Prince Dustin and Clara

297p. Fossil Mountain. Nov. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780998619101.
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Clara is good-natured and kind, but she's never been particularly brave or bold. She's not the kind of girl who dreams of going off on dangerous adventures in the mysterious Black Forest. So when her uncle's magical gift reveals an enchanted prince and his wicked foe, Clara must learn how to be brave as she and Prince Dustin head deep into the forest. The Mouse King follows close behind, bent on revenge, and it's up to the two young protagonists to ultimately defeat him. The author has chosen to embellish the classic tale of The Nutcracker with fanciful descriptions of the world and creatures that inhabit it in an homage to the iconic ballet. However, rather than a deeper connection to complex characters and motivations, this retelling skims the surface, faithfully reflecting the existing story but leaving the audience at a remove. While plenty of attention is lavished on the magic and dance inherent in the setting, Clara and Dustin remain characters on a stage, journeying through their adventure at a steady clip but never allowing readers to know them.
VERDICT A compelling premise that falters in the character development. Readers who enjoyed Karen Foxlee's Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs may want to give this a try.

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