Book Review · Children · Classic · Fantasy/Paranormal/SciFi · Holiday

Book Review: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann


Genre: Children/Holiday/Christmas/Fantasy
Pages: 138
Publication Date: December 1, 2017 (Original: 1816)
Rating: 3-star-review out of 5
Theme: Kindness, Helping others, Friendship

downloadIt’s Christmas time and Godfather Drosselmeier has another round of unique gifts to share. There is one gift that captures little Mary’s attention though – a nutcracker. It is meant to be shared among the family, but since Mary has a certain attachment to it, she has been given full charge of the nutcracker.

Before she knows it, Mary is thrown into a fantastical world where the Nutcracker comes to life and must battle the Mouse King. To a world where only she can visit and has a hard time convincing anyone that her adventures are real. The ultimate question is – will she able to help the Nutcracker?


This is my first time reading a “full” version of The Nutcracker. I’ve read a couple of illustrated copies, seen a couple of animated movies, and I had the chance to see the play (Christmas gift from hubby a couple of years ago!). Needless to say I was excited to give this a read.

Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed. I’m not sure if it was because the length of the battle scene between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the creepy illustrations, the amount of errors throughout, or the fact that I didn’t really feel for any of the characters, but it was hard to enjoy this version. Aside from the confusion of the girl protagonist being named Mary rather than Clara, I was thrown more for a loop when one of Mary’s doll was named Clara. At this point, when the doll Clara came to life, I found my eyes rolling. Though I understand that the original was written in the 1800’s, so views of women were different, the dolls just acted so hysterical and ridiculous in a manner I found annoying.

Speaking of the fighting sequence, this was a scene that could have been shorter. It’s meant to be climax of the story when the fighting parties meet, so it’s understandable the scene would be lengthy, but I actually forgot that this was a Christmas story. There was so much violence and if you think too deeply, there were parts of it that were very much disturbing. For instance, the rats started eating the “live” gingerbread men that came to help in the battle. A bit too much and definitely not suited for young children. At this point of the story, I questioned why is this considered a Christmas tale? Yes, the imaginative aspect can be considered magical, but I’m not one for much fighting/battling, especially during Christmas time. Toward the end, though, when Mary enters the Nutcracker’s fantasy world, there were sweets and everyone being so gracious and fun that I did find endearing.

Some of these issues I mentioned could be contributed due to this particular translated version (that was free on Amazon at that time). I’ve only read a couple of translated novels in the past, but each time I have, I felt there was something missing. The books have felt distant and have not really captured my attention and love, which sadly was the case here.

Overall, I found this version to be middle-of-the-road. It wasn’t anything too spectacular, but it wasn’t terrible either. Perhaps next time I read The Nutcracker, I will find a different version.

Maybe. To older children and up who would like to explore the story of The Nutcracker more.


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