Book; The Enchanted Sonata
Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork
Published By: Smith Publicity
Expected Publication: 23rd October (I got approved after publication, I’m not just ridiculously late this time!)
BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Clara doesn’t have any direct conversations with other named women that aren’t about the Nutcracker.
Thank you to Smith Publicity and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book, it’s probably not one I would have come across without Netgalley, so I was very grateful to have to chance to read it.
The Enchanted Sonata was the perfect book for me to end my 2018 on, given that it was mostly set at Christmas, I’m not usually one for festive reads, but the timing just worked out really well on this one. It’s a unique little retelling of the Nutcracker Ballet, mixed with elements of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. It’s quite a short, and a relatively enjoyable story, though I would say better for readers perhaps a bit younger than me, the main character is 15, but the story and the writing style would probably be suited more to readers aged 9-12 than older teenagers. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
The opening of the book really captured me, the author starts with a prologue about music and her writing was so lovely there, I couldn’t help but want to read on. Sadly, I didn’t find the writing as captivating all the way through, there were moments were it was just gorgeous but a lot of the time, I felt it was quite simplistic and read more like a children’s book than a YA book-having said that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we definitely need more lower YA novels and this book would fit there quite nicely.
I did find the characters quite bland, I didn’t feel like either Clara or the Nutcracker (Nikolai) had all that much personality, and so it was difficult to really understand, or root for them. In contrast, the main villain’s story was actually shaped quite well, and he was given more of a personality and a backstory, so I found that I could feel for him more than I could either of the main characters, which isn’t great when their main goal is to destroy him! I also wouldn’t say I felt that much chemistry between Clara and the Nutcracker, but I suppose that’s difficult to create when one is a human and one is a toy.
I loved the concept for the story, the idea of a Nutcracker retelling is not something that I’ve ever really seen done much before and mixing it with the Pied Piper of Hamelin is something that you wouldn’t think would work, but actually worked really well! All the musical aspects of the book were great as well, you can tell that the author really loves music, because passion just drips off the page when she writes about it.
I liked the whole story within a story idea, so you have Clara in the real world and then you have the world of the Nutcracker and the two sort of combine in this really lovely way, so Clara starts off reading the story of the Nutcracker and then she is transported into it herself, which I thought was really cool. I think the book should maybe not have been used after Clara got to Imperia though, because it kind of felt like a deux ex machina that whenever she needed to know something, the book would tell her the next part of the story, it felt like nothing she really did was that earned.
There are so many beautiful aesthetics in this book, the sweet store, the trains, the nutcrackers, the snow, everything really does feel like you’ve stepped into the middle of a fairytale which was really lovely.
I did feel for such a short book that it was incredibly slow paced, the book only takes place over a matter of days, basically Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and yet it’s dragged out into 40+ chapters which it didn’t really need to be, because of a lot the chapters have not much happening in them and that just served to make the book feel even longer!
The side characters were also largely quite flat, with the exception of the Nuns from the Abbey of The Indomitable Sisters, I could have read a whole book about them illegally wiretapping and fighting off rats, they were so great!
The ending felt a little bit too neat for me, but it did fit with the story, since it’s a fairytale style story, “and they all lived happily ever after” is pretty much the only way to end it, even if happy ever afters are not my preferred kind of endings. It just felt like everything was all a bit too simple in the end and there wasn’t really enough struggle to make the ending feel deserved.
Overall, The Enchanted Sonata was a nice little Christmas story, and I think if I had found this book at 11 or 12, I would probably have been able to overlook it’s flaws and really get wrapped up in it. As it is, I did enjoy it and I think the concept was incredibly creative, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it might have been.
My Rating: 3/5