REVIEW: Where After Is by Ashleigh Schmidt
Marie of Stahlbaum is inching closer to marriage with the Rat King, until her friend Drosselmeyer realizes it’s time to help her and fix his century old mistake.
Prince Cristian Dietrich was cursed to remain a doll for the rest of his life instead of facing death with the rest of his family. If Marie agrees to help break Cristian’s curse, she can free herself from an unwanted marriage. But nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and too often the price is greater than first believed.
Dear Ms. Schmidt,
The 1816 story by ETA Hoffman, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” serves as the basis for this LGBTQIA adaptation. Since I peeked at the Less Than Three website, I knew ahead of time that there would be a trans character but I resisted discovering who it was until I read the story.
Marie and her older brother Fritz were both rescued and trapped by the Rat King after the death of their parents. Now the King has decreed that Marie become his bride. Her old friend Drosslemeyer might have an out for her but it involves helping another who has been imprisoned by the King but in the form of a living nutcracker doll.
Prince Cristian Dietrich has paid the price for his decision a century ago not to give in to a fate he couldn’t endure. A war ensued, one which wrecked havoc on his homeland, caused the death of a dear friend and his family as well as leading to the Rat King and the Sugar Plum Fairy’s war which has drained the world of magic.
To break the curse and set right old wrongs will require Marie and Cristian to look deep into their hearts and battle not just one but two powerful people, plus some horrific animal minions.
Marie is not actually trained to be a kick-ass warrior but she’s got the strength of will and honor to do what she sees has to be done in order to escape her fate and help Cristian. Light touches of humor accompany her escape efforts and her attempt to steal a horse. Cristian’s reversal from a wooden doll to human form is realistically done. The rats sort of reminded me of ROUSs and I loved Spawn. The resolution of the conflict surprised me in how it was done but then I had a hard time believing that anyone named the Sugar Plum Fairy would be a total badass. The romance is quick but Marie and Cristian are tried in the cauldron of survival and roughing it over the course of their journey and the revelation of the trans character is delicately handled. I think Marie and Cristian are going to take care of the rodent problem then have a blast discovering where after is. B