Krampus : the Yule lord is another work by artist turned author Brom. Along the same lines as The child thief, Brom takes a well known story, adds the “lost” pagan version, and infuses it with a degree of moral ambiguity.
So, here’s a Christmas season post that’s actually about “Christmas”. Sort of.
Brief plot summary
Musician Jesse is miserable. After failing to get his daughter the Christmas present she wanted, Jesse witnesses what appears to be a fight between Santa Claus and a small group of mysterious attackers. Discovering that the battle sent Santa’s sack through the roof if his trailer, Jesse soon becomes embroiled in a centuries long conflict between Krampus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas.
So how is it?
It’s on par with The child thief, generally. It’s biggest strength over that book is that Brom draws from pagan religions about which significantly more is known than the vague Celtic paganism of The child thief. Krampus draws heavily on Anglo-Saxon/Continental Germanic/Norse polytheism, and Brom does an excellent job of intermixing the now-traditional Santa Claus stories with this prechristian base.
Per the norm for Brom-penned works, Krampus is beautifully illustrated. To be completely honest, the illustrations are a huge part of the draw for me and this book would probably come across as too derivative of Stephen King if it wasn’t for them.
Thematically, there’s a lot in common with Neil Gaiman’s work generally. Supernatural beings struggle in an increasingly materialistic world, gods attempt to co-opt popular beliefs for their own gain, etc. etc. It’s not particularly new but then again, what is?
The war between Krampus and Santa Claus is suitably morally ambiguous. It would be easy to say that Krampus is the “good guy”, attempting to take back the holiday season, but his methods are questionable at best and his goals are, well … Yule is not exactly a celebration of sweetness and light.
I don’t really have much else to say about this one. Pretty much everything I said about The child thief could apply here. It’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, and it doesn’t feel like the same story with some superficial modifications. If anything, Krampus is an improvement over The child thief. The pacing is better and the second half doesn’t fall in quality as it does in Brom’s earlier book.
It’s a big thumbs up for fans of horror fiction, or for those who get annoyed at the saccharine happiness of the Christmas season. It’s yet another “finding the true meaning of Christmas” story but with the normal narrative inverted. It’s clever and good for people who find the whole holiday season cloying.
Stylistically, Brom is close enough to Stephen King that I recommend one to fans of the other without hesitation. I’ve yet to come across a Stephen King fan who didn’t enjoy Brom’s work, and I know a couple of people who had previously discounted King on account of his popularity coming to King through Brom and enjoying his work.