Title: Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker
Author: Gregory Maguire
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Gregory Maguire won my heart back in college when I began his Wicked Years series; I caught sight of its green tinted pages and it was over after that. I have all but one book of the series sitting on my bookshelf to this day, and I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz the same way again. So, when I heard that he was writing a new book in October, this one revolving around The Nutcracker and his mysterious maker, Drosselmeier, I was so excited. One of my first field trips with my school as a child was to the ballet, and ever since then, I’ve been utterly enchanted by the tale of The Nutcracker and Klara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the wintry land that they all inhabit, for however brief a time. Gregory Maguire spins a familiar tale with new, charming flair, complete with gorgeous writing, charming characters, elements of Greek mythology and Grimm’s fairy tales, as well as strong historical components. If Wicked weren’t my favorite Gregory Maguire book, Hiddensee would have high chances of taking its place. What an enchanting, thought-provoking novel!
Once there was a boy in a cottage in the woods, whose parents were an old woman and an old man. Then one day, they gave him to the forest itself, perhaps hoping that he will die inside of it. But his life changes forever when two beings, a beautiful wise woman, and a cantankerous, angry dwarf that may or may not be able to conceal himself in a knife, imploring him to find a new place for them to rest. After a near-fatal encounter in the forest, the boy flees, traveling through the various cities in Bavaria. He drifts across the country, becoming a guardian for a well to do family, then he begins to travel across the continent, using toymaking to occupy his restless hands. He finally comes to a halt when he meets his best friend’s family, and comes to be known as the mysterious, almost cloistered old toymaker who lovingly watches over little Klara and gives her The Nutcracker he is so famous for crafting. Beautifully written, lovingly wrought, and finely executed, Hiddensee pairs two origin tales, painting a darker, more mythical creation story for a character I thought I knew: The Nutcracker and Drosselmeier!
I really, really liked this book! I was really excited for a new spin on one of my favorite stories that inspired one of my favorite ballets, and no one does fairy tale or classic retellings like Gregory Maguire. The prose was lovely, almost hypnotic, and I was absolutely spellbound; I also really loved the way that Maguire took elements from both fairy tales and history itself to tell the story of the boy who would go on to become the old, grizzled Drosselmeier; to be honest, before this book came out, it never even occurred to me to wonder where the toymaker came from, or how he came to be with Klara and her family. The pacing of the book took a little while to get going, but I was enchanted once it really started picking up. I loved following Dirk’s journey, and I loved the way that Greek mythology elements were peppered throughout the narrative. It all combined to create an intoxicating, beautiful origin story, and I loved the way that The Nutcracker itself helped steer the narrative. The characters were really relatable though there were a few that I didn’t really care for. I loved the ending, though honestly it made me cry! The language and the stuttered pacing made it difficult to keep up with sometimes, hence the four star rating. Nonetheless, this new offering from a literary darling was exciting, finely wrought, tender, and thoughtful—I really enjoyed the food for thought that it gave me! The bottom line: Twinning origin stories for The Nutcracker and the man whom lovingly crafts him, Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker was a beautiful, gorgeous and thoughtful fairy tale retelling that had me laughing, crying, and thinking deeply—I loved it! Another wonderful entry in Gregory Maguire’s repertoire! Next on deck: Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco!