Once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever.

For me, Christmas is magic.

I adore a cold, sparkling winter, a cosy home twinkling with fairy lights, the scent of gingerbread baking in the oven and dressing up in something lovely to attend a performance of The Nutcracker ballet.
It was one particularly nostalgic day that I suddenly decided I wanted to retell this story. I can’t quite recall if it was during one of my adult beginner ballet classes or a disgruntled summer’s day when I found myself longing for crisp, cool weather, but that urge to write a glittering enchantment of a book seized my heart and never let go. I believed that The Nutcracker was the ultimate embodiment of festive magic. After all, the ballet has been captivating audiences since it became a Christmas classic halfway through the last century and is an annual staple of many ballet companies around the world. I was wrong.

My first foray into research was reading E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the original point of inspiration for the ballet. It was unexpectedly dark. Yes, there was The Land of Sweets, but it was also brimming with uneasiness and gloom, from Drosselmeier’s gaslighting and frightening of Marie – who was renamed Clara for the ballet – to her parents, who threaten to punish her if she doesn’t stop talking about her Nutcracker.
I found this all deeply compelling, and determined at once that a creepy Drosselmeier with ulterior motives and the suppression of Marie’s voice would be interesting themes to explore as I re-span this story. A darker edge to undercut the sugar-sweet enchantments at play.

So when you step through the grandfather clock on the chime of midnight, keep your wits about you – Everwood may be delicious and tempting as a box of chocolates, but unspeakable dangers poison its candied palace.

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…