Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Review: The Crimson and the Frost by John Williams and James Colletti

The Crimson and the Frost book cover
Image from John Williams; used by permission

Title: The Crimson and the Frost

Author: John Williams and James Colletti

Genre: Fantasy

Late one night, Billy Hampton investigates a strange presence in the woods behind his house. He discovers a curious transport, climbs aboard, and is whisked away to the remote winter wastelands of the far north. He finds himself in a town full of mystery and wonder, built by the legendary Crimson Wizard and his devoted followers. The residents had lived in peace for centuries, protected by a powerful jewel known as the Heart of Polaris. It is their only defense against the wicked King of Winter. Billy accidentally loses the Heart of Polaris, and without its protection, his newfound friends are vulnerable. It’s a desperate race against time as Billy and his friends must find the Heart of Polaris before the King of Winter attacks.

When I picked this book up, I thought it was something about a boy sucked into a magical world where he had to help a red wizard defeat an evil king. (That probably has something to do with the fact that the synopsis calls Santa the Crimson Wizard.) I did not realize it was a Christmas story or I would have made an effort to read it back in December.

I didn’t like Billy at first, mostly because I was expecting an older kid/waiting for said older kid to appear. But once I figured out there was no other kid coming, I more or less liked him – more when he was being a cute, curious kid, and less when he was being impulsive and disobedient. I don’t think I completely enjoyed him because I’m a seventeen-year-old girl and he was a sixth-grade boy, but I bet my twelve-year-old brother would like him a lot.

I also liked/disliked the two elves who accidentally brought Billy to Christmastown. Boomer and Noogin were funny in a not-the-brighest-light-on-the-tree way. Sometimes, though, it crossed the border from funny to idiotic. I think a younger kid would have that line set farther out than me, so I’m pretty sure that’s me and not the book.

So, what do I say about the plot…? It starts off with Billy having a problem with a girl at school, which indirectly convinces him to climb in Santa’s sleigh when it lands in the woods behind his house. Then he accidentally drops something really important overboard, but that isn’t really explained until later. The first half is Billy navigating Christmastown and Noogin and Boomer trying to keep him from being discovered.

Then things get explained, and Billy joins Santa and the elves in trying to save Christmas from the King of Winter, Jack Frost. (Having Jack Frost as the bad guy always threw me off a bit, because I pictured the fun teenager from the Rise of the Guardians movie – who was just about the opposite of this Jack Frost.) The first part of the story kept me interested in discovering the inner workings of Santa’s toy factory and the fun and creative relationships between various elves. The second half was definitely more action and higher stakes, but I enjoyed both parts almost equally.

I’m actually glad I had no idea what this book was about when I accepted it, because I probably wouldn’t have opted to read it. I’m glad I did, though. I had fun with this story, even though it isn’t exactly the Christmas season anymore. I think upper elementary or middle school kids might like it even better than I did.

I received a free review copy of The Crimson and the Frost from the authors. Their generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

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