Men and mice engage in mortal conflict in this multilayered retelling of The Nutcracker.
Apprenticed to his master-toymaker father in early-19th-century Nuremberg, Stefan Drosselmeyer’s world changes after his beloved mother’s funeral. His clockmaker cousin and his traveling companion, an Arab, arrive from Boldavia after a seven-year quest for the “meat of a nut called a krakatook.” The vengeful Queen of Mice, mother to her seven-headed royal princes, has turned the human princess of Boldavia into a wooden doll, and only that rare nut can cure her. Stefan finds the nut, and the ensuing journey to Boldavia to rescue his father, kidnapped by the mice, and cure the princess is filled with danger, mechanical toys, and a visit to wise squirrels. In alternating chapters, a troubadour rat and tutor to the mouse princes sings mournfully of his folk’s disaster in Hameln, and one of those princes ruminates on his less-than-bellicose worldview. A grand battle takes place back in Nuremberg on Christmas Eve at the home of the Stahlbaums with a Nutcracker (Stefan), a slipper-tossing Marie, mechanical mice, and streets that swarm with real mice. No sweet strains of Tchaikovsky’s ballet score waft through this complex tale of family devotion, revenge, and warfare.
A fast-paced adventure whether or not all the characters are familiar. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10-13)