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Friday, January 7, 2011

Demon of Christmas Present by Yolanda Sfetsos

Demon of Christmas Present by Yolanda Sfetsos
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemp, Paranormal, holiday
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Lily

Darkness is cheap, and demons like it…

Noel is actually looking forward to Christmas this year because it will mark the first anniversary since he met Natala. Plus, he has a big surprise for her and knows just how he wants to celebrate afterward. But when Nick drops in and asks them to help find his missing wife, they agree to go back to HQ in the North Pole with him.

While Natala attempts to use her knowledge of demons to track Nick’s wife down, Noel is forced to wait helpless inside HQ. And what lays waiting at the end of the line only puts Natala in the clutches of another demon.

This time, Natala is the only one who can take down the dark threat, while Noel wonders if she’ll make it back in time for Christmas.

Ms. Sfetsos has managed to achieve what many authors cannot – she has created the second book of a series that is very different from the first.

The main characters are the same (except for a different demon and secondary characters), but this story has much less to do with Christmas. Okay, Santa Claus plays a huge part along with his wife Carol (didn’t you know she had a name?), it’s set in the North Pole, there are Christmas elves on the assembly line of Santa’s workshop, and it’s Christmas Eve. But Demon of Christmas Present is much darker than its predecessor, the writing and plot less simple and heart-warming.

There is humor (as there was in the first book) with Nick (aka Santa Claus) walking in on the main characters, Natala the imp and Noel, when they’re having sex; and some rather curious character tics: Nick paces about “switching from old to younger with every step”. This annoyed Noel, “…can you stop with the body changes, you’re making me dizzy…”

For me, the characters made the book – they have their own quirks, abilities and only one of them is actually human. The plot, though, of this character-driven story felt at times to be contrived.

I had to wonder why Nick chose Noel – who was of no use whatsoever, except to look handsome – and Natala – who is a fragile imp who easily loses her powers once her crystal is taken from her – to help him bring about the downfall of Krampus the foul demon who intends to take over the human world and has a penchant for young children. He really is a disgusting figure: terrifying red irises, crusty features, claws, thick horns who wants to “suck the magical juice” from Natala for eternity. Nor could I see the reason for Nick pretending that his wife had run away with another man (and that man was possibly Krampus!) to entice the couple to the North Pole to help him. Why not tell them the truth? They’d still have gone.

My other grouch was the treatment of young human children which verges on abuse in my opinion. Krampus collected little children (average age, five) who he said were no good to society anyway. “… he grabbed a little girl…The leer never left his face…[he] cut a deep line across each of the little girl’s wrists.”

Despite these points, the adventure kept me reading purely because I was concerned for Natala’s well-being. There’s more action in this story than the first but, once again, I wished that it didn’t end so quickly. I’m dying to know how Natala adapted to our world in the year she and Noel were together – her trip into Sydney for the first time is mentioned only briefly. And I’m still curious about life in the Wilds, where the imps come from, and the Wastelands where the demons are banished to. Maybe I’ll just have to use my own imagination.

In true Dickens’ form, I’m certain there’s going to be a Demon of Christmas Future (and I predict Noel will be the new Santa Claus). I just hope that Ms. Sfetsos will take her time over it and not be in a hurry to finish.

I still recommend Demon of Christmas Past for your Christmas light reading, but I suggest you wait for the New Year to read this one. For those who enjoy paranormal suspense and romance with a Christmas twist, then these two books are definitely for you. Just don’t expect a Jolly Holiday theme with Demon of Christmas Present.