The Kingdom of Sweets: A Novel of the Nutcracker

Dutton. Nov. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781524742751. $28. FANTASY
Natasha and her twin sister, Clara, are given a double-edged blessing at their christening by their godfather Drosselmeyer. Clara receives all the beauty and popularity with her golden curls and charm, but Natasha is studious and short with straight black hair. Natasha has mostly been content to live in the shadow of her sister—until Clara becomes engaged to the boy Natasha loves. On that fateful Christmas Eve when the girls are about to turn 17, Drosselmeyer gives Natasha a terrifying clown and Clara the gift of an enchanted nutcracker that transports the girls to the Kingdom of Sweets, a snowy place full of lollipop trees, sugar-crystal reindeer, and marzipan grass, all ruled by the illusory Sugar Plum Fairy. Though this world seems designed for Clara, it is here Natasha gains powers that give her the chance to enact revenge on her sister and change her fate once and for all.
VERDICT In this stand-alone novel, Johansen (“Queen of the Tearling” series) writes a beautifully twisted version of The Nutcracker, exploring the nature of revenge and its costs in horror-tinged fantasy. Recommend to fans of V.E. Schwab and Hannah Whitten.
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