The Win­ter Rid­dle

Sam Hooker Black Spot Books (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $14.99 (338pp), 978-1-73240-070-2

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - CLAIRE FOS­TER

Deck the halls and grab your Christ­mas garters! Sam Hooker’s smart, snarky new novel, The Win­ter Rid­dle, is the best farce of the sea­son.

The Win­ter Witch is sick and tired of Vik­ings, jolly old elves, and frost giants. Her arc­tic em­pire is over­crowded with myth­i­cal crea­tures. In a des­per­ate at­tempt to blast them all to smithereens and get some much needed peace and quiet, the Witch part­ners with Santa Claus. Santa is a surly, salty, re­tired war­rior, armed with a spring-loaded ham­mer: the last per­son whose lap you’d put a child on. To­gether, he and the White Witch try to head off the end of the world.

Draw­ing on clas­sic win­ter myths and Christ­mas sto­ries, The Win­ter Rid­dle is a topsy-turvy yule­tide romp. Hooker weaves a hi­lar­i­ous yarn that de­liv­ers the same de­li­cious quick pac­ing and quirky char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that sparkled in his first novel, Peril In The Old Coun­try. The Win­ter Rid­dle mixes well-loved fig­ures from po­etry and leg­end into a fan­tas­tic and saucy story. Noth­ing is off-lim­its, and Hooker glee­fully runs his char­ac­ters through a gory ob­sta­cle course through the tun­dra, over a few hun­dred grasp­ing corpses, and into the fortress of a wicked necro­mancer.

It’s a daunt­ing task, even for a cou­ple of semi-im­mor­tal demi-gods. The Win­ter Rid­dle is flip­pant but keeps ten­sion run­ning high through ev­ery twist and turn of the plot. Its di­a­logue is well bal­anced with ex­po­si­tion, keep­ing the novel from turn­ing too slap­stick.

The Win­ter Rid­dle is a sprig of hol­i­day holly: spiky, lovely, and es­sen­tial win­ter reading.

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