Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Seth Gahame-Smith's Unholy Night, the Holy Family was aided by Balthazar, a cunning thief who escaped his own execution, to leave Bethlehem. Together with Melchyor and Gaspar, the trio defended the Holy Family from Herod's men and out to the desert. Balthazar, Melchyor and Gaspar are names associated with the three wise men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts to the baby Jesus. In Grahame-Smith's fiction, the three men are wise indeed, but not in a scholarly manner to which the Bible described them to be. They are thieves and criminals out to save their own skin from Herod's fatal punishment. This the conceit to which the book was built upon. Blasphemous? I say it's a work of genius.
I've often asked who were the Wise men, the Magi. At the feast of the Epiphany, our parish priest would make us all believe that they were scholars from the East who understood the meaning of the messiah's coming. In my own imagination, I
I like it that Joseph and Mary were depicted as real people subjected to weakness but strong in faith. This is the strength which assaulted Balthazar internally. Grahame-Smith provides his hero a rich backstory to bring out this internal struggle. Using the child Jesus as a metaphor of hope and blind belief, Balthazar came to forgive himself in the end. As for Melchyor and Gaspar, their redemption came, thirty three years after.
Pontius Pilate and the Roman Army were given a moment to shine as well. Pilate is yet another enigmatic character I hope some
Grahame-Smith's violence and gruesome narrative did not offend me, in fact, I found it entertaining. Perhaps I was still angry at something or someone to have enjoyed it. It was therapy reading the book. There are some events in life like death and injustice that need to be experienced to see truth and peace. Like the journey to the desert and into Egypt, such an experience is not an easy one to take. This is where we need, not just guts and toughness, but a lot of courage. A lot of faith.
What did not work
The inclusion of magic seemed off, like the warlock from the west. The angels appearing in a dream were fine by me. The warlock came out of nowhere. Grahame-Smith tried to cross genre, but I found this piece misplaced in the novel. It would have worked for me, if Herod was assisted by one of his own priests to glamor up himself and do a trickery on
Overall, it was a good read. I like Grahame-Smith's bending of history. Here