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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Krampus: The Yule Lord - Brom
You worship death. You and all the One Gods. They seduce mankind with their promises of glory attained in the hereafter, thus blinding men to the splendor before them here on earth.

Krampus. Quoted for truth.

The Lord of Yule is a well of great quotes, like this one, when he's speaking to an overwrought and over-righteous Methodist minister:

I am not a devil, fool. Do you ever wonder why you seek the Devil with such vigor? I shall tell you. Because you cannot face your own wickedness. The truth is there is no Devil making you torture, rape, murder, and sodomize one another, or making you destroy the very land the feeds you. There is only you. So look at yourself, for you are the only devil in this room.

When the minister starts spluttering about god smiting and whatnot, Krampus responds with...

Burn? Smite? Punish? Why is your god so intolerant? So jealous? Why must there be only one god? Why is there not room for many?

And more spluttering ensues.

Gotta love a guy who can make theological types squirm.

So, the story. Jesse, the human voice in the story, is twenty-seven, and a loser. I mean, yeah, he's a nice enough guy, but he can't hold a job, and he's let his neuroses about performing keep him from a potentially great music career. His wife, Linda, tired of his promises, has hooked up with a 65-year-old coot, Dillard, the town's requisite crooked Sheriff. (Ew, to that.) Anyway, I guess the old man may need a little blue pill to bring little Sheriff to attention, but he's also got a job, and a nice house, and so Linda has moved in with him, along with Jesse's young daughter, Abigail.

When the story begins, Jesse is coming home to the glorified tin can, i.e., trailer house, that he calls home. This is the rural southern U.S., so trailers are the housing of choice for many folks. He's sitting in front of his home, a gun in his mouth, contemplating turning his skull into a blood crater, when a guy in a red suit runs by, chased by several horned demons. A sleigh pulled by eight, not-so-tiny reindeer arrives; Santa hops in; along with a demon or two; and the sled rises into the snowy air.

A few seconds later, one of the demons falls, crushing a neighbor's car, and something else crashes through the roof of Jesse's trailer.

The something turns out to be Santa's magical sack of toys. Discovering that the sack can conjure up any conceivable toy, Jesse pulls out several of his daughter's favorite toys (Christmas shopping dilemma solved! Best dad, evah!) and heads out to deliver said toys.

Except, both Santa and the demons want the sack.

The sack once belonged to Norse trickster god, Loki, and was passed down to his grandson, Krampus. It was then stolen by "Santa Claus." And Krampus wants it back, particularly since he's imprisoned (by Santa) in a cave, and can use the sack to retrieve the key to the shackle around his neck. The demons, Krampus's Belsnickels --former humans, granted immortality and bound in service through his blood -- are the Yule Lord's primary allies.

Meanwhile, Jesse, the deadbeat loser type, is beholden to the local redneck crime lord, The General. Within the span of a few hours, he manages to piss off The General. Soon he is pursued by not only Krampus's Belsnickels, but also Santa Claus (who carries a big-ass sword) and a bunch of dangerous hillbillies.

Although Krampus's angry monologue in the beginning of the novel gives the impression he is the antagonist, he's actually a kind of co-protagonist along with Jesse. The General, Dillard and Santa are the antagonists. The story pulls Krampus's backstory from Norse mythology, with Krampus being the son of Hel, Loki's daughter, and Santa being Baldr, Odin's son. Krampus's conflicts are essentially an extension of an older rivalry between Loki and Baldr.

The story is not a black-and-white battle between good and evil, but rather a contest between the older pagan traditions that honored the earth (Krampus), and the newer, monotheistic tradition that focuses on mankind (Santa). Consequently, my sympathies would lie with Krampus even if he were the villain.

Jesse is often impulsive and too-stupid-to-live, but in a believable way. Basically, he's a well-meaning dumb-ass. The description of rural America, including the meth problem that haunts many small communities, is dead-on and at times, dryly funny. Though typically dark, gritty, and bloody, the story's tone turns bittersweet toward the end, particularly as Krampus tries to find his place, his old role, in a very new world.

Addendum: Something that occurred to me a day or so later... Since my immediate, visceral reaction to any holier-than-thou type is revulsion, I didn’t realize that Krampus and the obnoxious minister are facing the same issue: both attempting to promulgate a belief, or style of belief, that has, or is going out of style. The minister looks around his church, and see changes that seem silly, while grudging admitting that something must be done to bring in a younger crowd. He grumbles that rather than simply bringing the word of god, he’s buried in administrative duties. It doesn’t get mentioned, but more than likely, a big chunk of the younger, churchgoing crowd is a lost cause. The staid services at his church are no match for the big warehouse church up the road with its expensive sound system and multimedia show (with pop music).

*Snerk.* The irony is that the sudden appearance of a seven-foot tall “demon” in his church is the most vitalizing thing that has happened in a long while.

Brom is a gifted artist. Apparently, his gifts extend to storytelling, as well.