James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

The Menace of Mrs. Claus

The Elf Conspiracy  (Hy Brasail Chronicles, volume 1)

By Kass Williams 

28 Dec, 2015

Special Requests


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

2015’s The Elf Conspiracy is the first volume in Kass William’s Hy Brasail Chronicles .

This would have been ever so much more seasonal had I managed to get this review written before the 25 th. Oh, well. I guess I can think of it as being unusually early for Christmas 2016

For centuries, Kris Kringle has played an ever-more-demanding role as Santa Claus, bringing presents to children around the world. Now danger threatens. 

  • an ambitious elf is planning a coup; 
  • Santa’s former slave servant Peter is still holding a grudge; 
  • four bright kids — Harald, Shuggar, Bart, and Princess — have managed to find Santa’s realm. 

Could it be worse? Yes! Danger is close at hand in the person of Gladys. The new Mrs. Claus. 

Mrs. Claus is not the kind, rotund, rosy woman of legend; she is a cunning gold-digger who saw the former Bishop of Myra as an easy mark. His vast wealth could all be hers, once she arranges his oh so natural 1 demise. While Santa hasn’t quite twigged to his new wife’s homicidal inclinations, the fact that Gladys appears to be immune to magical persuasion suggests that there is more to her than meets the eye. 

Gladys may have started out a sceptic, but she soon learns to accept the reality of magic. Not just white magic, but demons — with whom she is making deals. The demons have ambitious plans as well; with her help, they can rule both elfish and human realms. 

As for those meddling kids (Harald, Shuggar, Bart, and Princess) … their snooping threatens to expose Santa’s hidden realm to evil entities like the CIA. Human awareness of (and meddling in) the elfish realm is a greater threat than a demon invasion. 

And then there’s the little matter of that ambitious elf and the destructive merger of magic and technology he has spun. 


This book was a bit of a curate’s egg; there were things I liked, and things that were kinda eh. Part of that eh may be due to the cast. When you have characters who are over a thousand years old, you have to expect some values dissonance. Peter is angry at Nick because he was once Nick’s slave. A thousand years ago, when Nick was the entirely human Bishop of Myra, slavery was common, normal, accepted. 

(However, the passage where Nick pats himself on the back for having never sexually abused Peter back in the day seemed off-kilter.) 

I could also have done without Peter’s stint as an African dictator. Indeed, I thought this book fell on its face when it touched on any part of the world outside North America and Europe. The North Korea subplot was particularly unnecessary. 

Nonetheless, I did enjoy some parts of the book. Notably those in which the author wasn’t trying so very hard to be wild and crazy. The four meddling nerds were a lot more interesting than the ambitious elf or the homicidal spouse. The looming danger from CIA, NSA, GCHQ, etc. and other nasty humans is more convincing than the demonic plot to Burn It All Down . Which we can be fairly confident will fail, because this is the first volume of an on-going series 2. Whereas the threat of human intervention has not been ended, even if the kids can be convinced to keep quiet. Mere human existence influences the elf realm in ways very difficult for the elves to resist; keeping us ignorant makes us slightly less dangerous to them but in no way benign. 

The Elf Conspiracy is available from Kobo.

1: Natural in the sense that if you marry a homicidal gold-digger, you have to expect an eventual murder attempt. 

2: Sometimes an author surprises you. Points to David Drake for setting fire to the set midway through his Lord of the Isles series.