Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Release Date: October 19th, 2021
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Curtis spends most of his time in Las Vegas, focusing on his life and job and avoiding his past. But for three months of the year, he travels to the Arctic Circle, where he works as one of Santa’s elves.
I thought this book sounded magical, but with a darker edge and an element of mystery. I expected some tension around the constant back and forth to the Arctic. Unfortunately, this was one of those books that failed to live up to expectations.
To start with, the book opens in an office where an assistant to ‘Mr C’ is hard at work. ‘Mr C’ is, quite obviously, Mr Claus, but the dialogue and the way he’s talked about makes it seem almost like his identity is a secret. There were some interesting elements in the book – especially regarding the ‘elves’ – that were skimmed over. For some reason, ‘Mr C’ targets those individuals who have experienced something traumatic and takes them to work for him for a quarter of the year. If it sounds like Mr C operates in the same sort of way as a cult leader then, well, yeah, he kind of does.
Some elves don’t return, ever, and remain at the circle all year round. Again, this was another aspect that was skimmed over too easily. Curtis interacts with some of the elves, but there’s the impression he mostly keeps to himself, meaning we get a very limited view of the Arctic Circle and what actually goes on there. Coming up to the ten-year anniversary of the worst day of Curtis’ life, he is sent by Mr C to do a particular job.
Essentially, Curtis finds himself working as a counsellor in his hometown. At the school his niece attends.
I know people do change a lot, but his niece doesn’t even recognise him, and he fails completely to recognise her. It’s one of those twists that just feels really forced and doesn’t completely make sense. As we find out more about what happened to Curtis, it becomes clear he’s actually acted incredibly selfishly – he turned his back on his sister and niece when they needed him the most and spiralled into self-pity. Curtis basically ran away. It’s understandable that depression can make someone do things out of character, but it’s hard to like a protagonist or even want to see them succeed when they don’t seem to want those things for themselves at all, and would rather dwell in self-pity and misery. Essentially, there was little about Curtis that was actually likeable.
The ending, too, is completely glossed over, and to me, it felt like it wasn’t really earned – it’s the main issue with the book, where not enough time is given for the events to really make sense, and where everything is resolved just a little too easily.
Overall, there were some interesting ideas here, but the book and writing was too superficial and surface level to really tackle and do justice to the themes raised.
Thank you to Atmosphere Press for providing me this book via NetGalley. Views remain my own.