David's Reviews > Unholy Night

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
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May 28, 12

bookshelves: 2012, audiobooks
Read from May 25 to 28, 2012

Seth Grahame-Smith is a remarkable author in a small field. He does a great job of taking known history with holes (as he also did in "Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter") and fills in those holes with an audacious and imaginative story that somehow manages to make perfect sense. What helps this book, and AL:VH is the fact that he stays so true to the known history. He doesn't alter the facts to fit his story. They are like the deeply rooted trees that he builds around instead of chopping them down or replanting them. The historical background of the period is also solid. In Unholy Night, Roman-occupied Judea and Jewish customs of the time match everything I've ever read about them. The characters are not anachronistic in any way. Another thing is that the fiction part is so wild and crazy that the reader is sucked in to an enchanted ride of the utterly real and the utterly weird.

Unholy Night takes the tale of the three wise men from the nativity, men made famous by Christmas cartoons and carols but given the most enigmatic reference in the Gospels. In fact, the New Testament offers nothing at all about them. We don't know their names, whether they were kings or priests, where they came from, when they arrived, or nearly anything. Grahame-Smith takes up the void and fills with a vivid tale of three thieves who escape from Herod's prison and end up masquerading as priests. They end up hiding in the same stable as Joseph and Mary and part bitterly. When Herod, however, starts slaughtering infants in his attempt to kill the Messiah before the baby can rise to power, this hits a painful memory for Belthasar (a memory that is revealed later). He commits him and his comrades Gaspar and Melchior to escorting the Jewish family to Egypt.

Halfway through, the author introduces a different supernatural element with the last of a race who have mastered dark magic, a magus - whose plural is magi. The magi have control over men's minds, the elements and other dark powers and have found themselves in servitude to Roman emperors, explaining how Rome was able to so easily build up its might. Augustus (at the bidding of Herod) uses his Magus and the demons he controls to find the fugitives along the way, causing them to narrowly escape.

My only nit-picking would come from the use of Pontius Pilate, whose role seemed a bit far-fetched given what we know about his encounter with Jesus in his last days. However, it's not enough of a deterrent to keep me from enjoying the rest of the book in every way.

Riveting adventure, good mix of horror and another imaginative way at looking at an old story. With the exception of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" for which I have a blind side, this author continues to wow with his storytelling abilities.
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