#1237 – SECRETS OF THE BLACK FOREST #2 by Daniel Lee Nicholson


Prince Dustin and Clara
Secrets of the Black Forest, Book 2
Written by Daniel Lee Nicholson
Illustrated by Luke Ahearn
Fossil Mountain Publishing 8/29/2019
269 pages   Age 8—12

Genre:  Middle Grade Book, Fantasy
Themes: Adaptation, The Nutcracker



Time is running out! Prince Dustin and Clara only have three days to save the kingdoms deep in the Black Forest. They must journey even deeper into the woods, a mystical and perilous realm of magic, enchantment and monstrous creatures. Clara soon discovers why those that travel to this faraway land seldom return to tell their tales. They never suspect that Clara’s uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer, a powerful wizard, has a dark secret that becomes their biggest challenge. (from back cover)

The thrilling adventure continues for 12-year old Clara and Prince Dustin, as Clara returns to the Land of Legends, a magical place of creatures and animals; a brave prince, fairy tale princesses, and a Snow Queen.

Opening Sentences

On a splendid spring day many, many years ago, the remaining snow on the mountaintops finally melted. The last of the rock-hard icicles surrendered. They were no match against the warm, gentle breeze in the air. (The Prologue, titled The Wizard)

Why I like this book

Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest #2 begins with twelve-year-old Clara packing for a stay at her friend Marie’s home. Back in the town of Konfetenburg, in the Black Forest, Egon is exacting revenge for the death of his brother, the Mouse King, by kidnapping the Sugar Plum Fairy (Prince Dustin’s fairy-sister).  Egon takes the fairy to a creepy castle deep in the Black Forest, an extremely dense and dark place most would avoid (and a popular setting for many of Grimm’s tales). These woods are enchanted and contain monsters and weird creatures only a great imagination or a very wicked wizard might think to create. Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara’s uncle and a wizard, is at this castle with Egon.

Prince Dustin brings Clara back to the Land of Legends, where they, along with the royal guard’s general, a real dog (no, really, he’s a dog) and a beaver named Bronson become Sugar Plum Fairy’s rescue team. They must hurry before Egon does something horrible to her, such as making her dinner. (He would have eaten some of the scary scorpions that chased the rescue team, so why not a sugar fairy?).

As Clara and group race through the Black Forest, odd creatures stall their momentum. Butterflies approach with such force and velocity that the entire area looks like a dense black storm cloud. Clara mistakes the butterflies for harmless little bugs, but found this was a mistake when they swarmed around her like a tornado, eventually knocking her out. Thanks to the others resourcefulness, Clara remains with the group. She may become Egon’s second victim, rather than a possible hero, if she doesn’t take these complex creatures seriously and be wary . . . very wary.

This is the second book in this Prince Dustin and Clara series. I have yet to read the first book, so I can say with certainty that the second can stand on its own, though I would recommend reading the series in the order written. Characters are well developed and, except in name, feel new. The writing is very good and engaging. The author hooks readers a bit slowly during chapter one, which would have taken off on its best feet had it begun in the Black Forests with the rescue team, rather than at home with Clara packing for a trip.

There is a prologue. I am not in favor of prologues, in most cases. The information needs to be of the utmost importance to the reader’s understanding of the story; readers must need to know this information in order to understand what is happening beginning in chapter one. This prologue tries to foreshadow a coming event, with one character thinking about previous events. There are hints of trouble ahead with each interruption of his recollections. Readers not need to know this right away, so it could wait. Honestly, Nicholson is of such talent that he can keep readers’ attention without falling back on a long ago conventions.

Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest #2 is a not a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet, the perennial Christmas favorite by French author Alexandre Dumas, with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The ballet is an adaptation of ETA Hoffmann’s 1816 tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse-King,” the original dark short story which began all obsession with The Nutcracker.  Daniel Lee Nicholson’s Nutcracker gets a new name, yet is but another retelling of Hoffman’s original.

It seems an easy task to retell a story someone has already fleshed out, but to do it justice, the author must make it his or her own. The question you should ask before reading any adaptation is, “Is this version the same old story dressed in a frilly new outfit, or a completely (or near completely) different tale with characters fleshed out in unexpected directions, recognizable only by their name.” Your answer will tell you to read it or skip it.

And Nicholson’s Nutcracker?

Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest #2 is a definitely The Nutcracker with renewed life. It is given new life up with secrets, monsters and creatures, dark wizards, and the strangest forest in the world; tied with unexpected twists and turns of a magical bow; and turned into an epic fantasy of bigger and better proportions. In other words, do not miss this series. Prince Dustin and Clara is worth your time.

Illustrations in black and white above each new chapter and occasional full-pages.

Available at Amazon

Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest #2. Text Copyright © 2019 by Daniel Lee Nicholson. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Luke Ahearn. Published by Fossil Mountain Publishing, Watauga, TX.


Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

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