Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Peter and the Starcatcher, The Giver (similar feel), Magyk, and The Magic Thief.
Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family.
The writing was beautiful and had a fun charm to it, as well as being quirky (squirrels that went to college, etc). Stefan was an amazing main character - he was relatable, courageous, and selfless. I also loved Ernst, Christian, Zacharias, the Mouse Queen, and Arthur and his brothers. There was a psychological aspect to it to - the way people react when faced with loss, and the decisions we can choose to make. As another review of this book pointed out, the famous "Christmas scene" from the Nutcracker ballet didn't occur until about 2/3 of the story, but from there on I couldn't put the book down.
All in all, an incredible retelling of the Nutcracker, even if some things didn't really make sense.