Review: Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker by Paul Thompson
Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker is a rousing finale to the Nutcracker Trilogy, featuring gladiator battles, beautiful toys, and a eucatastrophic victory.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker. I encourage you to check it out!
This review contains minor spoilers.
Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker Publisher Description:
The riveting conclusion to the Nutcracker Trilogy.
Fritz wakes up as a prisoner in Delysia, a strange realm ruled by the powerful sorcerer, Malregent, and guarded by an army of Lignumorts. With no hope of escape from his prison walls, he resigns himself to a new life as a slave. When a fellow prisoner is killed for sport in a gladiator ring, Fritz vows revenge and volunteers to fight in the grizzly games. But after discovering that Malregent knows how to unlock the Celestine, Fritz is determined to learn the secret and get back home to save his friends.
Without his magic to aid him, Fritz is in the fight of his life against trained warriors, deadly Lignumorts, and an evil emperor that has the power to destroy his world and everyone in it.
Follow Paul Thompson:
Even though this is the final book in the series, Dance of the Nutcracker gives the reader lots of new things to enjoy. Once again, the genre shifts—this time throwing Drosselmeyer into gladiator-style battles in a golden city of decadence.
The story begins in another world, so right away there are new settings and new characters. This provides far more potential than a typical third book. The view is unfamiliar, making descriptions fresh and interesting. There is more uncertainty in character behavior, adding additional tension and suspense.
The antagonist—an arrogant, power-hungry, and cruel golden emperor—seems to grow as the story progresses. Drosselmeyer is able to fool him, so at first it seems like it ought to be easy enough to overcome him, but by the end of the story he seems an insurmountable foe.
How is our hero? In The Watcher’s Realm, Fritz was characterized by obsession, frustration, and stress, rising to confront evil only when it had a strong enough foothold to really inconvenience him. Finding himself in a new world, separated from the Celestine which holds his friends and unable to do anything about that problem for now, Fritz now displays patience and fortitude.
His goal to kill Malregent is community-driven. He wants to avenge a fellow prisoner and save the others, too, if he can. He is once again proactive about driving evil out, and this time evil is the complacent party. Elements of The Watcher’s Realm come into play here, particularly working without magic. But this time it is not to hide, but to keep the element of surprise.
When he does return home, he acts to challenge wrongs and set things right, even though he wants most to help his friends.
The story is divided into two parts, the first takes place in another world, and in the second, Fritz returns home. This second portion contains the most recognizable scene adapted from the ballet: the Christmas party.
This set, where the ballet begins, is perfectly captured. Even with the final battle looming and the worries of the adults, it felt wonderous and festive. Fitz, for the fist time, really leans into the dramatic Uncle Drosselmeyer, and yet he is once again the boy who worked hard to provide comfort to children.
The descriptions of the magical toys he brings as gifts inspire a strange and delightful conviction that toys ought to be beautiful—that children should be allowed playthings to admire, even if they could be broken. Furthermore, the pleasure of beautiful and well-made toys is not merely for children. The adults receive toys as well, which bring them to tears.
The effect as a whole is to infuse the story with the beauty and hope of the holiday as seen through a child’s eyes. There are magic and loving adults in Clara’s life, and her role is assured in both her own mind and in the reader’s. But the adult concerns—the threats to life and liberty—are by no means absent, and add the bittersweet nostalgia of things both gone and currently passing.
The result, then, of this juxtaposition of childlike wonder and adulthood disheartenment is the eucatastrophic impact when hope against hope is realized in the battle on what equivalizes to Christmas morning.
Antagonists and the Watcher
One thing I will note, the antagonists begin to feel a bit repetitive in this book. Perhaps this is due to nearly all of them appearing in the same book, but all seem defined by the same traits: narcissism, cruelty, and ambition.
However, this resulted in a nice contrast with The Watcher, whose nature becomes much clearer in this book than in the one that bore his name. In fact, Fritz even meets him face-to-face. This character, easily identifiable as an archetype of our sovereign God, is notably humble and unassuming in comparison to the antagonists who surrounded themselves with wealth and loathed any challenge to their position.
This reflects meekness. Not weakness, mind you, but confidence in himself. The Watcher is not showing the character of a just God in all his glory, such as we see in Revelation, but rather the God who will humble himself for our salvation and is no less powerful for it.
And yet, judgement is not absent. Fritz was justified in the reader’s mind for the killing of child predators in the first book, pardonable for neglecting his duties upon repentance in the second book. The Watcher notes that Fritz will be held accountable for his deeds, however, and that will not be before the readers. There is a higher authority in the world of the Nutcracker Trilogy, and although he presents himself humbly, he is no less the God of Glory.
The Watcher and Dumbledore
This scene where Fritz meets the Watcher is particularly interesting to me. There were some striking similarities between it and the point in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) when Harry meets Dumbledore in a sort of “between” place.
Both scenes occurred at a moment when the enemy was poised to triumph. There is some amount of clarification about “how things work,” which I don’t mean as a criticism, since there is a satisfaction to be had in hearing everything laid out clearly.
Furthermore, both conversations touch on similar points: backstory, the role of the Watcher/Dumbledore, why the main character wasn’t told everything at the beginning, enemy motives and weaknesses, etc. All culminating in a decision whether to “go on” or go back and finish the battle.
The difference, of course, is that Thompson is doing extremely intentional things thematically that reflect his theology and work within the world he built, whereas J.K. Rowling was stepping outside of her established myth and had to end the scene assuring the main character and the reader that it “was real.”
Curse of the Rat King began the Nutcracker Trilogy with a magic school style story, and in my review for it I referenced Harry Potter. The similarities between the scene I’ve just described and the final book in that series brought Rowling’s work to mind again, so I find myself comparing the falling action of each series. I feel that Thompson’s book again makes a better showing.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ends with central characters meeting at Platform 9¾ to send their children off to Hogwarts. Even though there is so much nostalgia bait here, the emotion is off. Rather than focusing on Harry’s place of belonging—the life he built with Ginny, the career he had envisioned as a fifth year, the friendships that have stood the test of adulthood—everything centers around an event of separation and uncertainty. It is the start of an adventure for the children, certainly, but it fails to give the satisfaction and reassurance of true resolution.
On the other hand, Dance of the Nutcracker delivers this perfectly. The setting is another festive get-together, this time in peace and prosperity. Fritz is surrounded by family and friends, including many children solidifying his legacy. Everyone is together, the hero clearly belongs. A final call back to the ballet and the events of the first book deliver that sense of completeness and reminiscing. It all makes for a highly pleasing ending to the series.
Check Out Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker
Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker completes the trilogy with new elements to enjoy, the incorporation of beautiful adaptation, a rousing victory, and a fulfilling resolution. I eagerly await Paul Thompson’s next work!
Did you enjoy Drosselmeyer: Dance of the Nutcracker?
Hit the “Recommend this Book” button at the top of the page or Comment below with your own review.
We (and other readers) want to hear your thoughts!