Midnight in Everwood by MA Kuzniar

If you’re looking for a different kind of Christmas read this year, Midnight in Everwood could be it. This retelling of The Nutcracker will whisk you away to a fantasy land of snow and sugar and will be best read in front of a fire with a hot drink on a cold day. Sadly, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped to but I know other readers will enjoy it much more than I did (and judging by the early reviews, they already are).

The novel opens in Nottingham in 1906, where twenty-year-old ballet dancer Marietta Stelle is hoping to audition for a prestigious ballet company. Her parents, however, have other plans for Marietta; they want her to give up dancing and settle down into a conventional and respectable married life. The husband they have in mind is their new neighbour, the inventor Dr Drosselmeier, who has been delighting everyone with his wonderful clockwork toys – everyone except Marietta, who senses something cold and cruel behind Drosselmeier’s charming exterior. Trying to escape from Drosselmeier’s unwelcome attentions on Christmas Eve, Marietta hides inside a grandfather clock, but when the clock strikes midnight she finds herself trapped within the enchanted, snow-covered land of Everwood.

This book is being marketed as children’s author MA Kuzniar’s debut adult novel – ‘The Nutcracker for adults’ – but I think this is misleading as it feels much more like a book for teenagers. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not what I expected and the book lacked the depth I would have preferred. I also found the writing style much too flowery; there are long descriptions of clothes and food and every sentence is packed with adjectives and similes, most of them related to cakes and sweets – voices are ‘smooth and rich as buttercream’, eyes are the colour of ‘butterscotch’ and expressions ‘soften like melted chocolate’. The sugary theme continues throughout the entire book and while I found it quite captivating at first, my senses began to feel overwhelmed with sights, tastes and smells! I can see, though, that this is exactly what other people loved about the book, so it really does depend on the individual reader.

On a more positive note, it was interesting to read a book set in Edwardian Nottingham, rather than the usual London. I wished we had seen more of that setting, but the majority of the story takes place in the magical land of Everwood (which is reached in a way that reminded me of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Although Everwood seems enchantingly wonderful at first and a safe haven in which Marietta can hide from the sinister Drosselmeier, it quickly becomes clear that it is more of a prison, making this a dark Christmas read rather than a happy, festive one. The friends Marietta makes in Everwood – Dellara the fairy and Pirlipata, princess of Crackatuck – are imprisoned there too, and there is a feminist thread running through the story, exploring the various constraints on women’s lives, both in the fantasy world and in the real one.

I have to confess, I’ve never actually read the original ETA Hoffmann Nutcracker story or the Alexandre Dumas one on which the famous ballet is based. Maybe if I had, I would have appreciated this novel more, although I would still have struggled with the sweet and sugary writing style which just wasn’t for me at all.

Thanks to HQ for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

8 thoughts on “Midnight in Everwood by MA Kuzniar

    • Helen says:

      This book wasn’t for me, but I can see that the things I disliked about it are probably things that would appeal to other readers. If nothing else, it has made me want to read the original Nutcracker story!

  1. Lark says:

    This one sounds like an interesting take on The Nutcracker story. I’ve seen the ballet many times, but I’ve never read the original story either. But you’ve got me curious about it. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I only know the story from the ballet too, so I had been looking forward to reading this retelling. I wish I’d enjoyed it more, but it was still an interesting read!

  2. elainethomp says:

    I have read the original E.T.A. Hoffman Nutcracker, it had moments, but wasn’t all that interesting. Not a lot of actual plot or character, while being quite long.

    This one doesn’t sound much better.

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