I’m not sure if that made “Unholy Night” more enjoyable or not. Even the most religiously-challenged have a vague idea of what went down on the night of Jesus’ birth. Three wise men appear thanks to a star in the sky and bestow the world’s first Christmas gifts on the wee Baby Jesus (insert Ricky Bobby prayer here). But, as author Seth Grahame-Smith notes, how much do we really know about these guys?
For me, not knowing all the intricate details of King Herod, Judea and the empire of Rome made Grahame-Smith’s novel all the more interesting because I wasn’t keeping mental tally of historical inaccuracies. It’s fun to think of the three wise men as a rather nefarious bunch, led by the criminally contempt “Antioch Ghost,” Balthazar. Befriending two thieves as he awaits execution, Galspar and Melchyor, we’re introduced to the three men who play a small but important role on the holiest of nights.
This is my favorite of Grahame-Smith’s three historical tales (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” rocked my world, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer” was my least favorite, but still likeable)—not beholden to Jane Austen’s prose or the journalistic style found in “Vampire,” this is more true storytelling, and a compelling one at that. Given how fiercely gory this story is, (this is NOT a book to sit and snack with), I found myself surprised how touched I was at the end, and how much I really did care for Balthazar, Mary and Joseph. There’s a piece of bittersweet irony, as well. A neat twist to the story, and hopefully not too blasphemous for anyone easily offended by historical alterations.
One word of caution to the reader—when I say gory, I mean, GORY. I’m a Stephen King fan, and even this was beyond the pale of anything he grossed me out with in the past. In addition to some pretty gruesome sword fighting, we’re talking serious torture and one UGLY king. Herod is sick. Sick in mind, body and spirit. Just … be ready for a couple of “Ewwww!”s and you’re good to go.