The Enchanted Sonata // The Nutcracker vs The Pied Piper

Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork
Genre: Fairytale retelling // Fantasy // YA
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

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.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review. Also apologies that this is a bit late

The Enchanted Sonata is a retelling of both The Nutcracker and The Pied Piper of Hamelin. While I don’t remember too much about The Nutcracker, it’s a story I always loved (most likely because of that one Barbie movie. I’m pretty sure I watched it over and over again. I also had the dolls. I LOVED it) so I was excited to read a retelling for it, especially since I don’t often see one? Despite it being a popular ballet? And then combined with The Pied Piper? Sign me up!

I have to admit I was a bit bored at times, especially because the story isn’t just told from Clara’s POV, but also other supporting/minor characters. At some point we even get the villain’s POV. This all just took away some of the surprise, plus I didn’t really care for the minor characters? I’d much rather follow Clara and the Nutcracker, whose dynamic I loved. I’m weak for cute banter okay? Their romance definitely put a smile on my face.

As for the worldbuilding, I was a bit confused. It felt like the story relied too much on the reader knowing the original fairytale of The Nutcracker without explaining why there are giant rats attacking the kingdom? The rats are also kind of an afterthought, as the real villain is The Pied Piper.

I was also disappointed in how they found out how to defeat The Pied Piper. Clara is whisked away to The Nutcracker’s world through a fairy book, which tells the story of The Nutcracker. Once she’s all caught up to the present, there’s nothing there for her to read anymore, as she’s now part of the story. But then the book updates, and literally tells her how she will defeat The Pied Piper. It felt so cheap and easy, whereas Clara figuring it out herself would’ve been so much more powerful, especially because in the beginning she’s very motivated by impressing the pianist Johann, instead of doing things for herself. Speaking of Johann, I do love how Clara realises that she barely even knows him and that she was more in love with the idea of him than with him.

That said, The Enchanted Sonata is a fun and cute retelling, that I definitely do recommend! I loved the atmosphere and the relationship between Clara and The Nutcracker. Maybe it was a bit insta-love-y (I don’t remember it that well) but in this case I didn’t mind.

Have you read The Enchanted Sonata? Do you know any YA retellings of The Nutcracker or The Pied Piper? What’s your favourite retelling? Let me know in the comments!

Lost Boy, Found Boy // Futuristic Neverland Where No One Is Straight™

Author: Jenn Polish
Genre: Sci-fi // Retelling // LGBTQIAP+ //YA
Goodreads rating: 2.75
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a futuristic world, Neverland is a holomatrix, Hook is a cyborg, and Tinker Bell is an automated computer interface.

Peter is desperate to save his lover from a military draft that, unbeknownst to him, Mir volunteered for because they are desperate to be able to fly. So, naturally, Peter programs an entire island—Neverland—as a refuge where Mir can fly without having to fight in a war.

But he doesn’t locate Mir right away; instead, he fights for control of the island with automated interface Tinker Bell, and in his attempts to find Mir, others arrive on the island. But Peter’s single-minded focus on Mir generates repercussions for everyone.Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Well, this was a fun read! Unfortunately this book does lack a lot of worldbuilding and the characters are kinda flat. I still enjoyed reading it though, even though it left me with a lot of questions. Let’s start out with the things I liked

What I liked

💛 Peter is trans and in love with Mir, who’s non-binary. Peter also refers to them as their enbyfriend!
💛 Tinkerbell is an asexual lesbian computer interface and in love with Gwen, who is based on Wendy
💛 Hook is a bisexual cyborg (though I do have one problem with how this was written but I’ll get to that)
💛 Two of the Lost Boys are in love with each other!
💛 Hook is a part of the squad!!
💛 It was fun to see how the original tale was woven into this
💛 Peter is such a soft boy for Mir??
💛 It’s a really quick read

What I didn’t like

Now as for things I didn’t like/felt the book could improve on…

💛 I have NO CLUE about the world this is set in. It’s clearly a futuristic world, and as they talk about ‘old Earth’ I think it’s a different planet? But I have no idea. There’s also a war going on, but that’s barely touched upon. I don’t know why there’s a war or who they’re fighting. Also: I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW NEVERLAND WORKS I DON’T KNOW IF I’M STUPID OR WHAT. So basically Peter has a dream about Neverland and then decides to make it real. It’s VR but it’s also real?? They’re actually taken to Neverland?? How does this work help maybe I’m just overthinking it too much but for a while I thought it was all virtual reality because Peter puts on a VR helmet?? Did that helmet transport him to the world he coded?? And then it turned out he was really there?? MUCH CONFUSION

