I’ll be completely upfront with you; I only wanted this book for the Seanan McGuire story. Well, that and the cover image that reminded me of one of the guys from Mars Attacks! playing dress up. I’ve never read Christmas horror before so didn’t know what to expect.
I was hoping this book would contain a bunch of Christmas stories for people who prefer Halloween; serial killer Santas, blood soaked snowmen, Christmas trees that come to life and chase people through the house … What I found were some fun, creepy stories mixed in with a whole pile of stories that just so happened to take place on or around Christmas; Santa, Frosty and Rudolph not even peeking their heads around the corner of the page.
Absinthe & Angels by Kelley Armstrong – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s Christmas Eve and Ava’s childhood fear has just knocked on the front door. The concept was good but felt a bit disjointed for me.
“Give us food. Give us wine. Then our song shall be thine.”
Christmas in Barcelona by Scott Smith – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Murphy’s Law tags along for a Christmas vacation to Barcelona with a couple and their baby. This one started slowly and didn’t feel like it belonged in this collection for most of the story but then it well and truly made up for lost time.
You feel the same thought stirring – everything is going to be okay – but this time you have the wisdom to resist its lure.
Fresh as the New-Fallen Snow by Seanan McGuire – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Seanan has proven, once again, why she’s one of my all time favourite authors! A babysitter tells the story of Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden to Andy, Chloe and Diane. I want to tell you more but don’t want to spoil it!
“She looks for children who could be great, if only the snow that made them were melted down and given to someone else for safekeeping.”
Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
The Creeper gets more than he bargained for when he pulls his first job after being released from prison. I enjoyed the buildup but really wanted to know the history of what the Creeper finds in the apartment above the antique store.
”You came to steal from me, I know,” the woman called out.
Not Just For Christmas by Sarah Lotz – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you’ve ever thought your pet being able to talk would be adorable you’ll change your mind after reading this one. Technology and the family pet don’t exactly mix. Oodles of swearing in this one.
“Do we really need any more surprises from you this year?”
Tenets by Josh Malerman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bringing a failed cult leader to your holiday party can really ruin the holiday spirit. I wasn’t sure where this one was going for a while but was getting into it when it abruptly ended. While I can imagine all sorts of things I wanted to see what really happened next.
The last thing she wanted to be thinking about at a holiday party reunion was cults and cult leaders and what all that means and how sad it was if you really broke it down.
Good Deeds by Jeff Strand – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
A man does a good deed and is so proud of himself that he writes a song about how awesome he is. His song changes peoples’ lives, although not for the better. Morbid and sort of amusing (but the type you feel guilty for being amused about), this was one of the weirdest Christmas stories I’ve ever read. I expect the insensitivity of the main character and the subject matter will be offensive to some readers.
The world was a dark, ugly, selfish cesspool of misery, but I’d done my part to shine a ray of joy upon it. With only a credit card, I’d made the universe a better place.
It’s a Wonderful Knife by Christopher Golden – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A sleazy Hollywood producer gets more than he bargained for when he takes an actress on a tour of his collection of rare movie memorabilia. A timely story but not really a Christmas story; just one that happened to be set around Christmas.
“That’s half the fun for a collector. The macabre stuff always goes for top dollar.”
Mistletoe and Holly by James A. Moore – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
A mother of three young boys grieves the loss of her husband as Christmas draws near, but just because she misses him doesn’t necessarily mean she wants him back. This one was predictable but creepy.
It was the holidays. Best to be prepared for the emotional bloodshed.
Snake’s Tail by Sarah Langan – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s Christmas Eve and children are going missing in a little town on the bay. I still have no idea what this one had to do with Christmas other than the time of year it was set.
Yes, the clock chimes, and by the time it stops resonating, the child is gone. Disappeared from her bed.
The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel by Joe R. Lansdale – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Something awful happened in that room in the Christmas Hotel many years ago and now something wants justice.
The room was fine the rest of the year, no complaints, but come Christmas Eve, no one could make it through a night.
Farrow Street by Elizabeth Hand – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
After her holiday plans fall through, Melanie decides to book accommodation in London and spend some time alone. On Christmas day she ventures out, trying to find an open restaurant, and finds herself in Farrow Street. I don’t think she ever gets her meal. I kept waiting for something to happen and when the action is about to start the story ends.
She cast a final look behind her. A feather of candlelight touched the floor at the foot of the stairs and faded into darkness.
Doctor Velocity by Jonathan Maberry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Destroyer talks to Doctor Velocity about his desperation and fear of having lost the spark that made his artwork come to life. Doctor Velocity has a Christmas present for him.
“Most often a person has survived because the monster did not want to destroy them all the way. To kill them would be to empty them of screams, of struggle, of fear and pain, and that’s what those monsters feed on.”
Yankee Swap by John M. McIlveen – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
After avoiding her slimy boss at their work holiday party Kat finds herself in another nightmarish situation, and she’s not alone.
That he had chosen her to go first was a terrible omen that seemed to validate her fear of not leaving there alive.
Honor Thy Mother by Angela Slatter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Agnes’ family are having Christmas at her home this year; she insisted. Her sons plan to talk her into moving out of her home and into an aged care facility. Agnes’ plan is better.
She likes her privacy, knows it’s integral to her safety; her husband used to joke that if she could have got away with it, she’d have put a plaque on the front fence that read, “Nothing ever happened here.”
Home by Tim Lebbon – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The man and Old Bob make their way through an apocalyptic landscape. Is the man leading Old Bob or is Old Bob leading the man? And where are they going? It’s not until near the end of the story that its connection with Christmas becomes clear.
Standing, stretching, the beauty and horror of what he saw struck home as it did every single morning.
Hiking Through by Michael Koryta – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
While planning a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail a seasoned hiker hears a campfire story about a witch. I really enjoyed this one; I always love a good campfire story.
We all laugh harder around a campfire, because we don’t want to acknowledge that some part of us is deeply concerned about what’s out there just beyond the reach of the firelight.
The Hangman’s Bride by Sarah Pinborough – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The longest story in the collection and one of the best, the characters came to life for me and I want to read more by this author. Without giving away too much, Alexander’s grandfather tells him a story of a chimney sweep whose name is not Tom, a hangman, Miss Darkly, Mr and Mrs West, and the hangman’s bride.
‘People will do terrible things for love.’
Once I got over the gap between my expectation and reality I was able to enjoy most of these stories and have been inspired to attempt to write my own Christmas horror story, with plenty of tinsel, snowmen and blood. Wasn’t it Toni Morrison who said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”?
Content warnings include suicide, family violence, murder, sexual harassment and kidnapping.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Anchor, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book. My average rating was 3.86 so I’ve rounded up.
Once Upon a Blurb
Eighteen stories of Christmas horror from bestselling, acclaimed authors including Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Michael Koryta, Sarah Pinborough, and many more.
That there is darkness at the heart of the Yuletide season should not surprise. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is filled with scenes that are unsettling. Marley untying the bandage that holds his jaws together. The hideous children – Want and Ignorance – beneath the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The heavy ledgers Marley drags by his chains. In the finest versions of this story, the best parts are the terrifying parts.
Bestselling author and editor Christopher Golden shares his love for Christmas horror stories with this anthology of all-new short fiction from some of the most talented and original writers of horror today.