Pros: Some real gems
Cons: Variable story quality
Rating: 4 out of 5
Rhonda Parrish is the editor of the anthology Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say, a collection of 14 stories in which Mrs. Claus takes center stage. As is the case for nearly any anthology, some stories are better than others. But overall the quality is quite high. It’s nice to finally see Mrs. Claus get to do more than bake cookies and help her husband around the house!
Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s “Wight Christmas” introduces us to a Mrs. Claus who’s a Valkyrie! She sets off to warn the Council of holidays that there is a war on Christmas going on: several shipments of toys have been sabotaged, and elves have been injured and killed. She joins up with a wight who works for the Skeleton King in order to investigate the crimes. When dealing with Council business everyone is referred to by their holidays, and I found it hilarious to see people referred to as “National Raisin Council Day” and “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. It’s fun to see that all of these little days of recognition have been allowed onto the Council. This entry is equal parts hilarious and creepy, while the next story, C.B. Calsing’s “The Asylum Musicale,” is just plain creepy. Pregnant Lizzie Fields is in an insane asylum when the mysterious Yessica Klaus is brought in. Only Yessica seems to care when Lizzie goes into labor, but she may have an agenda of her own…
There’s a tale by D.J. Tyrer called “Desperately Seeking Santa” in which Santa disappears and Mother Christmas has to find and rescue him. This was short, straightforward, and kind of unsatisfying. “The True Story of Christina and Kristopher Kringle,” by Ross Van Dusen, also didn’t satisfy me. This time Mr. Kringle has no real agency, and Mrs. Kringle just seems to magically produce whatever’s needed. Still, it’s sweet. There’s an odd little story called “Shouldering the Burden” by M.L.D. Curelas that sees Phaedra–Mrs. Claus–delivering a statue to Greece. Anne Luebke’s “Captain Lizzy and the Stranger in the Fog” is short but kind of neat, introducing us to a Santa who’s charmingly inept at gift-giving, and an airship captain who’s willing to teach him some new tricks. Maren Matthias’s “You’d Better Watch Out” feels like it could have been much more than it was. The Claus family is nifty, and the setup of Mrs. Claus tracking down missing children is cool. But the whole thing just slipped through events like a soft-soled shoe on ice and ended with hardly any real work or conflict. If the story had been about twice as long it probably would have been perfect.
Jennifer Lee Rossman’s “Christmas Magic” is one of the weirder tales. Belle–Mrs. Claus–is an alien, and her people want to steal Earth’s magic. But first she needs to get Santa to leave the North Pole, which means arranging for his first Christmas flight in nearly a century. Randi Perrin’s “Moves Like Jagger” sees witch Rhiannon sending a music critic on a mission for her. It’s kind of randomly weird. Michael Leonberger’s “Miss ‘Lil Toe Head” sees a pair of young women playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus professionally. When “Mister” Claus has to go home for Christmas, the missus meets a very unusual young woman, as well as some weird alien furry creatures who like giving gifts. It’s a beautiful story. (Also, adult-rated!)
“The North Pole is a state of mind.”
One of the more tragic tales is Kristen Lee’s “Good Morning.” Eve and Nick are kept frozen in ice all year every year by the elves until it’s time to wake them to do their holiday duty. In Andrew Wilson’s “Unexpected Guests,” Elora, Lady of the Winter Twilight, and her beloved Nikolaos live in Elora’s fairy realm. Treasure seekers mistake their realm for Santa Claus’s and come armed with iron. Jeff Kuykendall’s “Agatha Sings to the Scorpions” is one of my favorite entries in this volume. It’s an odd little sci-fi tale in which Agatha is playing Mrs. Claus to a bunch of “scorpions”–alien children and refugees–even though Frank, her Mr. Claus, was killed by terrorists. You’ll just have to read this one to truly appreciate the beauty of it. Hayley Stone’s “Red to Hide the Blood” is another good tale. An Inuit woman named Myra is determined to protect old Nick from the creatures that ate several of his reindeer, but that could take some doing. And it might just require Myra and Nick to come to terms with their feelings for one another.
All in all this is an enjoyable volume with a handful of really good stories and another handful of somewhat unsatisfying stories–not at all unusual for an anthology. The good definitely outweighs the so-so, however, and the theme is fun!