by Lani Lenore
Date Released: 3rd December, 2014
A horrific retelling of the classic Nutcracker story. On Christmas Eve in 1905, a household in London finds itself under a centuries-old curse when a strange new toy is brought into the house.
A young nanny named Anne is immersed in the horrific world of her unstable charge, Olivia, when a bite from a mouse makes her the size of a doll. She must brave a world of mangled and demented toys that have come to life. Each has his own vendetta - the most unrelenting of which is the mysterious and handsomely-carved nutcracker, who becomes Anne’s only sane ally.
There is war in the lower levels of the house between the rodents and the toys, yet Anne's only concern is getting Olivia and herself back to the way they once were before it is too late for either of them. (From Goodreads)
Now, I don't usually read or review self-pubbed books. It's a waste of my time slugging through the thousands of mediocre books to find that one gem. But here I am to tell you that I've found a gem.
I've been a fan of Lani Lenore for nearly a decade, when she published her stories on fictionpress.com and fanfiction.net, and when she decided to pull her stories, rewrite, and publish them, I immediately got my hands on her work.
In The Nutcracker Bleeds, a dark retelling of the Christmas tale of The Nutcracker, we are thrown into a world where toys come to life during the night, and are thrust in the midst of a war between toys and mice. When Olivia and her maid Ann are shrunk due to mouse magic, they are forced to find their own roles in this world: Olivia as Queen of the toys, and Ann, a wayward girl who might be the catalyst to everything.
The plot is definitely the star of the show. It never stops being a thrilling ride, there's always something happening. This makes it a quick read, despite its crazy length (600+ pages on the ebook). It is almost overwhelming, the amount of action that's flung in your face.
Their foe comes in the form of the Rat King, who has a limited supply of magic, and in order to replenish his magic levels enough to turn back into a human, he must eat either tiny Olivia or tiny Ann. Thus, his army of rats and mice are constantly on the lookout for the girls, and kill any toys that come in their way.
Olivia is nonplussed about the whole situation, so sure that her toy guards will protect her in her fortress of books. Not only that, but she pines after her brand new nutcracker, Armand.
Armand is a curious character. Made of wood, but with the heart of a human, he was transformed into a nutcracker by the Rat King many centuries ago. His mission is to defeat the Rat King and become a human again.
The cast of characters is massive, and it's so fun to see all the interactions between all the characters. There's a puppet who carved himself a wooden phallus; a glutton of a toy who gorges on food that rots within him; and an androgynous doll who lusts after Armand, so much so that he plans on replacing Armand's head with his own.
There are multiple threads of narrative, and they all interweave nicely, and get tied up in interesting--though sometimes convenient--ways. Ann and Armand's endings felt too good to be true, and I think that was my main disappointment.
I found this an engaging read, and it saddens me that so few people know about Lani Lenore and her work, so I've decided to give away my physical copy of The Nutcracker Bleeds.
Cover Art: 4
The giveaway is international, but there are certain rules to enter.
Firstly, you must be a follower, whether by email, bloglovin', or GFC. Leave a message with your email or username so I can check.
Second, you must leave a comment, stating your favourite retelling, whether mythological, fairytale, or other. Be creative, think of obscure titles, anything goes!
You get an extra entry for advertising it on twitter/on your blog/tumblr/whatever. Just leave a link to it in your comment.
The comp ends 30th of August, so just over a month from now.
May the odds be ever in your favour!