Cover Image: The Kingdom of Sweets

The Kingdom of Sweets

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Member Reviews

I've always loved "The Nutcracker" and have watched the ballet several times. I also really love fairy-tale retellings, so this book sounded right up my alley! I don't think I've read a re-telling of this story before, so I went in with a lot of anticipation. Unfortunately, while I did enjoy aspects of it, it didn't quite live up to everything I was hoping for.

I did enjoy the way the story centered around the relationship between the two sisters, and I think the book worked best when focused on this part of the story. I also appreciated how dark and, at times, violent the story way. Frankly, I was a bit surprised by this, as I think I had it my head that this would be a lighter tale! Nope! But I think that this greater depth ended up helping the story, ultimately.

Unfortunately, I struggled to connect to the characters and style of writing. Especially in the first half of the story, I felt like I was having to work to keep my attention focused on the story before me. Luckily, things did pick up towards the second half, but by then my reading experience had already been hampered. I also didn't find myself overly invested in the characters themselves; several of them were incredibly unlikable, and the others were just kind of...there.

Overall, this was a mixed read for me. There was potential here, for sure, but ultimately much of my reading experience felt like work. Fans of "The Nutcracker" may still want to check this out, but I do think there was room for improvement.

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First, thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book. I want to state upfront that I did DNF this at 60%

The Kingdom of Sweets is a retelling of The Nutcracker from the perspective of Natasha, Clara’s “cursed,” lesser known sister who is the shadow to Clara’s shine. Their godfather declared one sister light and the other dark, and so it has been ever since. While her sister is the golden girl, Natasha is strange, forgotten, and solitary. On Christmas eve, Natasha is given the chance at freedom and revenge.

I was initially very curious about this story. I have never seen The Nutcracker before, nor do I know much about the original story. But I’ve been in the mood for retellings lately, especially those that are fairy-tale-esque. I enjoyed the initial setup of the book: two twins that are opposites in every way, but still have a strong bond. I think the atmosphere of the story was dark and whimsical, and I think this had potential.

However, this ended up not being quite my taste. I recently read a Nutcracker retelling that I really loved (The Soldier Prince in Leigh Bardugo’s collection of short stories, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic), so this had a hard job of trying to live up to that. I think where this fell flat for me was some of the character work. I felt generally estranged from every single character, and couldn’t find anyone to root for. I’ll admit, I don’t always have to like a character to love them, but after reading more than half of this, I was mostly just disinterested.

While this wasn’t for me, I definitely think this story could work for those who like morally grey characters, a dark fairytale vibe, and revenge stories. Do check trigger warnings, and I hope this story finds its audience.

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This book has such a cute and fun premise but it was badly in need of a stronger edit. However, I think if you go into reading this just wanting something seasonal and fun- this is it!

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The Kingdom of Sweets takes the story of the Nutcracker Ballet and turns it on its head. Imagine if the Sugar Plum Fairy was not so nice and sweet. Imagine if Clara was vapid and foolish and full of herself. Imagine if Drosselmeyer had cruel intentions for giving the Nutcracker to Clara. Better yet... what if Clara had a sister that was the dark shadow to her brilliant light? These questions are all answered and addressed by Erika Johansen in the Kingdom of Sweets.

This is not your Nutrcracker Ballet Christmas Romance of the Nutcracker Prince and Clara. Far from it. Instead this is a story of the power of twins, what happens when a dark sister is ignored, and the power of claiming your own nature without shame or dispute. The Rat King is but a glimmer in the story while Natasha, the Dark Twin is our main character while Clara is but a side character. To be honest I kinda preferred it that way.

Johansen introduces us to the twin sisters of Clara and Natasha where in this story Drosselmeyer is more like the dark fairy Maleficent who curses the twins to be known as Light and Dark. Of course Clara is adored and given everything and can do no wrong while Natasha is left to be shunned and ridiculed. However where the Nutcracker Ballet leaves off in the Kingdom of Sweets well this is where the story truly begins. Natasha decides to follow Clara to the Kingdom of Sweets and trust me not all is as it seems.

The Kingdom of Sweets is truly just a gauze for what is truly on the inside. There is revenge and retribution and darkness. The world beneath the Kingdom of Sweets and its true heart is dark and cruel and the Sugar Plum Fairy is more a Nemesis then a dear.

