Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Review: Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: Hardcover; 304
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Source: Publisher / TLC Book Tours
Genre: Fairy Tales / Retellings / Fantasy

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy Maguire's magical way of writing, and fairy tale adaptations.

Add it on: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.
It should be noted, before anything else, that Gregory Maguire is one of my all time favorite authors. His books are always pure magic, and I'm not even ashamed to admit that I own every single one of them. His writing makes me feel like I'm falling down a rabbit hole, and I never want to come back up again. So, I may have had mildly unrealistic expectations when it came to this book. I tried my hardest to read it without any preconceived notions, but we all know how that goes. I was expecting a lot from Maguire.

The blurb about this book is a little misleading. This isn't a story about Drosselmeier the Godfather, at least not completely. Instead, this is the story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the budding young man who will eventually become that iconic character in the Nutcracker. Fair warning, if you're expecting a light and magic filled read you need to adjust your expectations. Dirk's story is dark, and a bit confusing. It's similar to those fairy tales out there were dark things lurk, bad things happen to good people, and you just hang on hoping for a happy ending.

It's honestly difficult to say too much about Dirk's story without spoiling anything. Maguire blends together myth, magic, and mischief into a story that poor young Dirk is kind of just stumbling through. The odd part of all of this is that he's just kind of reacting to things as he goes. Dirk never really makes his own decisions, or stops to consider his plight, but instead falls headlong into situations over and over again. It made it a little tough for me to love him, because he just didn't learn. If you're in the middle of fairy tale, being manipulated by mythical creatures, you think you'd be slightly more concerned. Ah, Dirk. He's just not.

On the bright side of things, there area a lot of nods to not only the original source material but also to a lot of other fairy tales. In usual Maguire fashion, this book seems to take things that wouldn't normally mesh and put them snugly into a whole picture. If only Dirk had been a little less morose, I feel like I could have really loved this book entirely.

Suffice it say, this wasn't my favorite Maguire book but I do think it carries a lot of merit anyway. The story of young Dirk Drosselmeier is intriguing at its root, and really does tie in nicely at the end to the source material. I love the Nutcracker, and I love Maguire, so this still had a special place in my heart at the end of it all. I can't wait to see what he writes next.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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