💛 The characters are unfortunately really flat. They only have a few characteristsics, though in case of The Lost Boys they pretty much have none? New characters kept appearing without really developing the previous ones, and the Lost Boys are suddenly there and barely get any screen time. Hook is a cyborg through experiments but?? We don’t know why or what exactly happened

💛 The plot is really, really rushed, which also leads to a lot of telling instead of showing. For example we don’t see Gwen and Peter falling out. There’s a time skip where it’s already happened because Peter starts to get really frustrated and takes that out on the others, but I wish we could’ve seen that happen

💛 So there’s nothing to indicate that Hook is bisexual in the book, though since this is an ARC that may change. It’s clear that he’s not straight, but if it weren’t from the author’s bio on Goodreads I wouldn’t have known that he’s supposed to be bisexual, which is a real shame.

💛 Tink and Gwen are cute but we don’t really see them develop as a couple, which makes me so sad

Basically this book has A LOT of potential. If the book had been longer, developed the plot, characters and the relationships more – this would have been a really, really great book. It’s such a fun take on Peter Pan and there’s a lot of LGBTQIAP+ rep. I definitely have hope for this author’s next works.

Lost Boy, Found Boy comes out 19th March!Have you read Lost Boy, Found Boy, or are you planning to? Have you read any Peter Pan retellings that you’d recommend? Or other LGBTQIAP+ retellings? Let me know in the comments!

Mini Reviews // How Much Do I Remember About Flame in the Mist and Marked?

Lately I’ve been able to review books quite quickly after I finish them, but there are some books that I just… forgot about. Thus why I decided to put them together in a post with mini reviews, because I don’t remember enough for full reviews. This shall be fun*

* Haha not help me please

Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Fantasy | Retelling | YA
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Goodreads rating: 3.97
My rating:  ★★★

 

 

 

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really enjoy it either. The writing didn’t really pull me in and made me feel quite detached from the characters. I didn’t care about any of them which made the action scenes feel lacking. I was also really bored and had to force myself to finish it, because despite being bored I did want to know how it would end.

The worldbuilding didn’t feel that developed to me. I didn’t really have a sense of the world that it was set in and I’m really confused about the magic system. I wished that had been explored and explained more.

And don’t get me started on the romance. I found it incredibly forced and it came out of nowhere. I also loathed the love interest so that didn’t help.

I absolutely love the concept – we need more Mulan retellings guys – but the execution not so much.

Author: Kim Richardson
Genre: Fantasy | YA
Series: Soul Guardians #1
Goodreads rating: 3.7
My rating: ★

 

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Kara Nightingale is unpopular, awkward and positively ordinary—that is until one day she is struck by a bus and dies…Within moments her life changes from ordinary to extraordinary as she wakes up in a mysterious world with a new career—as a rookie for the Guardian Angel Legion. Kara is pulled into the supernatural where monkeys drive the elevators, oracles scurry above giant crystal balls and where demons feed on the souls of mortals.

When an Elemental child is kidnapped, Kara is sent on a danger-filled quest and plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything she could ever imagine.Marked was not what I expected at all. There was a lot more focus on unnecessary relationship drama than on what it means to be a Guardian Angel, their world, the Elemental child and Kara coming to terms with being dead.

I have no idea why Kara was chosen to become a Guardian Angel, as we don’t know anything about her and the moment we’re introduced to her is the moment right before she dies. Then she even gets a ‘life-quest’, which is a special assignment and if you succeed you get your life back. But Kara is still a rookie, and not a succesful one. So why does she get it? Aren’t there Guardian Angels who would deserve it more? I found this really ridiculous, especially when it’s explained that ‘each guardian was chosen for their specific skills’ okay but what skills does Kara have.

SPOILER: It’s a really dangerous mission and out of all the Guardians chosen to try and succeed, all of them very skilled and with a lot of experience, she’s the only survivor lmao like sure that’s realistic

The characters were incredibly flat and the love interest downright annoying. I barely ever use the word ‘douchebag’ but this is the right word to describe him. His ego is not charming and funny, just rude. The romance came out of nowhere and we’re supposed to believe ‘they’re in love’

The Elemental child the summary mentions just felt like an afterthought and the entire book just read like a first draft. I have another book by this author on my Kindle app and I’m willing to give her another chance, but considering how much I hated the main characters of Guardian Angels I’m done with that series.

So I guess the common factor between these books is forced romance? I hadn’t even realised when I decided to review these together haha. I’m quite pleased with myself at how much I remembered* – I thought this would’ve been a disaster and I might end up deleting this post

* That’s half a lie – I didn’t remember anything about Marked but thankfully I had made notes in the ebookHave you read these? What did you think? How do you feel about forced romance? Do you know any good Mulan retellings? Let me know in the comments!