While Natasha delves in the nature of what the curse holds between her and her sister , she also discovers the revenge that the Sugar Plum Fairy plots against Drosselmeyer . From here the story unfolds to one of a mother's love, the bond and loathing between siblings, pivotal moments in Russian history, and the desire of what one will do to be truly seen.

The Kingdom of Sweets was more then I expected it to be. It was deliciously dark and at times violent, other times heartbreaking. It was difficult for me to find myself liking Clara, who I have always loved in the Nutcracker Ballet, but in the Kingdom of Sweets she was vapid and annoying. I followed Natasha's story earnestly and loved every moment of it. As one that has also known what it is like to the be the Wallflower and the Dark sort, I found myself rooting for her throughout. While her decisions were not always ones I would have agreed with, I found myself endeared to her.

Johansen has a talent for presenting all the characters we have known and loved along with new characters in such a bewitching light that I found myself sucked in. The Kingdom of Sweets was nothing more then a pretty facade for an otherwise dark Fae world and I absolutely loved it. If you have a desire for a darker tale and take on the Nutcracker then I highly recommend the Kingdom of Sweets. I loved it and cannot recommend it enough. Not just for the holiday season but any time at all. Until next time, happy reading!

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I’m stumped on how to review this book.

Confession: I almost gave up between the 15-20% point. I was bored, and I didn’t like the characters.

I persevered, which I’m mostly happy about. The second half of the book gets weird in a fun way. Parts held me riveted. Yet, other parts dragged.

Overall, I think the story had more pages than necessary, with some repetition and filler. But the essence is brilliant and beautiful.

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I forgot to leave a review for this, but I really enjoyed it! It's been out for ages, so I won't say much more than I need to for my star rating. <3

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"The Kingdom of Sweets" by Erika Johansen is a captivating retelling of the classic tale of "The Nutcracker" that brilliantly weaves in darker elements from the original story. Johansen beautifully explores the relationships between the characters, particularly Clara and the Nutcracker, adding depth and complexity to their interactions.
I was impressed by Johansen's ability to blend the sweetness of the original fairy tale with a darker, more sinister undertone. The author's vivid descriptions painted a rich and atmospheric world that was both enchanting and eerie. The Kingdom of Sweets felt both inviting and foreboding, adding an extra layer of mystery to the narrative.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Johansen's exploration of the relationships between the characters and the inclusion of darker elements, I felt that the pacing of the story was a bit uneven at times. Some parts felt rushed, while others dragged on a bit too long. However, overall, "The Kingdom of Sweets" is a captivating and imaginative retelling that fans of the original Nutcracker story are sure to enjoy.
In conclusion, I give "The Kingdom of Sweets" 4 out of 5 stars for its beautiful prose, intriguing relationships between the characters, and the masterful way in which darker elements from the original story were incorporated. Johansen's retelling is a mesmerizing read that offers a fresh perspective on a beloved classic tale.

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I got a widget for this book and I waffled on whether I really wanted to give it a try, but in the end I thought the premise sounded interesting and I'm a sucker for retellings and reimaginings. Sadly this did not end up being for me and took some turns that did not work for me.

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A darkly fun retelling of a classic story. I appreciated the addition of Natasha and the sibling dynamic, which added a depth that wasn't present in the short story original. I also appreciated the older protagonists and more mature perspectives. Lots of fun to read!

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Wow, this book was nothing like I expected. In some ways that was a good thing, in others not so much. I thought it was cool to do a light vs dark sister angle. The setting and writing were really well done, but I wasn't sure what message the author was trying to get across. Some of the shaming had a very anti-feminism vibe. Overall, an interesting book with a plot that's definitely memorable.

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I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this book. All opinions are my own.

I am so happy I was able to read this dark and twisted retelling of The Nutcracker. This was well worth the time! My only criticism is that I would have liked more of the questions I had about the story answered by the end of the book. It would have been just that bit more satisfying.

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Thank you so much to the publisher and Netgalley for the e-ARC! I will be reviewing and/or showcasing this book on my social media accounts when I can. Thanks again very much appreciated and looking forward to this book!

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This seems to be getting either very good or very bad reviews; I’m on the very good end of the spectrum. I don’t really remember The Nutcracker and knew this was inspired by it (not a retelling as it is much darker, yay.) 😁 With lots of flawed characters and beautiful writing, I devoured The Kingdom of Sweets.

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As a dance in my past I was so excited to read this book, but was a little worried I'd get bored. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but this story blew those expectations out of the water. Complex, dark, and twisty. I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on a classic story. I didn't really want to leave the world created by Erika Johansen and honestly wish this was set up as a series to go deeper into the magic systems and world that have been created. I do recommend this book, and I can't wait to read more by the author.

