Winterspell with Claire Legrand + Giveaway

September 23, 2014 2014, 4 star books, arc blog tour, claire legrand, fantasy 75 ★★★★

Winterspell with Claire Legrand + GiveawayWinterspell by Claire Legrand
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 30, 2014
Genres: fairy tale, fantasy
Pages: 464 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

There’s nothing better than a retelling that manages to take a fairytale we all think we know and completely turn it on its head. Winterspell is completely original, while still staying true to its Nutcracker roots. It is a very dark, and very beautiful story.

There were a lot of things I loved about this story, but probably my favorite is that author Claire Legrand is very good at capturing the shades of grey in every character. There is no character who is all good or all bad. Everyone has nuance. Everyone does great and terrible things.

There are just too many great things I can say about this book. This is a must read for anyone who likes dark fantasy and the grittier side of fairytales. And, it’s a stand-alone, so no terrible cliffhangers!

We’re happy to have Claire Legrand at The Midnight Garden today as part of the official blog tour with Rockstar Book Tours. She’s going to tell us about her childhood fascination with The Nutcracker and how it influenced the story of Winterspell.


The Nutcracker and Winterspell
By Claire LeGrand

Let me first tell you that I don’t know much about ballet.

I do know some things. For example, I know that first position is when you stand with your heels together and your toes pointing out, creating as close to a straight line as possible. I know that George Balanchine is a big deal; turnout is an even bigger one. A pas de bourrée is . . . something. I know the term, but I couldn’t tell you what it means without looking up the term. I just like saying it, to be honest. pah-de-boo-RAY, pah-de-boo-RAY!

I don’t know the names of many famous ballerinas, or of many ballets beyond the standard fare that have bled into general pop culture consciousness, like Swan Lake and, yes, The Nutcracker.

But I do know this—when I watch a ballet, I feel.

Ballet is an art of dichotomy. The beauty of the movement, and the pain its dancers can experience as they perform. Creativity and rigid discipline. The athletic and the ethereal. There’s something primal, even triumphant, about an art form so dependent on the human body. Yes, dancers are typically accompanied by music, but you don’t go to the ballet to listen to the orchestra. You go to watch these people use their bodies as instruments—to inspire, to convey feeling. To tell a story. At the ballet, you don’t need words to know when someone is hurting, when someone is in love, when someone yearns. As a writer, whose world is words, I find that idea liberating.

When I was a kid, however, the appeal was simpler than that. I didn’t analyze; I just watched, dazed, as these otherworldly creatures twirled and soared, moving their arms in that peculiar fashion—their fingers curled just so, the lines of their arms perfectly poised and straight, except for that delicate turn at the wrist. Mine was a visceral love. I adored the physicality of it, the controlled power. I watched a ballet and spent the rest of the day leaping clumsily about the house, searching within myself, within the movement of my uncooperative body, for even a glimpse of the beauty I had just witnessed. I ached for it.

Really, I should say, “I watched the ballet,” for as a child, I only ever watched one—The Nutcracker.

Every year, during the holidays, my mother and I tuned in to PBS to watch one of two Nutcracker productions—the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker: The Motion Picture and the American Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker, featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov and his real-life paramour Gelsey Kirkland. The latter production ended up amusing me more than anything; Kirkland is talented and lovely, but her wide-eyed, innocent Clara left me cold. Mom and I dubbed her “the pitiful girl,” and that particular production “the pitiful girl version.”

But the other production, performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, enchanted me. There was something surreal about it. The sets, designed by Maurice Sendak, are exquisite at first glance—and then, when you look more closely, become bizarre, even grotesque (much like the original fairy tale). Then there is the mysterious Godfather Drosselmeyer, who in this production is sinister and troubling, obsessed with Clara in ways that made my child self fascinated and confused. And then there is Clara herself—not wide-eyed and innocent, but curious, determined. She feels things. She yearns for adulthood, for romance, for a graceful, poised body rather than her awkward, gangly 12-year-old one.

And she gets it. At the end of the first act, she transforms into a woman. She travels to a beautiful but dangerous land, where the citizens must dance on command and toothy creatures leer from a palace’s painted walls. She falls in love. She becomes herself, the Clara she has always wished she could be. She must make an impossible choice.

