Holiday Book Review: “Hiddensee: The Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” by Gregory Maguire

Review

In the past, I’ve been pretty upfront about my love for nutcrackers. I love the story, their ties to folklore and the belief that they can be used to ward off evil and bringing good luck (I may be a tad superstitious).

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A fan of fantasy novels, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear that Gregory Maguire was taking on the story of the nutcracker in his most recent novel “Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”

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That being said, let me make one thing clear: Like most of Maguire’s novels, this book is absolutely not the story that you think you are getting when you pick it up. This story does not focus on the nutcracker, but rather, his maker, Heir Drosselmeir the toymaker.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the book follows Drosselmeir through life, beginning with his youth as a young boy named Dirk. While at first you suspect (and maybe hope) that Dirk will grow into the nutcracker, that theory is quickly dashed when his mentor dubs him Drosselmeir.

There’s no getting around it: this book is odd. It’s quirky, dark and at times requires your complete concentration. It is not a cheerful rendition of German children dancing around the Christmas tree, plagued by the wretched mouse king.

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It’s a highly symbolic journey into the human subconscious, with its theme for longing for childhood innocence making it relatable. It is, first and foremost, beautiful. I’m not sure I realized just how much I enjoyed this book until after I was done reading it.

Like all Maguire novels, this book makes you think. This is probably why I loved it so much. I’d recommend this read to nutcracker fans, literary nerds and fantasy enthusiasts alike. An absolute must-add for your holiday reading list!

P.S. 17 Days Until Christmas!

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Reviewing Cursed Child (Warning: Contains Spoilers)

Inspiration, Review

Our wizarding friend Harry Potter has been all of the media lately, with the release of the playbook Cursed Child gaining not only a lot of attention, but equal amounts of praise and criticism. Now that I’ve had a week to collect my thoughts, I’m ready to publish my review.

Readers of this blog and those of you who know me personally will know that I am a huge Harry Potter fan and attended the midnight release party for this book. Nine years later, what I loved best and what I disliked most:

Worst:

  1. Lapses in character. I have a few thoughts concerning this criticism.
    1. Readers witnessed serious breaks in character from Harry. Harry would never have been so cruel to his son, having grown up an orphan himself, and it was out of character for him to also be rude to McGonagall.
    2. Ron’s character was disappointing. He just didn’t feel like Ron.
    3. Harry and Draco’s newfound friendship was much too rushed (granted this is probably due to the play format…but still).
    4. Voldemort would NEVER have a child. He’s too smart to procreate and risk having another human possess the same amount of power and abilities as himself.
  2. Reliance on the time-turner. I wish that there had been more new content as opposed to a heavy reliance on the past. This felt like a cop-out to me, but I was also afraid that the play would now change my perception of events when I go back and re-read or re-watch the original series. When I think about the night Voldemort murders Harry’s parents, I don’t want to think about future Harry witnessing it or about Voldemort’s deranged love child attempting to keep him from dying.
  3. Penmanship. J.K. Rowling did not write this play…and it shows. I realize this was a play, but it still read very differently from the books, format aside. I wish the language and nature had been more similar to the books that we all love.

Best:

  1. The fun of another book. Marking the release date on my calendar and attending a midnight celebration allowed me to relive one aspect of my childhood. It was a lot of fun looking forward to this book and also enjoying the rebirth the series has had in pop culture.
  2. Draco’s son. In my opinion, Scorpius was probably the best and most interesting character in the play. Immensely different from his family, readers were introduced to a well thought-out new character.
  3. Visiting Hogwarts again. Although I did not love all of the plot, it was fun to revisit Hogwarts and the wizarding world once again. Nostalgia brought back of lot of good memories, both in regard to reading the original series and visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and there were several places in the play that I found myself laughing and smiling as I thought back on this series.

Thoughts? Comment below.