[Access article in PDF]
Legends of the origin of Santa range from the sweet to the slickly commercial; Abbott takes a different direction here by locating Kringle in Anglo-Saxon epic tradition. Kringle is born during a storm into a world that is increasingly menaced by goblins intent on obliterating or enslaving all other species, his father having been killed by the foul creatures and his mother dying shortly after his birth. When the goblins steal his guardian, the now twelve-year-old Kringle sets out to find her. During time spent in the company of elves, pirates, a priest, and mystical reindeer, all of whom rescue him from one predicament or another, Kringle learns of the goblin plot, how he is at its heart, and how nothing less than a multi-species war and the stopping of the wheel of time itself will be able to thwart the child-stealing, murderous goblins. Readers steeped in the fantasy genre will find much that is familiar here; there is an equal chance that they will either scorn as derivative or delight in the inventive juxtaposition of goblin wars, runic prophecies, and magic cloaks with flying reindeer, Christian lore, and familiar fairy tales. Abbott has indeed crafted a credible blend of Anglo-Saxon legend and Christian myth in his story of the Winter Gift Giver, and he's aided by a felicitous choice of narrator—a failed fifth-century priest turned hermit, who provides the context of the Christ-child that Kringle needs to understand his own story and defeat the goblin horde. Since his reluctant faith in Kringle's growing visionary abilities parallels the reader's, our belief neatly grows with his. Readers who have turned away from Santa to the more complex figures of Middle Earth will be pleased to find a way to unite these worlds; though this offering lacks the atmospheric detail of Fisher's Snow-Walker [End Page 168] (BCCB 10/04) and the playful humor of Farmer's The Sea of Trolls (BCCB 11/04), it adds its own magic by reinventing a character we thought we knew. Source notes are included. Reviewed from an unillustrated galley.