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Showing 1-10 of 161 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 224 reviews
on December 28, 2016
I may never forget the Antioch Ghost. I had expected Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Unholy Night” to be a reimagining of the biblical nativity tale and Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt, one where the Three Wise Men were thieves instead of magi. In concept, the book was intriguing, especially to someone like myself who enjoys historical fantasy with religious elements. In practice, the books was so much more, all because Grahame-Smith gave us the Antioch Ghost.

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.
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on January 1, 2016
Did you ever wonder about the Magi of the New Testament? We know their names, and we were told of the gifts they brought to the Christ child. But beyond that, not much is known. Seth Grahame-Smith creates a story about the Magi, especially around the one called Balthazar. Part mystery, part Spartacus, Balthazar is basically a common thief--- until an event turns him into a vengeful, bitter person who believes in nothing good, nothing sacred. How could such a man find his way into the Christmas story? How could such a man breathe the same air as the Christ child?
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.
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on November 27, 2012
This book ROCKS! I know, I know, you're thinking, "...but it's about the manger scene..." Be not fooled by appearances! This tome hides one of the coolest takes on the days leading to the birth of Jesus that I have ever heard, seen or read to date. The book reads like an action movie and the characters are as endearing as they are ruthless and verdant. This book reads even better than Seth's newest book and box office flop Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer. Although the latter has more effects based action, the a fore has a story line that is almost unbeatable and a time line that writers kill for. One of the great stories of the history of man and would be a really great movie for Christmas release! How did they make the mistake of making the Abe movie and not this one!? WTF is wrong with Hollywood, anyways? Have they completely lost touch with what a good story is? Whatever. Anyways; GREAT BOOK, MUST READ!
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on September 6, 2013
I'm not the type to read a book in a couple of days, typically takes me a month or so. But this book was amazing, I read it in 2 days. I am not a real religious person and don't know much about the bible, just the general stories I hear in church at Christmas. But this story actually helped me know more about the bible believe it or not. Yeah I know the story is nothing like what the bible would say, but it had the same general characters and events that I would look up in wiki while I read. It's pretty gory and graphic yet funny and totally respectful which I wasn't sure it would be. There's a lot of action and, from my limited knowledge of the bible, I think overall is chronically correct just sensationalized and written in an entertaining way. Sorry I am rambling and don't know what to say other than it's a fun and respectful read and I'll definitely read it again.
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on January 14, 2017
I found the reimagining of the nativity story facinating, but it was quite a chore for me to get through this book. The action scenes were written without enthusiasm and the descriptions were bare. I think much more could have been done with the material. Worth reading though- I found my mind awaken with new images and feelings about a story I've heard my whole life.
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on February 6, 2016
This is the author's first attempt at an original story. It was a quick read, but fell short of being both really interesting and cool. Not as fun as AL Vampire slayer.
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on August 26, 2012
I heard an interview with the author about this book on NPR and thought that it would be worth reading. When I finished it, I was neither happy to have read it, but I also did not feel like I had completely wasted my time. The story is fairly entertaining, if you do not mind very detailed violence, gore, torture, etc. (Though, the author does stop short of describing sexual encounters and rape.)

My main complaint with the book is that it is poorly written. I thought that it was going to be an interesting spin on an old story, but really the fact that it is the story of the 3 Magi is irrelevant. Mary, Joseph, and 'the infant' could have been replaced by any no-name characters and the book would have lost almost nothing. Additionally, there is no subtlety in the writing. If there is some metaphorical meaning, or theme running with the text, or an attempt at a biblical reference, a reference to another point in the book, the author is sure to point it out to the audience, often with something as obvious as italics.

If you come to this book looking for anything religious--either the growth of your faith if you are a Christian, or a scathing inditement of religion if you are a New Atheist--you will be disappointed, as it provides neither.

Overall, I would only recommend this book to people who are fans of Grahame-Smith, or gory pop-literature, but if you are looking for a well written interesting twist on an old story, this book is not for you.
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on January 28, 2013
I applaud the author's attempt at dealing with what could be considered a sensitive subject to some...going outside the box is a refreshing thing. I very much enjoyed the creation of the main character and understanding his world view. It was engaging and believable. However, most of the supporting characters were not very well fleshed out. And I was left wondering why they were even included.

All of this would have been excusable except that the main character, in the end, fails at being a hero, yet pays no repercussions for this. I don't need every story to have a happy ending (I rather prefer they don't), but when no lesson is learned in the telling, then I find myself asking why was the story even written?

The worst part is that this story doesn't play itself off as some fluff to be enjoyed. There is so much of the character's backstory revealed as you read, that you cannot leave this story for something to be picked up on a whim once a month when doing the laundry. It needs to be read through in a decent amount of time. And thus, I expect it to have a payoff where it does not.
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on December 29, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It was written well and the author used his imagination to give us a different look at a story most of know. What I liked most was that it was from the point of view of one of the wise men. Even though the wise men are important to the real non-fictional story we know they are not usually given much thought. This version is obviously fictional and the author changes the storyline, the outcome is the same. Another thing I enjoyed is that we see the whole story of Baltazar and how he is effected by the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We are allowed to see how a person from so long ago dealt with a personal tragedy. Read this book if you are interested in relating to a biblical story in a different way then what we have from the bible or religous teachings. This is a fictional book that does not show disrespect of anyones religious beliefs.
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on March 19, 2015
More of the same from Seth Grahame-Smith. Just another highly entertaining yarn wrapped around historical figures. Well worth reading, as Mr. Grahame-Smith paints a wonderful and vivid picture with each chapter. In my estimation, I know a book was good when I'm disappointed at finishing it. Like each of his books before this, Unholy Night left me satisfyingly disappointed to reach its conclusion.
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