I've been a fan of Lani Lenore for nearly a decade, when she published her stories on fictionpress.com and fanfiction.net, and when she decided to pull her stories, rewrite, and publish them, I immediately got my hands on her work.
In The Nutcracker Bleeds, a dark retelling of the Christmas tale of The Nutcracker, we are thrown into a world where toys come to life during the night, and are thrust in the midst of a war between toys and mice. When Olivia and her maid Ann are shrunk due to mouse magic, they are forced to find their own roles in this world: Olivia as Queen of the toys, and Ann, a wayward girl who might be the catalyst to everything.
The plot is definitely the star of the show. It never stops being a thrilling ride, there's always something happening. This makes it a quick read, despite its crazy length (600+ pages on the ebook). It is almost overwhelming, the amount of action that's flung in your face.
Their foe comes in the form of the Rat King, who has a limited supply of magic, and in order to replenish his magic levels enough to turn back into a human, he must eat either tiny Olivia or tiny Ann. Thus, his army of rats and mice are constantly on the lookout for the girls, and kill any toys that come in their way.
Olivia is nonplussed about the whole situation, so sure that her toy guards will protect her in her fortress of books. Not only that, but she pines after her brand new nutcracker, Armand. Armand is a curious character. Made of wood, but with the heart of a human, he was transformed into a nutcracker by the Rat King many centuries ago. His mission is to defeat the Rat King and become a human again.
The cast of characters is massive, and it's so fun to see all the interactions between all the characters. There's a puppet who carved himself a wooden phallus; a glutton of a toy who gorges on food that rots within him; and an androgynous doll who lusts after Armand, so much so that he plans on replacing Armand's head with his own.
There are multiple threads of narrative, and they all interweave nicely, and get tied up in interesting--though sometimes convenient--ways. Ann and Armand's endings felt too good to be true, and I think that was my main disappointment.
I found this an engaging read, and it saddens me that so few people know about Lani Lenore and her work, so I've decided to give away my copy of The Nutcracker Bleeds.
I am so disappointed by this book. The first 100 or so pages made me so sure that I'd give this a high rating, and when Clara begins to have a romantiI am so disappointed by this book. The first 100 or so pages made me so sure that I'd give this a high rating, and when Clara begins to have a romantic, almost sexual relationship with Anise, the supposed evil queen, I decided that it would be a 5 star book, simply because I thought it would deviate from the norm. I don't know why I'm surprised. I should have known that an author and publisher--and everyone else who worked on this book--wouldn't seriously stick to something as important and as ground-breaking as a queer relationship. I honestly thought that Clara being queer and falling for Anise would have been the twist. That the 'evil queen' was good all along. But now, knowing what I do, it feels cheap. All those charged sexual scenes between Clara and Anise turn into queer-baiting. Re-reading with what I know now, I can see the clear distaste Clara has for her Sapphic relationship with Anise. Even though she shares a kinship with Anise, and even though she realises that Anise's weakness is her loneliness, she still just decides to be with her prince Nicholas because he's really hot, and she's practically been getting off to the hot statue of him for her entire life.
I am so disappointed that Clara is made to feel like her relationship with Anise was something wrong, was something she had to pretend in order to get wheat she wanted. It hurts, as a queer person, to see a flicker of representation, only to have it doused by an ocean of NOPE....more