I have had amazing luck winning books from Allen & Unwin’s Facebook page! (https://www.facebook.com/AllenandUnwinBooks)
This month it was Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Now, to be completely honest – I thought it was a book about vampires. My reason for this is that part of the prize was a movie ticket to see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (haven’t seen it yet, still trying to organise babysitters), and I assumed that Unholy Night was the next in the series. Not so.
Unholy Night is the story of Balthazar, one of the Three Wise Men who were present at the birth of Jesus. Balthazar is a man of no religion and a thief. Balthazar’s presence at Jesus’s birth (or shortly thereafter) is purely by chance – after escaping certain death by execution – and saving two other men, Gaspar and Melchyor, in the process – Balthazar is simply looking for a place to hide. He brings Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold – but not as gifts for Baby Jesus, rather they are items he has stolen so he might have coin for the coming days as he tries to escape the fury of Mighty King Herod.
Balthazar’s intentions are to abandon Joseph, Mary and Jesus the next morning, after he and his companions have managed to get some rest. In the meantime however, Herod has learnt that the ancient prophecy has come true – as a star larger than any before seen lights up the Eastern sky, signifying the birth of baby Jesus. He flies into a rage and demands that all boys under the age of 2 be killed. The soldiers ride into Bethlehem, and begin slaughtering children before Balthazar’s eyes. For something as terrible as this Balthazar cannot sit idly by, and he, Gaspar and Melchyor fight the soldiers and help Joseph and Mary escape Bethlehem.
The story continues with the unlikely companions travelling together towards Egypt – while Herod and Pontius Pilate work together to bring in the infant and the theif. They face major adversity, and on several occasion seem to face certain death. During the story we learn more about Balthazar, and the event from his past that will not let him leave baby Jesus to the Romans
Seth Grahame-Smith has woven a marvelous tale – I believed every word of it.