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Unholy Night Hardcover – April 10, 2012
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About the Author
Seth Grahame-Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In addition to adapting the screenplay for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth also wrote Tim Burton's film Dark Shadows. He lives in Los Angeles.
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In the story’s world, set in the year 2 B.C. during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Antioch Ghost is a legend, the Scourge of Rome and Thief of the Eastern Empire. The moniker belongs to Balthazar, a Syrian, who we find running from the army of Herod the Great, king of Jerusalem, who is pursuing the Ghost after his latest heist. When Balthazar is caught and imprisoned with two more outlaws, an African named Gaspar and a Greek named Melchyor, he must devise an ingenious escape, and three of Herod’s priests (“wise men,” no less) prove integral to that plan.
On the run in Bethlehem, Balthazar and his two companions take refuge in a barn, where they encounter a carpenter named Joseph, his teenage wife, and their newborn son. They also encounter Herod’s men, who have orders from their king to kill every newborn in Judea to eliminate the Messiah, whom Herod’s prophets claim will topple all the kingdoms of the world. (Herod, by the way, proves to be a truly fiendish and memorable villain in this tale!) This slaughter of innocents proves more than Balthazar can bear, motivating him to save the young family and bring holy hell down on Rome.
As far as stories about thieves go – of the medieval and ancient kind, at least – “Unholy Night” is one of the best I’ve read. In fact, had the story simply been about Balthazar the thief, it would be a good read. Balthazar, however, is not a religious man, and like many a thief he thinks only of himself. Yet once he’s involved with Mary, Joseph, and especially their infant child, he’s forced to confront serious religious questions, including the purpose of God. This conflict elevates the novel in my view.
Though despite its religious themes, the novel is no sermon. Instead, it’s a rollicking adventure packed with plenty of supernatural elements for fans of historical fantasy. There’s even a magus – an old wizard who is the last of his race -- employed by the Romans to hunt down the child using unholy magic. And then there’s the young Roman officer named Pontius Pilate who Caesar sends to aid Herod in his dark quest. The appearance of a young Pilate was an unexpected twist, and Grahame-Smith does a clever job of tying the events in this novel to those later in Christ’s life, as well as to a scorchingly famous event in the history of Rome.
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. My only disappointment is that it’s a standalone novel, which means there will be no more stories about the Antioch Ghost. The man had series potential, but at least, in his only performance, he stole the show.
Grahame-Smith brings to us vivid, imaginative details of Herod, Pontius Pilot, Joseph, Mary and the Babe. Some scenes are fantastical, others surreal. We are but bystanders to a vast, ancient stage that displays the gory glory of Roman rule. Men slay their fellow men propelled by power, greed and revenge.... Balthazar among them until he is thrust into the presence of Joseph, Mary and the Babe, and thus into history.
If you're opposed to age old tortures, swords and all, there are parts of this story you will not like. Still, it is set in the early days of Christ, so parts may be unsettling, but the story is worth it. And, with Grahame-Smith's imaginative gift (Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) one really shouldn't be too surprised. With the lack of facts about the Magi, Unholy Night provides an almost plausible, but certainly entertaining story.
Most recent customer reviews
Non stop action.
It was riveting, the author weaving them in and out of danger.
The story of the origins of Christ, and he wasn't the main character.Read more
Seth Grahame-Smith is, perhaps, most famous for his books Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, two...Read more