It's no dark secret that I love a good retelling. I'm pretty sure everyone on the entire planet knows that by now. And when I read the synopsis of this novel and realized that it was not just one retelling, but two retellings... you'd better believe I was on it in a flash. Retellings are my bread and butter (not literally, since I shouldn't really eat either of those. Sad day), so I was super excited to pick this novel up and get cracking (Get it? Cracking? Nutcracker?). Although overall I really did enjoy this book and blew through it quite quickly, I wasn't as in love with it as a whole as I thought I would be.
Clara Stahlbaum loves to play piano. More than that, she loves to play piano and dream about how her love of playing will lead her to the love of her life, Johann Kahler, and the marvelous future that they will have together. But external forces have other plans for her, and on Christmas Eve she receives a magical nutcracker with an accompanying book, whisking her away to a foreign empire full of magic, fairies, and... rats. It will be up to Clara to help the prince of this magical empire turn all of the children back from toys and defeat the magical piper that has placed them under his spell. But will she be able to do it in time and get back to the concert, where she can woo Johann with her music? Or will she have to choose one dream over the other?
Besides retellings, I also have a real thing for books inside of other books. It's like two for the price of one, and I love it. The parts of this novel that consisted of exploring the book that Clara received on Christmas Eve were legitimately my favorite parts to read, and I felt really drawn into the story, the plot, and what was at stake. It seemed to give a bit of historical background that was not only super interesting to read, but really helped advance the current storyline along at a decent clip without have to spend the time on extra POV chapters, which was pretty nice. I also absolutely adored the empire that Wallwork created. I'm a sucker for empires (who isn't?), and I loved the idea that music could be used to help create magic. It seemed like a great exploration of the magically feeling that music brings to a lot of people, and what that would look like in a more physical or tangible sense.
My main issues with this novel were that I really didn't connect to any of the characters, and the writing was a little choppy and awkward at times. Clara was obsessed with marrying a guy that she had really never talked to, there were too many love triangles/two characters awkwardly trying to avoid talking about their feelings. At some points the writing got in the way of the actual story, which was a little frustrating when I just wanted to figure out what occurred next.
Overall, this was a pretty good book! I loved the combination of the two retellings, and I actually loved the villain. He was my favorite, hands down. Besides the aforementioned problems, I really enjoyed reading, and finished quite quickly!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinions on, feelings towards, or review of this book.