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The Kingdom of Sweets by Erika Johansen
Fantasy

The Kingdom of Sweets

by Erika Johansen

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Quick take

Buckle up for a dark and strange ride! This wicked rewrite of The Nutcracker has a couple surprises up its sleeves.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Creepy

    Creepy

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BasedOnAClassic

    Based on a classic

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unsettling

    Unsettling

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Siblings

    Siblings

Synopsis

Light and dark—this is the cursed birthright placed upon Clara and Natasha by their godfather, Drosselmeyer, whose power and greed hold an entire city in his sway. Charming Clara, the favorite, grows into a life of beauty and ease, while Natasha is relegated to her sister’s shadow, ignored and unloved.

But Natasha seizes the opportunity for revenge one Christmas Eve, when Drosselmeyer arrives at the family gala with the Nutcracker, an enchanted gift that offers entry into an alternate world: the Kingdom of Sweets.

Following Clara into the glittering land of snow and sugar, Natasha discovers a source of power far greater than Drosselmeyer: the Sugar Plum Fairy, who offers her own wondrous gifts . . . and chilling bargains. But as Natasha uncovers the truth about a dark destiny crafted long before her birth, she must reckon with forces both earthly and magical, human and diabolical, and decide to which world she truly belongs.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Kingdom of Sweets.
The Kingdom of Sweets

Everyone called him Godfather. When Clara and I were christened, he came to the ceremony, though he was no relation of ours, and stood in the back of the church, leaning on his cane, grinning like a reaper as we were baptized. He wore a swirling blue cloak like that of a sorcerer in an old tale, the silken lining spangled with moon and stars, and everyone feared him. Our cook, Anastasia, who hailed from the countryside, even said he had the evil eye.

Our parents had not invited him to the christening, but because he attended, they had no choice but to invite him to the small reception at their home. They hoped he wouldn’t accept the invitation, but he did, handing my father a handsome present of gold coin before he proceeded to the corner where Clara and I lay comfortably in our cradles, staring up at the ceiling. We were the first Christmas babies that year, born shortly after midnight on the holy day, and the midwives had thought us identical. But it would never be that way again. Drosselmeyer stood over our twin cradles for a long moment, staring down at us, despite our father’s nervous attempts to lure him away with offers of cigars and brandy. When he placed one hand on each of our foreheads in the old pagan sign of blessing, our mother began to weep.

“Light,” Drosselmeyer said, looking down at Clara. And then, turning to me: “Dark.”

My mother screamed, then fainted dead away. Father and his friends tried to pull Drosselmeyer from my cradle, but he laughed and raised his cane. Darkness fell upon the room, and in the commotion afterward—people rushing to and from the kitchen seeking matches and extra lamps, Father fetching Mother’s medicine and assisting her to a sofa—it was some minutes before they realized that Drosselmeyer had disappeared, vanishing like one of his tricks.

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Why I love it

There’s something delicious about a fairy tale with some edge. Especially during a time of the year when everything can take a turn for the saccharine. Just in time for the holidays, Erika Johansen turns the classic Nutcracker story on its head and tells a haunting and twisted tale of sorcery, secrets, and betrayal.

After crashing their christening, the sorcerer Drosselmeyer curses twins Clara and Natasha, anointing them respectively “light” and “dark.” The girls grow up as such: while light and beautiful Clara floats through life believing in fairy tales, dark and plain Natasha lives in her sister’s shadow and sees the darkness in other souls. As they approach the age of 17, Natasha is forced to see the young man she loves engaged to Clara, who is pregnant out of wedlock. Come Christmas Eve, the sorcerer gifts the girls a nutcracker that transports them to the Kingdom of Sweets, a macabre realm where sugar conceals decay and the Sugar Plum Fairy seeks vengeance. Natasha decides to chase Clara through this twisted land, where they are forced to reckon with their poisoned relationship.

Brace yourself to explore the complexities of love, revenge, and the shadows that lurk beneath the surface through The Kingdom of Sweets. In a blend of dark folklore and Gothic fantasy, Johansen spins a gripping narrative that transcends the sugar-coated facade of traditional fairy tales.

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Member ratings (10,613)

  • Alexandria A.

    Kyle, TX

    I’m obsessed with this retelling of one of the few ‘Christmas’ stories I love. I haven’t yet finished but when I’m able to take time to read, I just keep reading til someone snaps me out of it. ❤️❤️

  • Courtney G.

    Charlotte, NC

    Loved. The “parallel plot” reveal had my cackle when I got it. genuinely unsettling - and I’m hard to spook! Def not retelling a la “Dorothy Must Die,” it’s dark/thoughtful/adult, and cynically genius

  • Lisa S.

    Greenville, SC

    Loved the blend of fantasy and history. None of the characters were particularly likable, but surprisingly that didn’t take away from the story like it normally would for me ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kristin N.

    Salem, OR

    I could not put this book down. It was such a different twist on the story I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was so intricate and intriguing. It was written beautifully and with such detail. Love love

  • Stephanie K.

    Chicago, IL

    What a fun, dark read! I love fairy tales and magical realism, and books that tell an old story from a new perspective. This had a great narrator, a fantastic setting, and descriptive writing. 5 stars

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