A couple months ago, I read “Claus” by Tony Bertauski and thought that it was an interesting take on the legend of Santa Claus. I had a review copy of the second book in the series, “Jack: The Tale of Frost” and started the book hoping to return to that world and seeing which direction the author was going to take the story in.
Mr. Frost is an eccentric millionaire who is unusually short and fat. He has made his fortune off of Christmas, a holiday that he claims to have invented. Sura is a teenager when she first meets Jack in a room that is kept unnaturally cold. Sura is at first taken aback by Mr. Frost and his strange obsession with Christmas but she never stops to question the man. Frost Plantation becomes her home and the center of her world.
Sura starts to work for Mr. Frost and loves her job. She discounts the persistent rumors that Mr. Frost is an elven. After all, there is no such thing as elven folk and, even if there were, they would not be living on a plantation in South Carolina. Then she meets Jack and her belief in what she thinks is real is shaken. Jack is even stranger than Mr. Frost and there is one great difference between Jack and Mr. Frost. While Mr. Frost has an abiding love for Christmas, Jack hates the holiday with an equal passion.
My first thought when I started reading “Jack” is that the story was very confusing. I had a difficult time picking up the narrative and was somewhat lost at what was happening in the story. Three seemed to be very little connection to the first book in that the setting and the characters seemed far removed from the first novel. It took me a little while to place the characters with those in the first book and I have to admit that this caused me to lose some interest from the outset. Still, I worked through my initial problems with the story and was able to pick up the thread a little further in and settle into the story.
While most of the reviews I saw for this book were very positive, I just could not get into the story like I did with the first book. While I still found the book interesting, especially in its mix of science fiction and fantasy much like the first, the story was just not as compelling as it was in “Claus.” I think that the biggest shortcoming in the book is that there really was not a sympathetic character. This is a book that is missing its hero and it was hard to care about what was happening without having a character to root for. “Jack” was somewhat hamstrung by its lack of good characters as it was largely a conglomeration of villains. There is some redemption in the story but it was too little, too late for me. While fans of the first book should enjoy this one as well, “Jack” was lacking the charm and vision that made “Claus” work for me. I would still be interested in reading the further exploits of these characters but “Jack” was a turn in the wrong direction for me.
I would like to give a thank you to NetGalley and Tony Bertauski for this review copy. “Jack” is available now.