In Seth Grahame-Smith’s latest novel, he takes on the story of the birth of Jesus. This book is less gimmicky than his first two because there are no vampires and (almost) no zombies. He focuses instead on imagining who the three wise men were. Specifically the main wise man Balthazar or The Antioch Ghost.
Balthazar is a career thief who gets stuck with two other thieves when he saves them all from being killed by King Herod’s men. They stumble upon a carpenter, a girl, and her newborn baby. And from then on they are all linked as they run around Judea trying to avoid Herod’s men and later the Roman army as well. Grahame-Smith weaves an imaginative tale that still rings true to many of the events that actually happened in the Bible. His story feels like the re-imagined fairy tales that Gregory Maguire wrote (only without the dry wit).
The action-packed book, though, doesn’t stray away from exploring why Balthazar became the man he is today. We learn a lot about his origin and why he’s so interested in saving this little boy. Towards the end, the story begins to stray away from our hero and focuses instead on Herod playing his own game of thrones as he lives out what could have been season three of the cancelled HBO show Rome. But, just when you think he’s lost the thread of the story, it all comes together in a very nice finale.
Although I wasn’t particularly pleased with all the action scenes in the book (I dislike reading about action scenes as much as I dislike watching them in films), I found myself drawn to the historical fiction aspect of the novel. I could almost believe that these things really happened. It certainly changed my opinion of the three wise men. And while I doubt that anything he’ll write could truly top Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I am sure that his overactive imagination will come up with more little literary gems.