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👴🏻 I am once again asking for half stars. 😅🙈

<b>2.5</b>⭐️ rounded up? I guess? This book was constantly saying so much without saying much. Sometimes overdone mysteriousness reads as lazy or uncreative. 🫢 So many motivations and mysteries were beyond flimsy, it made it really difficult to stay interested in the odd twists and turns this story took. Also. Why does dark/different than light, beautiful Clara have to mean ugly? Like. 😐 We’re still doing that?
I will disagree with some reviewers that found the twins flat at the beginning - that almost felt intentional to me, like an innocence vs. experience kind of thing, as both of them, especially Natasha, gain more compassion and understanding as they grow older. Took an awful long time to get there, it’s true, but they did get there. I appreciated Natasha realizing that she had wanted/accepted so little and that it was a huge problem for women in their time.
Lining the narrative up with what was going on historically in the second half mostly worked for me, though I can see some readers struggling with it if you don’t lean toward historical or aren’t interested in this time period. Lastly, and not terribly important, but as someone named Natali who loves Russian inspired stories, it bugged me that Natasha’s nickname was Nat and not Tasha.

<i>Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton / Penguin Random House for an eARC of this book.</i>

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The Kingdom of Sweets is a dark retelling of The Nutcracker where Clara and Natasha are cursed when they are born by their godfather, Drosselmeyer. One Christmas Eve, also the eve of their birthday, Natasha decides to take revenge.

Like many people, I grew up with The Nutcracker story and I was excited to read a dark version of it. I found the premise of the nutcracker that Drosselmeyer brings that fateful night to be a portal to The Kingdom of Sweets to be an interesting turn, and the plot that follows was well done. It held my interest for the 50% of the book. There is a part in the book that says something to the extent of "This is where the story should end, but it doesn't" and that's where it lost me. The last half of the book felt long to me. I felt like it could have been at least 100 pages shorter. I nearly put it down at one point. I pushed through and the ending redeemed the story for me.

It does have some pretty descriptive violent scenes included, so something to keep in mind.

Overall, I thought it was fine. It's definitely a different look at The Nutcracker.
Thank you Dutton Books and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.

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This gothic nutcracker retelling got me out a book slump and has me wanting to read more from this author. This story follows Natasha a twin who has trouble living in her sister Clara’s shadow. Natasha is in love with her best friend that is until her sister Clara becomes pregnant forcing Clara to marry Natasha’s love to protect the secret. On Christmas though their uncle Drosselmeyer has other plans to open a door into another world the kingdom of sweets but things are not as innocent as they seem in this new world.

Retellings for me are really hit or miss and I am so happy I picked this one up. I loved the atmosphere and writing in this book it felt very descriptive and unique. My issue was there were times where the story felt a little slow but I still flew through this book. The characters in this book I enjoyed as well. I really hope to pick up some backlog for this author soon. I would like to thank net galley and the publishers for a chance to read this book for an honest review.

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A Dark Twist on the Nutcracker is the tale of twin sisters, divided by envy and magic, set against each other on one fateful Christmas Eve. Light and dark—this is the destiny placed upon Natasha and Clara, I enjoyed this book, the first time reading from this author Erika Johansen. If you like dark stories, this is for you, Thank you.

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Actual rating: 3.5

I love Erika Johansen - her "Queen of the Tearling" series is one of my all-time favorites - but this book left a lot to be answered. I loved the main character, because in my opinion more female MCs need to be morally grey/anti-heroes/straight up villainous, and the world of the Sugar Plum Fairy was definitely fleshed out enough to be super creepy and frightening. However, since the book took place over many decades - most of their lifetimes, in fact - I felt there was too much left unsaid. For instance, Clara's "redemption," which we didn't see at all since it took place off-page. I didn't feel Clara deserved the ending she got; she was definitely an evil character, although of course not as out right as some of the other villains. This was a very unique retelling of the Nutcracker, and as usual the writing was fantastic.

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If you came to this book expecting the strong heroine and the smart plotting of the Tearling trilogy, you will be disappointed. Nothing here is either smart or strong. The characters are cardboard, and the plot, other than the fantastical part cribbed from the Nutcracker, is so unoriginal that Jane Austen did it much better. Granted, I didn’t finish the book, but I did give it the first ten chapters. Unfortunately, not the book for me.

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