dancing is a thing of the past. When a mysterious man moves into the neighbouring house Marietta’s parents see this as the perfect chance to marry her off but, though enchanted at first, the more time Marietta spends with Drosselmeier the darker and more dangerous he comes across. Determined to have her he agree’s to create the stage for her final Ballet performance, but it’s even more magical than it looks. As the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve Marietta finds herself transported to a different world, a magical world. Everwood is like the stories from her old fairy tales brought to life, with magic spells, dangerous creatures and gingerbread houses. Determined to escape her fate back home Marietta tries to catch the eye of the King of Everwood, who takes an unhealthy liking to her. She quickly realises her mistake, but not quick enough. Now a captive of the King, forced to dance at his whim, Marietta must make alliances if she is to make it home to her family. But in a world brimming with magic and rebellion, can a girl with no magic of her own really stand a chance.
Marietta was a character I had a complicated relationship with. At the start of the book I adored her punchy and no nonsense attitude, her constant battles with her parents and her inner battle between doing the thing she loves and living up to her parents ideals definitely made me empathise with her. However, when she first arrives in Everwood she almost turns into the spoilt princess that society has tried so hard to make her, determined she knows everything, even in a world filled with magic. She gets over this personality swap pretty swiftly, realising her mistake and admitting that she was wrong, but it threw me a little to see her switch personality types so swiftly. Throughout all she endures, she carries a strength inside her, she is determined to answer to no man be it a King or her father, and her characters growth is definitely something I enjoyed following.
Though this is wholeheartedly Marietta’s story, Kuzniar treats us to a well built cast of side characters, some that I loved, and others I wanted to see suffer a rather painful death. Dellara and Pirlipata were by far my favourites. They are the women that Marietta is roomed with in the palace, and two people who know what it is like to suffer under the King. I found myself drawn to them, even Dellara who at first is harsh and standoffish to Marietta, but when you learn their stories, you understand their reasoning for keeping her at arms length. I also loved Frederick, Marietta’s brother and the only person in her life who understands her dreams. Every single character is effortlessly brought to life and all have something pivotal to add to Marietta’s story.
This book made me incredibly hungry when reading it, the descriptions of the food, and even the magical buildings had my mouth watering. In fact, Kuzniar’s descriptive writing in general was off the charts, I especially loved the scenes when Marietta was dancing and found myself effortlessly visualising the moves and dances in my head. I was easily enveloped in the story. It was magical, haunting and a little creepy in parts but I never failed to get pulled into the scenes and setting, feeling as if I’d travelled to Everwood myself. I haven’t seen or read The Nutcracker so I can’t say how close of a retelling this is, but I can say that you don’t need to know the original story to enjoy this.
Fans of slow burn, enemies to lovers… this one might be for you. I loved seeing the relationship develop between Marietta and Legat, though their love was forbidden with Marietta being the King’s possession, their scenes together were some of my favourites, and though not overly happy, I adored how their story ended. At first he see’s Marietta as a spoilt girl who makes a life changing mistake, but the more time they spend together the more he see’s her strength. I also really enjoyed seeing the parallels between how Drosselmeier and the King treated her, to her relationship with Legat, with him was the only time she truly felt she had any power over her actions and decisions and it was just such a beautiful love story.
Midnight in Everwood is a little slow starting, but once we get to Everwood the story picks up pace and makes for a magical and enchanting tale. I will definitely be checking out Kuzniar’s other works, and would love the chance to return to this world and these characters over again if we got the chance.
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