This started out so great, and it was so beautiful and whimsical, and I would have given it 5 stars.... but then the kids grew up and became toxic, unThis started out so great, and it was so beautiful and whimsical, and I would have given it 5 stars.... but then the kids grew up and became toxic, unlikeable characters. :(...more
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.
The writing is so lovely. It feels so musical and whimsical, rolling off the tongue in sweet waves. I stopped often to reroriginally posted on my blog
The writing is so lovely. It feels so musical and whimsical, rolling off the tongue in sweet waves. I stopped often to reread sentences and passages, often reading them aloud to hear the music in the words. There's a rustic quality to the words--to the story itself. Set in an Eastern-European setting, it felt almost like coming home. I'm of Polish descent, and it makes me homesick for a place I've never been.
Agnieszka's fumbling of magic is endearing, and completely realistic. She's just a plain girl who knows nothing of magic, despite having it flow through her naturally. The way she stumbles her way through saving her village is courageous, even though she is in a constant state of terror. She's a strong character, learning to bond with a fickle thing like magic, and an intolerant fickle man like the Dragon.
The Dragon felt like a more adult version of the arrogant and selfish Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, trapping young women in his tower. His utter impatience towards Agnieszka is comedic, I couldn't stop giggling to myself. He is so uptight and to-the-letter that it's impossible for him to imagine a world different to the one he's carved out for himself, so when chaos follows Agnieszka, it's interesting to see his reactions. They are just such polar opposites, and yet they fit together perfectly.
The friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia was so raw and beautiful that it hurt whenever something went between them. And a lot of things went between them. The whole bloody Wood was conspiring to break them apart.Friendship plays a huge role within this book, and Nieszka and Kasia are together until the very end. It is their friendship that allows them to fight back the corruption of the Wood.
The Wood is a magical entity that creeps ever closer to humanity, and the Wood is corrupt. Everything within it is corrupted and pure evil, but it wasn't like that always. Long, long ago, the Wood was merely a copse of trees, who survived the invasion of humans. Since then, it has been growing ever larger, consuming whole towns, pulling people into the bark of the trees to create heart-trees.
This is a book about magic and redemption, of the corruption of good people, and the purity of those corrupted. It managed to weasel itself into being one of my favourite books ever. ...more