cover image The Muse (Mother Christmas #1)

The Muse (Mother Christmas #1)

Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Vic Terra. Rosarium, $15.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-73263-888-4

Lupescu and Terra’s ambitious but uneven fantasy series launch reimagines the origin story of Santa Claus, based on the Mediterranean legend of St. Nicholas. Amara, a muse with a habit of getting too involved in mortal lives, is assigned to provide inspiration to Flavia, a priestess of the goddess Leto in fourth-century Lycia. Flavia’s brother Nicholas, meanwhile, becomes a priest in the new and increasingly powerful cult of Christianity. With a violent religious clash brewing, Amara assumes human form to help the siblings navigate their increasingly divided world. Together they investigate the shadowy threat of the kobaloi, creatures that feed on human fear. Much of this first volume is devoted to worldbuilding, developing both historical Lycia and a mythical world of gods, angels, muses, and monsters. Amara’s relationship to Nicholas may slate her for a wifely role in Christmas fables, but that’s left for future volumes to play out. Terra’s page layouts are ornate, with saturated colors and well-researched period details—architecture, clothing, food, rituals—that draw the eye. The simple, blocky-faced and sometimes stiffly posed characters are less satisfying, and the script gets overly text-heavy at points, with info drops of backstory. Still, those searching for an unconventional holiday gift for fantasy fans should take a look. (Nov.)