War on Christmas (book review)

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When tragedy befalls virtuous St. Nick on Christmas Eve, his hands are forced. As a result, he must join forces with an unlikely ally. Together, they collect information in order to combat hordes of demonic entities known as Naughties and, in turn, discover who (or what) is plotting against Santa Claus and his ilk. Yet before the quest is through, the jolly elf will experience betrayal, self-doubt, an abundance of mischief and so much more. Ultimately, Santa will uncover something which threats the sanctity of all he holds dear.

War on Christmas is a book that only Edward Lorn could think up, let alone write, and one which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Known primarily for his horror novels (many of which are extreme,) Lorn took a very simple premise and spun it on its proverbial head. In the end, it was anything but simple. It certainly wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter story surrounding the iconic Claus. Nor was it mindless killing and gore, although there was a fair amount of justified murder. And that, to me, is an important distinction. Every action and reaction, on both sides of the war, were deliberate and purposeful. It was never guts and bloodshed for the sake of shock or to fill some unspoken genre quota.

The house below was strung, albeit poorly, with Christmas lights. Multi-colored bulbs dangled from the eaves of the wraparound porch, making the house seem as if it wore a hoop skirt. Smoke drifted lazily from the chimney, yet there wasn’t a single light on inside the two-story Victorian.

Santa felt that age-old draw. This simple thing—Christmas decorations—was how Santa skirted those families who did not believe.

There was always something happening on the page. I was never bored, not even momentarily. Lorn didn’t rely on battle scenes, either. There was also decent character development, not only of St. Nick but other characters as well. And while you don’t get really in-depth characterizations, what the reader does get is a strong sense of who they are and what they stand for. It isn’t always necessary to know their life story and experiences. Sometimes a firm understanding is enough.

But the element that impressed and surprised me the most was that to some degree, he delved into some fantasy. With it, some genuinely solid worldbuilding. It wasn’t typical fantasy like Lord of the Rings or Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, so please don’t go in expecting the likes of those. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say thatWar on Christmas was most similar to Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, with elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy, but both are very distinct. Story-wise, the two are completely different. Throughout Lorn’s book, there was something undeniably attractive and compelling about the mythologies and lore encompassing our beloved hero and the fictitious Toy Land setting, despite it not being a primary locale. In addition, Lorn clarified the pertinent laws or rules governing the magic system. That was refreshing because a lot of the time when you’re reading fantasy, said rules aren’t always clear or even stated at all. Along the way, there was just enough history involving Santa, the Naughties and other vile opposition. These characters and their motivations, as well as this world… were not flat at all. It was all very well-rounded and executed well; almost expertly so. I wanted more. I still want more: more adventures, more worldbuilding, more insidious evil, more fascinating history, more of everything.

As the chubby elf led his prisoner through the pines he heard no signs of life, for there was none here to be heard. The peoples of Patara and Myra had long since stopped venturing into this dark place, wherein mortals could become disorientated after only a few steps and completely lost after several yards. The woods welcomed new souls and kept them with dark magic. Santa Claus was the only human to have escaped this land.

Overall, reading this was a ton of fun—the most fun I’ve had in a while. The prose consistently left me awestruck and was quite profound. The action and intrigue were on par with, and is perhaps even better, than a lot of holiday themed horror. As a matter of fact, there were only a couple critiques to offer: the big reveal of who/what was behind the plot against Santa was relatively abrupt, albeit not forced. The motivations behind it made sense. The denouement itself was too fast and a little convenient. The antagonist was defeated too easily. I really wanted a nicely drawn-out battle for the ages, something epic in scope. The final wrap-up felt a little too Hollywood for my tastes, but I did appreciate the little crumbs the author left behind, which could easily result in more Santa Claus stories.

4 1/2 stars*

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