With winter closing in, the days are growing shorter and the darkness is clutching the world in its shadowy grasp a little bit longer every day. That makes for the perfect backdrop for reading great horror and I was hoping for a seasonal scare when I started “Twelfth Krampus Night” by Matt Manochio.
Beate may have thought that her life could not get any worse after seeing the eviscerated corpse of her best friend. She was wrong. Now she finds herself trapped in a castle surrounded by demonic creatures that are out for blood and happy to slay anyone who steps outside the castle’s walls.
It is the time of the First Night festivities and Krampus, Santa’s demonic helper, is on the prowl. For reasons unknown to her, Krampus seems to be focused on Beate. Unfortunately for Beate, he is not the only one. Frau Perchta, a hag with an affinity to slicing and disemboweling, also has her sights set on Beate. The two have come together outside the castle and begun a contest of sorts to see who will get to the prize first. Beate has no idea how she came to be that prize but is certain that she will lose no matter who wins the contest. She must find a way to escape from the castle and the monsters lurking outside before she suffers the same fate as her best friend.
That summary is not a very strong one but that is largely due to the fact that this novella is a little bit difficult to sum up easily. The story is a bit of a horror-themed fairy tale and thus has a bit of that unreal feel to it. That is not a criticism of the book but rather a comment on the form. The novella deals with the Krampus mythos that has become increasingly popular in recent year and takes the creature back closer to its origin rather than setting it in the modern world. Manochio is obviously a fan of the mythos (his novel, “The Dark Servant,” is also a Krampus story although not directly related to this novella) and he knows how to convey a sense of place in his writing. I was struck by just how strong the setting and history was in his novel “Sentinels” and that strong sense of place is also evident in this novella. I felt as if I had been transported to the castle alongside Beate. It was almost as if I was standing a little off to the side watching the events of the story unfold and witnessing the birth of a dark legend rather than reading a novella.
“Twelfth Krampus Night” is an enjoyable read and a strong horror story. Manochio is a very strong writer and his talent is evident in this novel. With the novel’s subject matter and the way in which it is written, I do not think that it will appeal to all readers as it is a little bit different from the norm. I found it to be a strong read. I easily slid into the world that Manochio creates and was fascinated by Frau Perchta and Krampus. There is not a great deal of character development but the shorter length of the story allows this to be overlooked although it would have been nice to have a character that could have served as a strong foil to the evil creatures of the tale. I also left the story thinking that there was much more to it than what was told and could easily see this story expanded into a novel. Of course, leaving the reader wanting more is not a bad thing and I am sure that Manochio will return to Krampus in the future so that gives me something to look forward to. “Twelfth Krampus Night” is an almost whimsical story at times that can turn quickly to brutality and gore so that the reader must remain on alert at all times. It is like the tale of Red Riding Hood if the wolf was on steroids and grandma was an evil witch who wanted to have Red for dinner for her flavor rather than her company. I have read a couple of Manochio’s books in the past couple months (with apologies to the author for still not getting to “The Dark Servant”) and it is clear that he has the talent to be a force in the genre for years to come and I look forward to reading more of his bloody visions in the future and would urge any horror fan to give this book a read.
I would like to thank Samhain Publishing and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Twelfth Krampus Night” is scheduled to be released in December.