“What is going on here?” child-me wondered, wanting to understand, wanting to hold onto the strangeness of this story as if it were a real, physical thing to treasure and hide, something to take out only for myself to enjoy. On cold December nights, I watched this ballet and wished desperately for snow—a mostly futile wish, growing up in Texas. Even more than that, I wished for a Christmas like Clara’s. One of mystery and danger, clocks chiming midnight and monsters creeping along the floorboards. One of love and jealousy, obsession and magic, and impossible beauty.

I’m not sure I’ll ever experience something like that in real life, and I probably wouldn’t want to. Real-life Claire likes her holidays cozy, lazy, warm—and preferably filled with cookies, not monsters.

So for the child Claire who watched that strange, dark Nutcracker with her face inches from the screen, ecstatic and unnerved, her heart in knots, her mind electric with wonder—for her, who always wanted an adventurous, frightening, magical Christmas—I wrote Winterspell.

I hope you enjoy it as much as she has.


About the Author

clairelegrand_authorphoto1-680x1024Claire Legrand is the author of books for children and teens, including The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows, the upcoming Winterspell, and its prequel, Summerfall. She is also one of the four authors of The Cabinet of Curiosities.

When not writing books, she can be found obsessing over DVD commentaries, going on long walks (or trying to go on long runs), and speaking with a poor English accent to random passersby. She thinks musicians and librarians are the loveliest of folks (having been each of those herself) and, while she loves living in central New Jersey, she dearly misses her big, brash, beautiful home state of Texas.

Her work is represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary, LLC. Visit her online: Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Pinterest/Tumblr


Be sure to check out the rest of the Winterspell Blog Tour!

Week One

9/22/2014 Alice Marvels
9/23/2014  The Midnight Garden
9/24/2014  Magical Urban Fantasy Reads
9/25/2014  Cuddlebuggery
9/26/2014  Fiktshun

Week Two

9/29/2014  Novel Sounds
9/30/2014  Parajunkee
10/1/2014  Mundie Moms
10/2/2014  Two Chicks on Books
10/3/2014  Dark Faerie Tales


Win a Winterspell Prize Pack!

Thanks to our friends at Simon and Schuster, you have a chance to win a prize pack including a finished copy of Winterspell + swag (bookmark, bookplate, character postcards) + map of Cane + Winterspell-themed jewelry.

All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re excited about the book.

Open to U.S. residents only. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review and giveaway copies were provided by the publisher.


Do you love dark fantasies? Are you planning on reading Winterspell?

Be sure to check out our reviews for Claire Legrand’s other books, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows.

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75 Responses to “Winterspell with Claire Legrand + Giveaway”

  1. Leah

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this review! I haven’t heard of this book, but now it is definitely on my “to read” list. I love how Claire talks about dance and her words just feel right to me. (And explain why sometimes I’m crying while watching “So You Think You Can Dance.”) I have this secret wish to take ballet class even now as a grown-up because I’d love to have that grace and strength you see at the ballet. Excited to read this book!

  2. Stephanie H.

    I have heard so many good things about this book! And I have been anticipating it for a while now. I am so excited for it to come out! Plus, I remember loving The Nutcracker since I was little. :D
    Stephanie H. recently posted…Game by Barry Lyga

  3. Ashley W.

    I’m excited for Winterspell because every year since I was five my dad has taken me to see the Nutcracker. It never truly feels like Christmas until we have gone to see it. The Nutcracker will always have a place in my heart and I’m so excited to have a book retelling of it.

  4. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    It’s always fun discovering the story behind the book. Thanks for sharing! <33

  5. Emma A

    I remember seeing The Nutcracker when I was younger and the enchantment that it possesses. It sounds like a wonderful and very creative retelling of it and I look forward to reading it! Thank you for the giveaway!

  6. Megan Q

    Very interesting concept, and the lead looks intense. She sounds like someone who can handle herself, and anyone else. Hope I get the chance to read this soon!

  7. Lia

    I can definitely relate to watching a beautiful dance and attempting to replicate it with less than satisfactory results. The book sounds amazing! Can’t wait to read it.

  8. Brittany Turner

    This sounds just like my type of book. Great review, Great author. Thank you both!

