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I went into this expecting horror about an evil Krampus monster. What I got instead was a YA Christmas mystery adventure with a unique spin on the legend of St. Nick and the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.
And I was so pleasantly surprised! I didn’t think teens on a mystery adventure was my thing, but I really liked this book! It caught my interest quickly, and then, as soon as they were in the underground city of Poppel, I was hooked.
The descriptions of Poppel, the story behind it, the concept—it was all very fantastical and magical. Especially when they first got there, I felt like I had stepped into some eerie yet strangely quaint, alternate North Pole town, complete with sleigh pulleys, cobblestone streets, and colorful, little shops. I loved it.
But the characters were soon swept up into the tyrannical rule of the Garrisons (the men in charge), their unethical doings, their mistreatment of the Foundlings (the orphans taken to work there), and the darkness surrounding the legend of Saint Nicholas. It was interesting and kept me turning pages. And the pacing was spot on, never overwhelming, but never dragging either.
While I didn’t connect to any of the characters on a deep level, they were the type who were fun to read about and who really had me rooting for them.
There were too many likeable ones to mention them all, but Clemmie was my favorite. He was a bit of a pompous jerk in the beginning, but his sarcasm was hilarious, and, by the end, he had proven himself to be a good person. Maggie and her sister, Catherine, were great too, both headstrong and spirited. Also, one of the things I hate most is when one person is getting attacked and the others just stand there uselessly, so I cheered every time the girls stepped in to help in those types of situations. I also liked Ward who seemed so grouchy at first but then ran around with his awesome candy weapons, doing more than his part to help.
There were even some sweet family elements since most of the main characters were siblings and cousins, and they looked out and cared for each other.
“You’re not actually going down there?”
“Of course, I am,” snapped Catharine. “Someone has our sister. And much to their future suffering, I am going after her.”
And with that, she jumped into darkness.
Overall, this was a fun adventure that’s perfect for the holiday season but can probably be enjoyed year-round, and I look forward to the next book!
Anyone looking for a fun, magical adventure, especially those who want something Christmas-y for the holidays (though it can be enjoyed year-round) and who like family relationships.