Book Review: Krampus: The Yule Lord, by Brom
Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Picking up Krampus: The Yule Lord started out as a bit of a joke. I was reading A Christmas Carol, which has been my Christmas tradition for about a decade now, and decided to balance it out with something completely different. I went into Krampus fully expecting a horror novel that ripped Christmas apart. What I got was wildly different and infinitely more powerful. This book was profound and though-provoking and so much more emotional than I anticipated. Strangely enough, Krampus ended up being one of my favorite books of the year, providing a depth and nuance to famous and infamous figures that surprised me, as well as giving me a cast of new characters to root for. I have never been more pleasantly surprised by a book with such a disturbing cover. Which was also done by Brom. The man is an incredible artist.
This take on Krampus was absolutely fascinating. I had to do some research of my own as I didn’t know much about the origins of Krampus and was immediately taken in by Brom’s Norse take on the myth of Krampus. There’s a good deal of debate over whether Krampus is a lesser member of the Norse pantheon and potentially the grandson of Loki, as Brom supposes in this novel, or if he’s tied more to Germanic paganism. Whatever Krampus’s true origins may be, I found Brom’s Norse mythological take on his story absolutely fascinating. I won’t discuss the other Norse tie-in as it’s a spoiler, but it was a delightful surprise that I never would have considered.
I also loved seeing the funhouse mirror dichotomy of Krampus and Santa Claus. In this book, Santa Claus and Krampus are both far more morally ambiguous than their more commonly known myths portray. Santa is not wholly good, or even mostly good depending on whose perspective you’re viewing him from, and Krampus is far from evil. Krampus was also a very likable character who could be surprisingly kind. I didn’t expect to like him, but he won me over almost immediately. I actually think he might’ve been my favorite character in the entire book.
Krampus is terrible in the original sense of the word, yes, but he can also be kind. Crazed, yes, but understandably so after the last half a millennia he’s spent in captivity. But I found him a surprisingly nuanced character. As was Santa Claus, actually. You haven’t lived until you’ve read about Santa armed with a broadsword, facing off against Krampus. It’s even odder when you’re rooting for Krampus. And yet, here we are.
As for characters outside of Krampus and Santa, I initially found Jesse weak and pitiable, if not exactly likable. But he grew tremendously over the course of the story in ways that felt both hopeful and realistic. I liked Isabelle immediately, and found the rest of the supporting cast colorful and varied enough to remain interesting for the entirety of the novel.
The choice in setting was wonderful and made a strange kind of sense. Instead of the North Pole, the majority of the story actually takes place in Appalachian West Virginia. I love seeing classic characters in unusual settings. But there’s also something kind of mysterious and a little bit mystical about Appalachia, so I thought it was a wonderful choice. In his afterword Brom goes into more detail as to why he chose this particular locale, and I found it a fascinating and insightful decision.
Krampus is a novel that kept me on my toes, as I never had any idea where the narrative was going. I was absorbed and invested from start to finish, and can see myself rereading this every few Decembers. I feel like I learned a lot, while also being entertained and made to think in equal measures. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Brom, but it won’t be the last. His ideas are incredibly interesting, his characters are sympathetic, and his writing style immediately draws you in. If you want to add a little edge to your Yuletide or Christmas celebrations that also has a lot of heart, you should definitely pick up a copy of Krampus: The Yule Lord.
(Side note: Physical copies of this book are difficult to track down. Links to digital copies are provided below.)
You can purchase this book from: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible | Libro.fm (Support independent bookstores!)