Published by Harper Collins on October 30th 2012
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Horror
Buy on Amazon, Buy on B&N
“Terrific. A wild ride….I loved it. It hooked me and I couldn’t put it down.”—Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy
Acclaimed author and artist Brom raised eyebrows and pulse rates with The Child Thief, his grim, brilliantly audacious, gorgeously illustrated reimagining of the Peter Pan legend. So what does this innovative fantasist do for an encore? He tinkers darkly with the beloved mythology of Santa Claus. Set in Appalachia, Krampus the Yule Lord is a twisted fairytale about a failed West Virginia songwriter who gets ensnared on Christmas Eve in an eternal war between a not-so-saintly Saint Nick and his dark enemy Krampus, aka Black Peter, an ancient trickster demon. Krampus the Yule Lord is Gregory Maguire (Wicked) meets Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) in the realm of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, as Clive Barker (Mr. B. Gone) works his dark sorcery from the shadows. Once again featuring Brom’s chillingly beautiful artwork throughout, Krampus the Yule Lord is a feast of wonder straight from the kitchen of Sweeney Todd.
I can’t say I’ve ever read anything like this before. While I love Brom’s artwork, I wasn’t sure if he could make the transition to writing. He did, and quite well. Yes, I know, I only gave it three stars, but that has more to do with my tastes than any fault on the part of the writer. Krampus: The Yule Lord takes a fresh look at the myths surrounding Krampus and brings them to the modern world. I tend to prefer my fantasy to remain outside the realm of the real world, so wannabe country singers, trailer parks and crooked sheriffs really aren’t my thing. But I liked it enough to finish it. Someone who is more open to real-world fantasy would probably enjoy this a lot more than I did.
Brom does a great job of portraying Santa and Krampus as forces of nature as opposed to entities with good/bad agendas. No human can truly relate to either one of them, yet both possess characteristics that, despite their alien nature, make it hard not to empathize with them. Jesse Walker, the protagonist, is caught up in the squabble between these two beings. I found him less than likable, at least through the first half of the book. He grows up a bit by the end of the book, and actually starts behaving well enough I didn’t hate him. I enjoyed some of the supporting cast, like Krampus’ minions, more.
This is not a kid friendly Christmas story. There is lots of violence and villainy along the way. It’s definitely aimed at adults. If you’re fan of Brom’s artwork, there are several drawings by him throughout the story. They’re quite well done, and as usual, I found myself envying Brom’s skill.
My only other nit is the length of the story. I think it could have been shorter. Perhaps that is merely a symptom of me disliking Jesse. If I’d cared about him and his many issues, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded. As it was, I wanted him to suck it up and go take down the vile people threatening his ex-wife and kid.
After the story proper ends, Brom writes about his inspiration in writing the tale, and what sort of research he did. This was quite interesting to me as I enjoy looking over the writer’s shoulder and learning from their experiences. I also learned quite a bit about the folklore surrounding Krampus.
I would definitely consider reading another book by Brom. In fact, I picked The Child Thief some time back, even before I bought Krampus. I’ll give it a go once I hunt it down in – it’s packed in a box somewhere.