Review: Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar

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…

Christmas Eve. Nottingham. 1906. Marietta aspires to follow her dreams of performing ballet, however, her traditionalist family opposes this fancy, instead planning to wed her off by her 21st birthday. With a suitor chosen for her, Marietta struggles to accept this fate, certain there is something wrong with her soon to be betrothed, the elusive Dr Drosselmeier. When a confrontation between Marietta and Drosselmeier turns sinister, Marietta finds herself falling through a door to another world: an enchanting world full of wonder, confectionary delight and a King who promises Marietta can dance for the rest of her life… but all is not as it seems… and it soon becomes apparent Marietta has traded one cage for another.

This was such a treat! I found it very reminiscent of Disney and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and of course, The Nutcracker.

I found Marietta a likeable protagonist, often striking me with similarities to Elizabeth Swan. The way she spoke, her push back against societal restraints, the way she stood her ground against arrogant men, made Marietta a delight to read. Her resolve not to buckle under her family’s pressure and then the cruelty of the King made for chilling reading, but she continuously longs and looks for a more progressive path, where women are not controlled and owned by men and their worth is not defined by marriage.

I struggled with the earlier components, as the plot’s progression moved slower than my liking, and I’d have liked greater depth to the supporting characters, like Marietta’s love interest and the other trapped girls she befriends, even the novel’s villain. The story felt like it only touched on the surface of them all, and instead took the time to provide overly descriptive details on the Kingdoms of the world of Everwood, which didn’t become particularly relevant. 

Nonetheless, the book’s villain – King Gelum – had an air of wickedness and true cruelty that had me on the edge of my seat. He’s an ominous ruler, trapping people in his frozen palace who dare oppose him, taxes the local villagers into poverty and does nothing to help them survive a magical disease plaguing the land. As much as he had me grating my teeth not knowing what punishments he’d deliver next, it had me turning page after page, willing Marietta to defeat him and escape his torment and beautifully crafted prison. 

I really enjoyed the exquisite balance of historical fiction and fantasy. The prose felt aged like good historical fiction does. And I truly felt transported back in time and then beyond the reach of our world. From frozen gingerbread houses to peppermint candy cane train tracks, it was mouthwateringly enchanting.

The romance was beautifully spun, so much so, I was invested in it before I realised I was. It’s charming and bittersweet, with an ending you’ll love or loathe, but ultimately does not dominate the overall story.

Midnight in Everwood is a wonderful ode to a beloved classic, giving it new life by its sense of female empowerment and drive to reach for your dreams. It’s an enjoyable reimagining offering a whirlwind story to be swept up in, perfect for the winter season and lovers of fairytales.

Thank you kindly to HQ and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.

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