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.
Netgalley provided me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. The Enchanted Sonata is a magical retelling of The Nutcracker, with a bit of a the Pied Piper of Hamelin thrown in. I’d really recommend this as a Christmas read!
The story revolves around Clara, a young pianist who is about to perform in a piano recital that she has lived towards for years. However, those plans change when she receives a wooden nutcracker and a book as gift on Christmas morning from a mysterious person. Clara is transported to the magical realm of Imperia, where she learns that a magician with a flute has turned all of the children in the realm into toys. Moreover, the emperor to be Nikolai has been turned into a huge walking, talking nutcracker as a test to see if he can make a good emperor. Clara and Nutcracker then go on a journey to save everyone in the empire, not just from the magician but also from the rat-infestation that has plagued the realm for years. There’s a definite build up in the story to the exciting climax and there is a good balance between action and emotion.
I love that there is such a big focus on music in the story. It feels as though the author knows what she is talking about. Moreover, as a huge music lover it is so nice to read about the music and the literal enchanting effect it has on the character’s lives. It also adds an original aspect to The Nutcracker tale and I like the twist that only children under the age of 16 can get enchanted by the music.
Another thing I really enjoyed is the world-building. The setting is lovely and I could just imagine myself in all the places the characters visit, my favorites being the woods and (of course) Polichinelle’s candy shop. All of it just screams winter and Christmas too. Despite the fact that I like Clara less (although she did grow on me as she matured), I adore Nikolai so much and I like that they both go through some character development.
However, I did feel like more effort could have been put into the characterization of the magician. You get a back story, but somehow he still feels like a stereotypical one-dimensional villain with no redeeming quality traits, which disappointed me a bit.
In addition, although the book is aimed at young adults, in my opinion it would have been better suited for middle graders. It’s all very innocent, which is totally fine, but it doesn’t make it feel like a book for young adults. I have to admit that I’m also not the biggest fine of the writing. Some sentences just didn’t really make sense or felt quite stilted. Perhaps this is intentional, but it doesn’t really work for me.
The Enchanted Sonata is a really fun and magical read though, with an original twist that will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit!