When the nights start drawing in and there’s a chill in the air, is there anything better than curling up with a good book? If you are looking for a recommendation, you could do a lot worse than M.A. Kuzniar’s delightful Midnight in Everwood.
If the title sounds like the stuff of fairytales, you wouldn’t be wrong for Midnight in Everwood is an engaging reimagining of The Nutcracker, aimed at a YA and more mature readership. Kuzniar weaves that enduring Christmas classic into a deft confection of ballet, fantasy and empowerment.
Starting in Nottingham in 1906, Marietta Stelle’s whole world is about to change – against her will. She lives to dance and longs to be a ballerina but her parents have decreed that, as soon as she turns 21, she must give up her dream. The only path route to her is find a husband and take her expected place in Edwardian society.
The arrival of enigmatic Doctor Drosselmeier as their affluent new neighbour sets tongue wagging across town. When this mysterious toymaker charms the Stelle family, Marietta begin to wonder if he might offer another path for her future…
[Skip this paragraph if you don’t want any more plot revealed] Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for one final ballet performance from Marietta on Christmas Eve. But all is not what it seems and our heroine as she discovers when she unwittingly enters a door that transports her to the enchanting (but perilous) Everwood – a sugar-coated, twinkling, magical kingdom that is hiding its own secrets. Think Narnia but constructed by Willy Wonka – a frosted landscape of gingerbread houses and hot chocolate streams.
Midnight in Everwood takes a Jane Austen-esque heroine and places her into a fairytale narrative to weave a coming-of-age story that has charm and a sense of wonder but also a clear underlying feminist impulse.
M.A. Kuzniar, in this her first novel aimed at adults, has some lovely turns of phrase that perfectly suit this world of enchantment:
“His jacket sleeve was silky, scented with peppermint and secrets”.
Because this is a reimagining of The Nutcracker, and as Marietta embodies the trope of an intelligent Edwardian heroine resisting the patriarchal conventions and restrictions, there’s a familiarity to the story beats. Whether this tips Midnight in Everwood into predictability or adds a cosy identifiability, will depend how much innovation you expect from the retelling of a fairytale.
If your idea of a seasonal treat is settling down with a warm drink and a good book filled with hibernal delights, The Recs certainly is happy to suggest Midnight in Everwood to you.
Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar, published by HQ, is published on 28 October 2021