I should’ve known better than to trust Maguire to instill holiday cheer into anything he writes. I was definitely not filled with cheer and goodwill while reading this, which was a disappointment I should’ve seen coming.
Was this a bad book? No. It retold a familiar story in a new and unfamiliar way, from the perspective of Drosselmeier, the toy maker who crafted the eponymous Nutcracker. And Drosselmeier’s story was an interesting one. But just as he had an incredibly difficult time connecting emotionally to other people, so did I with his story. I found the book intellectually compelling but emotionally unsatisfying.
I’ve enjoyed Maguire’s work in the past. Wicked was, in my opinion, an incredibly original retelling of a story that has been told so often that it lost a bit of its life and flavor. Wicked revitalized the Wizard of Oz for me, giving it a depth that I had missed. Elphaba was a far richer character than I would have expected, and I always enjoy seeing both heroes and villains in a different light, as Maguire presented both Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, along with various other characters made famous in the original.
That’s what I was hoping for from Hiddensee, but it’s not what I got. I wanted more depth and richness added to a tale I love. And indeed, Maguire did add aspects to the old tale that were interesting, as I said before. But I just didn’t care about Drosselmeier like I yearned to. I didn’t see the Nutcracker in a new light that surprised and delighted me. I saw him given a new purpose, but he was lifeless in the pages of this book. And honestly, the tone of this book reminded me of Uprooted, which I hated. If you loved Uprooted, you might really enjoy this book.
One of the amazing things about fairy tales and folk tales is their ability to entrance us and move us in a very limited number of pages. Hiddensee felt both too long for a fairy tale and too short for a deeper, more compelling novel, leaving it on a shaky middle ground where it was unable to keep its footing. Of course, this is a personal opinion, as all of my reviews are. But now I feel the need to track down the original story to rid myself of the sour residue left by Maguire’s book, so I can reclaim a story I love. If anyone has another retelling of this story that they love, please share it with me; I don’t want my vision of the Nutcracker to stiffen with age.