• The Good: Evil Santa, but even better, Krampus, equal parts benevolent and malicious, an endearing seven-foot horned devil with a flair for drama
  • The Bad: Plot doesn’t live up to the epic characters
  • The Literary: New interpretation of Norse mythology

Jesse Walker, a struggling musician recently left by his wife and daughter, sits in his truck on Christmas Eve getting drunk so he doesn’t have to spend the night alone in his one-room trailer home. He doesn’t believe his eyes when he witnesses devil-like creatures fighting a red suited man in a sleigh, but when a large magical sack falls to the ground nearby, he thinks his troubles are over. Unfortunately, Santa isn’t the only one after the sack. Jesse falls into the clutches of Krampus, the Yule Lord, and learns the real history of Christmas.

If you’re looking for an entertaining winter urban fantasy set in a small town, this is for you. Krampus, the horned devil anti-hero Yule-lord is the real protagonist of the novel, at last escaping his hundreds of years imprisonment by Santa Claus. The jolly, cherry-cheeked present-distributor displaced the Yule Lord and stole his magic, and Krampus is ready to reclaim Yuletide and have his retribution. The feud turns out to be far more ancient when Krampus reveals Santa’s true origin, and I love the interpretation and interweaving of Christmas with paganism and Norse mythology.

This isn’t a sweet Christmas tale, but it also isn’t the grand epic I expected of two ancient gods fighting for power, magic, and the throne of the winter solstice celebration. Instead, there is a little story about Jesse, a loser whose truck barely gets him to his weekend gigs in the small town honky-tonk bars and who runs meth for The General to make ends meet. Jesse’s estranged wife is sleeping with the police chief, who also wants him gone. Complete with low-brow humor, drugs, torture, and small-town corruption, Jesse’s story is a train wreck of trashy adventure that doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.

Highly recommended for fans of Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, or Jim Butcher that love mythology. You won’t regret listening to Kirby Heyborne’s narration!