Let’s head into Christmas with something out of the ordinary, shall we? This was one heck of a dark fairytale, set in West Virginia, in a town where everyone knows everyone and the head of police is in cahoots with the local crime lord.
The story opens on Christmas Eve with Jesse Walker, failed husband and father, depressed, alone, and contemplating suicide, until he sees Santa Claus attacked and fleeing into the sky, leaving behind his magic sack. What he doesn’t know is that Santa’s attackers are mostly after the magic sack, and what he thinks is his salvation turns out to be what traps him into everything that follows.
And what follows is a thrillride! Jesse is roped into being one of Krampus’ servants, along with his belsnickels, people Krampus has lent a portion of his magic to. The magic twists them into fur-covered monsters, but also grants them healing and near-immortality.
Between trying to rekindle the lost traditions of Yule and hunting down Santa Claus to end him for good, Jesse also struggles to save his wife and daughter from the possibly-murderous cop they’re living with.
By the end of the book I wasn’t sure who to cheer for, other than Jesse and one of the belsnickels, Isabel. But Krampus? He might be right, but is he good? I’m not sure. Similarly, except for his millennia-past misdeeds, Santa is good NOW. But I’m not sure he’s right. In an ideal world, the two of them could come to some compromise and apologize to each other, but this is a dark fairytale, so of course that’s not the case!
I enjoyed this book, even if there wasn’t a lot of happiness in it. It definitely embodies the Appalachia Gothic idea.
From the cover of Krampus, the Yule Lord:
One Christmas Eve in a small hollow in Boone County, West Virginia, struggling songwriter Jesse Walker witnesses a strange spectacle: seven devilish figures chasing a man in a red suit toward a sleigh and eight reindeer. When the reindeer leap skyward, taking the sleigh, devil men, and Santa into the clouds, screams follow. Moments later, a large sack plummets back to earth, a magical sack that thrusts the down-on-his-luck singer into the clutches of the terrifying Yule Lord, Krampus. But the lines between good and evil become blurred as Jesse’s new master reveals many dark secrets about the cherry-cheeked Santa Claus, including how half a millennium ago the jolly old saint imprisoned Krampus and usurped his magic.
Now Santa’s time is running short, for the Yule Lord is determined to have his retribution and reclaim Yuletide. If Jesse can survive this ancient feud, he might have the chance to redeem himself in his family’s eyes, to save his own broken dreams, and to help bring the magic of Yule to the impoverished folk of Boone County.