Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: The Legend of Holly Claus

by Brittney Ryan
Start Date: 27 August 2011
End Date: 28 August 2011
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 21st 2004

Summary (from Goodreads):
Santa Claus is the King of Forever, Land of the Immortals. When one special boy writes to Santa asking what no other child has ever asked, a miracle occurs: Santa and Mrs. Claus are blessed with a daughter. But the birth of Holly Claus also brings about a terrible curse—from an evil soul named Herrikhan. Holly's heart is frozen, and the gates to Forever are locked, barring exit or entry.

As she grows into a beautiful and selfless young woman, Holly longs to break the spell that holds her people hostage. With four faithful and magical animal friends, she escapes to the wondrous world of Victorian New York, where she will face countless dangers, adventures, and a miracle all her own.

My Review:
The Legend of Holly Claus was so sweet and so lovely that I couldn't help but enjoy every minute of it. The illustrations by Laurel Long are are incredibly beautiful and they perfectly complement the story*.

I wish the romance could have been fleshed out a little bit more. I didn't really understand why Holly fell in love when she did (trying to stay spoiler-free as much as possible). It seemed like there needed to be one more chapter in the workshop with Christopher after the opera (spoiler, highlight to view), but Ryan didn't include one in order to keep the story moving, as the climax is rushing on at that point and I admit it would have been a little out of place to have another chapter developing the romance. Even still, I wish Ryan could have found some way to put it in, because the romance fell a little flat without it.

I wanted to know more about Christopher. I feel like I got just the barest glimpse of arguably the most important character in the entire novel. (Spoilers for the rest of this paragraph, highlight to view.) I couldn't believe that his demeanor in the first three quarters of the book (excluding the prologue) was caused entirely by the box with the dark vision of the future. And why did he fall in love with Holly? I just don't understand his character nearly enough. That said, he is so sweet once he falls in love with Holly that I forgot all about my objections until after I finished the book. (I admit, I might be am biased by the illustrations. Long brilliantly portrays him as the perfect romantic hero.)

In fact, I think many if not all of the characters could be expanded further. We get some of Herikkhan's backstory, and the details of his own curse, which I loved reading about, but I'm sure even Herrikhan has more depth than the pure evil he shows while trying to ensnare Holly. As Ryan says, "It [Herrikhan's condition] had not always been this way. Thousands of years before, Herrikhan had walked out of the stars, a fair young man, and stepped into the mortal world... The elders of the universe... had so admired his strength, his courage, and his ability that they did not send him back to his celestial home" (Ryan 47).  He slowly became greedy, arrogant, lazy, and eventually, evil. But I can't buy that there is no trace of the  goodness he once had, especially during the climax when Holly forgives him. And by the way, why did that destroy him? It's never really explained. It it an extension of the curse, where he has no power in the face of love? (Spoiler, highlight to view.)

Even though the story was told from Holly's perspective for the most part, looking back after this reread, she is no longer my favorite character. While I was reading, I was swept away by her goodheartedness, but now that I have finished, I realize she didn't have very much depth. Then again, this isn't the type of story that calls for much character depth, so it didn't matter as much as it would in other books. Also, Holly was without a doubt my favorite character when I was younger. I didn't notice her lack of great depth until this time around.

Part of the reason I loved Holly Claus is Ryan's writing style. It is much like the illustration in that it is intricate and beautiful. It is written as a tale for all ages rather than a specifically MG book, but a MG reader could easily lose themselves in Holly's world. Ryan perfectly captures the wonder of 1890s New York City and the fairyland of Forever. Flipping around the book, I found a passage from when Holly first arrives in New York City that shows a tiny bit of this wonder:
She could feel it before she heard it: The great city awoke. Suddenly the atmosphere began to crackle with the electricity of over a million lives. Sounds, isolated at first, grew and blended and formed the chorus of the day. Horses' hooves hammered against the granite streets, the early risers shouted greetings to each other, streetcars rattled, silverly sleigh bells jingled, children whooped, windows slammed shut against the cold, and machinery hummed to life once again. The first bundled and muffled pedestrians began to hurry through Central Park toward Fifth Avenue. Not one of them lifted his eyes to see the girl who stood, coatless, atop the Terrace, watching the scene before her as though se could never see enough. (Ryan 255)
Even though The Legend of Holly Claus is a Christmas story, there nearly no religion in it. I would happily recommend this book to friends who don't celebrate Christmas. The land of Forever, over which Nicholas "Santa" Claus and his wife Viviana reign, has its own unique mythology.

Overall Thoughts: The Legend of Holly Claus was lovely and enchanting. Although the book is very thick, there are lots of pictures as well as large font, and it goes very quickly. It's a perfect book to read during the holidaytime, but I love to read it any time (even in the middle of August). When writing this review I wanted to pick it up and read it all over again. I'm so glad I read this for FOOF. I reminded myself why I liked it so much before, and it will definitely be on my short list of favorites from now on.

*Even if you're not planning on reading this, go to the library and just look at the drawings. They are absolutely amazing and are a large part of why I enjoyed Holly Claus so much.

Click here to see some examples of Laurel Long's illustrations in Holly Claus.

I read this book for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.

1 comment:

Holly Claus said...

Hi, I'm so glad to read you likes Holly Claus so much ! If you're interested in reading about her and her message to the world, as well as the author Brittney Ryan, please check out my blog. http://hollyclausfrance.blogspot.fr/
I really hope you will appreciate it :)


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