Published by The Wallworkshop
Published on 23 October 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Performing Arts, Romance, Young Adult
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Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!) and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker.
Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.
The Enchanted Sonata, a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet with a dash of The Pied Piper, will captivate readers of all ages.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Heather Dixon Wallwork is one of my absolute favourite authors of all time. She wrote Entwined, a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling which I have never reviewed here on the blog because the book is just too precious and the review would basically consist of my screaming for ten minutes. She also wrote Illusionarium, which was definitely not a fairytale retelling, but which I still loved because I adore her writing so much. So I was so incredibly happy when DW announced she had returned to retellings in this indie-published title The Enchanted Sonata!
The Enchanted Sonata is a The Nutcracker retelling with a bit of The Pied Piper thrown in, which might sound a little odd but trust me, it works. This book has all of the wit and wonder I have come to expect of DW, from her wonderful use of onomatopoeia, to the complete adorableness of every character, to the charming villain and his sadistic revenge. The main character, Clara, is a pianist, (which is great because music is literally magic in this book) and from the intimate way DW writes about music I just know it’s not just research, it’s a lived experience of music. In so many books about music or performance I have read, the authors are charmed by the notion but haven’t lived the experiences. DW definitely convinces me she has played the piano for many years, and I would know, because I tried piano lessons for two years and could never quite get the hang of playing with two hands.
DW writes with authority on the subject of music, and she also loves using italics to make sure you know exactly where the right emphasis should be placed. She has a slightly quirky but very original writing style an voice that seems almost a throwback to her Disney animator days, and I love it. There’s also an insult, ‘pancake-head’, which I found adorably PG (I pretty much found the whole thing adorable, okay?). I loved the way the story was framed and found it an interesting and original use of that device and, to be honest, I have been wanting to read a book that does this device very well but have been unimpressed, until now. The pace was fast but not breathtaking, with almost the entire book taking place over the course of only a few days.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers since I went into this book basically blind, having only read the blurb, but I can guarantee if you’ve read and loved Entwined as much as I did, you’ll adore this retelling as well. I don’t even really know the story of the Nutcracker: it’s not a story that has ever interested me, although my interested was piqued a little when I read a ballet book that had a performance of it. I’ve always loved the music, but I’m not quite sure of the story. That being said, there’s enough originality in this book that even if you don’t know The Nutcracker and can’t identify aspects of its story, you can still enjoy this one as an amazing fantasy in its own right.
I will say that there is a romance and it’s just as completely adorable as I have come to expect from DW, with no instalove and a definite build there between the characters that goes from respect, to affection, to genuine feelings. I will also add that DW comes from a Disney background, and this book wouldn’t be out of place in a Disney library, so take from that what you will. I know there is a Disney film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms coming out this Christmas season, but they really should have taken this book and made a film from it.
I will also add that this book is not, as one might expect, London-based.
The whole thing was just absolutely lovely, like a fine European chocolate that melts luxuriously on your tongue, but you know, in book form. I will be very proud to add the hardcover to my existing collection of Dixon-Wallwork books.