Books featuring a sibling with a mental illness

Book review: Midnight in Everwood

Author: M.A. Kuzniar
Publisher: Harper Collins (October 27, 2021)
Genre: Fantasy

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…

When he constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets and must find a way to return home.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

Having read the original Nutcracker or seen the ballet is not necessary to understand or enjoy Midnight in Everwood although it may deepen readers’ experience of it.  The novel had its own kind of magic, particularly in the descriptions of the marvelous, spell-binding land of Everwood.

Kuzniar touched on several issues relevant to modern day readers. The predominant of these was patriarchy and the societal expectations placed on Marietta as a woman. She was motivated by her passion for ballet, a passion and a career that she could not pursue if she followed the path her parents intended for her. However, as Marietta discovered a new world in Everwood and its surrounds, she began to reflect on her own. Much like her own, female soldiers were outlawed in Everwood, by the order of King Gelum. Conversely, the racism and heteronormativity of Marietta’s homeland were made apparent by their absence in her new world. For instance, Marietta’s brother Frederick loved his best friend Geoffery, but Marietta was the only one who knew of the true nature of their relationship. Geofferey and Frederick were both expected to find wives of their own. In Everwood, Marietta observed couples at King Gelum’s various parties, their genders of no consequence. This was merely a subplot; Marietta’s arc far more significant. At the novel’s outset, Marietta was a woman with little awareness of her own strength and by its conclusion she had embraced it. For instance, despite having auditioned for the Nottingham Ballet company, Marietta was unable to truly defy her parents before her trip to Everwood.      

Midnight in Everwood has been compared to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus as the novels share some key elements. Both hold vivid, evocative descriptions of a magical world, inviting the reader to marvel at its possibilities. And both novels have at their center two individuals who love each other deeply and are separated by circumstance. In Everwood, it was Captain Legat, one of the first people Marietta met when Drosselmeier sent her to the new world. He protected Marietta, and their connection was formed through shared vulnerability: Marietta told him of her fear of Drosslemeier and Legat admitted his hatred of King Gelum. Their relationship was an enjoyable romantic subplot that balanced the violence and tension of Everwood under Gelum’s rule.   

One of the most memorable lines of the novel was from Dellara, one of Marietta’s companions in Everwood:

‘We are angry girls with hearts made of glass…Who said anything about it being a weakness? Nothing can cut like glass.’  

Without spoiling anything, there were certain loose ends that left me hoping for a sequel. I’ll keep my fingers crossed! Midnight in Everwood is an enchanting story for lovers of magic and ballet about one woman’s unquenchable determination to fulfill her dreams, and the friends she makes along the way.

You can buy a copy of Midnight in Everwood from Booktopia.

Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel for review.

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