The latest novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the founder of the mash-up genre, is considerably more controversial then his previous novels Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Part action film, part revenge fantasy, part sacrilege, Unholy Night is a violence-filled, loose reinterpretation of the story of Jesus’s birth. It focuses on three criminals who disguise themselves as Jewish holy men in order to escape the clutches of the evil Herod. Naturally, these criminals end up playing a pretty gruesome version of the “Three Wise Men” as they wrestle their own moral quandries while debating how far they will go to protect Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus from Herod and the Romans.
What’s unfortunate about this novel is that its reference to the nativity will probably turn off just as many potential readers as it will attract. Alone, the story of the three thieves, particularly the main figure, Balthazar, is compelling and highly enjoyable. It is an adventure filled with magic, mystery, and action. The tragedies and triumphs are well-constructed–Grahame-Smith is an accomplished screen writer and storyteller–and you will find yourself frightened, horrified, elated and saddened by what happens. However, if you don’t like the idea of an irreverant take on the story of Jesus’s birth, you will find yourself questioning the inclusion of certain biblical figures and being pulled out of the action despite it’s skillful trappings.
Unholy Night is a highly enjoyable book, but it just might not be for everyone.
Reviewed and Recommended by John