  9. Pili

    I read and loved Winterspell! My memories of the Nutcracker are rather faint since I remember seeing the ballet once and an adaptation for TV of the story one Xmas, and I found it dark, intriguing and rather scary! So reading Winterspell was full of certain moments and certain scenes tickling my vague memories and loving how different Claire had made them!

    Watching ballet is a wonder and even more when you know what’s behind it! I only took two years and my poor feet are the happier for it, but even after all these years I retain certain flexibility and ability to get up on my toes! Now I feel like I must watch The Nutcracker ballet live soon!
    Pili recently posted…Xpresso Book Tour Blog Tour for Raven by Stacey Rourke!!

  10. Louise

    Um, this premise sounds amazing. I’ve always loved the Nutcracker story. And I’m happy to see it’s a stand-alone. Perfect timing with the holidays coming up, too. Often when I enter giveaways I think, “This will be a nice prize for a teen program,” or “Oh, well, if I don’t win I’ll just wait a year and ILL it.” But this looks worth buying, if I’m not lucky enough to win….
    Louise recently posted…Book Review | Empire of Sin by Gary Krist

  11. Colleen

    This is such a great essay, there’s so much I can relate to. I’ve been following Claire’s Winterspell journey via Twitter for a long time, and I just can’t wait!

  12. Kristy Petree

    Claire’s book sounds great; I love fantasy-fairy tale type stories. And that cover! Gorgeous! Thanks for this great opportunity. :)

  13. Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    I am currently reading Winterspell and I can definitely see how Claire would be inspired by the beauty and pain of ballet. That is definitely the feeling that the world of Cane gives me while reading. I am not really familiar with the original fairy tale but the book definitely captures the dark and ominous tone of the ballet with a sense of hopefulness. It kind of makes me want to watch the ballet now. Good thing Christmas is coming up!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR (HELP ME PICK WHAT TO READ)

  14. Danielle Shipley

    One of the most game-changing stories my adolescent self ever wrote took inspiration from The Nutcracker. It was a silly, slapstick thing, but it’s to be given a lot of credit for starting me on my quest to become a professional author. Besides which, retellings of this tale and its Tchaikovsky score have been a minor recurring theme in my life for as far back as my memory goes. I’m very much looking forward to reading “Winterspell”. (:

  15. Brenda

    This sounds like just the perfect book for a cold winter night and I adore the cover. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was deliciously creepy, so I can only imagine what she could do with the Nutcracker. *Shivers* -thinking of those cockroaches :)

  16. Nikki

    I loved this book, and I can totally see how much Claire was inspired by that PNW Ballet production. Clara’s journey from frightened but determined girl to a strong and self-aware woman was one of my favorite things about it. This is the kind of retelling that makes me crave more great retellings. :D
    Nikki recently posted…The books I’m MOST excited to read this fall!

  17. Carina Olsen

    Yay :D I love this post. <3 Sigh. Claire is amazing. And sniffs. I LOVED Winterspell :D I'm glad you liked it too Peyton. <3 thank you so much for sharing. I cannot wait to re-read this perfect book. <3 A bit sad that I cannot enter the giveaway, ack, but yeah. It is awesome :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Cress Tuesday #48

  18. Kate Woods

    I love ballet and The Nutcracker! I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Winterspell!

  19. Emma

    I was enchanted by The Nutcracker when I was young, too. It was – and probably still is, but I haven’t seen it in years – such a magical ballet. Loved this guest post, and thank you for the giveaway!
    Emma recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR List

  20. Millie

    I don’t remember where I first heard about this book but when I read the premise I was absolutely hooked. I’ve been waiting for Winterspell to come out for months and the anticipation is killing me!!

  21. Kari

    As a former dancer, I was always enchanted by The Nutcracker. As a child I would write my own dark variations of the tale. I’m very excited to see that someone else has taken this story to a new place. Can’t wait to read it!

  22. Kayla Beck

    I’ve never watched The Nutcracker, but I know the basics of it. (How can you not, unless you live under a rock?!) I do think I’ll probably watch the production this Christmas because I know I’ll want to after reading Winterspell.
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey

  23. Lena Marsteller

    This book looks so good!!! I always thought the Nutcracker was kinda of creepy with those mice…. no doubt this book will give me shivers. :P

  24. Sophia D

    Can’t wait to read this! Winterspell is perfect for the coming cooler dark nights and the story just sounds right up my alley!