The Enchanted Sonata is the Pied Piper/Nutcracker mashup-retelling (with a sprinkling of Phantom of the Opera) that you never knew you needed! It’s a lyrical, magical tale that’s perfect for Christmas.
Book: The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
I loved this book so much I stayed up til midnight to finish it – and if you know how much I like my sleep, that is really saying something. The Nutcracker’s never been one of my favourite stories, but I really really loved the way that it was made fresh here – this is definitely a story you can read without needing to know any of the background as it hangs together as its own story perfectly. There’s a real sense of magic in the story that sweeps you along – I smiled at the various references, but never felt that they detracted from the originality of this story.
There are a few bizarre sentences scattered throughout the book, and I’m not sure if these were just errors, or meant for effect. But the occasional jarring (/nonsensical!) sentence actually highlighted for me how flowing the rest of the prose was. Our main character, Clara, has devoted her life to the piano, and music forms the basic of the Pied Piper character’s magic – well, reading this felt like listening to a sweeping piece of music. The scenery, especially the snowy scenes and those in the amazing chocolate house Polichinelle’s, is gorgeously drawn, which makes it easy to lose yourself in the story. This is a very visual book, and it feels like an old-fashioned fairytale.
I loved the device of the book within a book – at the beginning of the story, Clara receives a nutcracker toy and a storybook from an unknown person, and begins to read about Prince Nikolai, only to find herself thrown into the story! This meant that we got a great look at Nikolai’s character before he was transformed, and made him a lot more sympathetic than an eight-foot wooden soldier could have been. This also allows Clara some wonderful moments of bafflement at the world which she has fallen into – I found this really amusing. I loved her horror at the size of the rats, and her reaction to the badass nuns – oh, and her awe at the chocolates available at Polichinelle’s! It just felt really magical. Erik, the Piper character, was a proper fairytale villain, but I was fascinated to find out more about his background. I loved the nod to the Phantom, with him living in the bowels of the Opera House.
I don’t really know how to describe how utterly magical this felt while reading it. It felt like the book equivalent of sitting down in front of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty as an adult – a rich visual experience tinged with nostalgia and fairy magic and a little bit of amusement at the naivete of fairy tale characters. It made me go ‘aww’ out loud at two points towards the end, and well, any book worth losing sleep over must be very good indeed! If you’re looking for a magical, musical winter read, then The Enchanted Sonata is a must. Five out of five cats.