The Caroler by Liza Martini is a brilliant retelling of the tale of the Nutcracker, intelligently executed with lovable characters and strong plot points, bringing about a denouement that couldn’t be more satisfying.
Having been in a dark basement all along, Nutcracker no longer believes he can live any other way than the wooden manikin. That is until he awakens in his excelsior crate to discover other figurines, Carol and Glory, staring at him. When the Grace Light animates toys and dolls that have human likeness, Nutcracker finds it hard to reconnect to the person he once was, cursed and condemned to a life he abhors. But thanks to the patient prodding of Carol, who slowly touches his heart and moves him to step beyond the shell into which he has imprisoned himself. Can he ever find redemption and the goodness that once possessed his heart?
The Caroler is a beautiful tale that is filled with religious symbolism, a tale of light overcoming darkness, and a story of the triumph of goodness. The characters are stunningly imagined and written in a fascinating context. Liza Martini builds a strong plot while exploring Nutcracker’s backstory with ingenuity, allowing his background to influence the way he relates to other characters.
In the end, it is an extraordinary work of art and beauty. The atmospheric writing presents a detailed and expertly executed setting, with sounds, smells, and feel of things intelligently captured, from the heavy air after the rainfall, the smells of exhaust and pond water mixed with the steamy scent of popcorn to the warm summer feel at the opening pages of the tale. The suspense is strong and the readers are enthralled as they want to know what happens to Colonel Christoph Zacharias Drosselmeier, “Nutcracker” and if he can remember how to break the curse. While the humor is exacting, the writing is infused with magical realism and a unique sense of humanity. The story is peppered with lyrics that augment the poetic quality of the writing while creating a unique music to the ear. It is, indeed, a delightful read.