So, this is the second time I’ve received an ARC and am reading and posting my review after the publication date. Oops. To be fair, I kept looking for this one in my email, but I somehow missed it. But then I found it, so here we go!
Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say is an anthology of short stories all about Mrs. Claus. So, perfect for the holiday season! Rhonda Parrish was inspired by an ad she saw about a non-traditional Mrs. Claus, one other than the kindly old lady who bakes cookies and helps around the workshop. She started researching Mrs. Claus and was not happy with what she found, so she decided to put together an anthology all about this character that we really never know much about. Step aside, Nick, it’s time for the Mrs. to shine!
“Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
This starts out as a sort of updated Rise of the Guardians vibe, or at least with modern versions of some of the characters. But we have elevators and cell phones and Mrs. Claus not taking shit from the young’uns. She’s definitely not your stereotypical granny – this Mrs. Claus is a Valkyrie, and she’s pissed off. Someone has been destroying toys and killing elves, and she’s going to get to the bottom of it.
This was a strong story to put up front. I really liked it – while it did bring up the values of Christmas, it also involved kicking ass. It was fun and clever and made valid points. It made me want to check out other things the author has written.
“The Asylum Musicale” by C. B. Calsing
This tale is much, much darker. It takes place in an asylum in the 1850’s as a mysterious woman is brought in as a new patient. Lizzie is pregnant, and at times is wary of the newcomer, who gives the name Yessica Klaus. Lizzie is right to be wary.
This involves the character of Mrs. Claus, in a way, but not really the spirit. She is called a fairy, and not a nice one. I think the Christmas aspect of the story could have been removed entirely and it would have made almost the same amount of sense. It was well done, just not my favorite.
“Desperately Seeking Santa” by DJ Tyrer
A fun little short story where Mrs. Claus has to save the day, and her husband! Santa has been snatched, and Mrs. Claus is the first on the scene. She uses her courage and her determination to get the job done.
“Christmas Magic” by Jennifer Lee Rossman
This Mrs. Claus, or Belle, is a reluctant alien. She fakes it for the cameras, but doesn’t really like being Mrs. Claus. She longs for her home planet, but is reluctant when she has the opportunity to go home. This one has a bit of a twist ending, and it’s kind of awesome.
“Good Morning” by Kristen Lee
This one is kind of sad, portraying Mrs. Claus, or Eve, and her husband as beings who sleep through the year and only awake on Christmas Eve to make the holiday happen. I feel kind of bad for them – their lives kind of suck, and they’ve been taken advantage of by the elves a bit. A lovely bit of writing, though!
“Moves Like Jagger” by Randi Perrin
This is another one of my favorites from this anthology. Our main character this time is Jagger Ian Brentwood is a reviewer for the Rolling Stones who gets a mysterious call from Mrs. Claus. He has to save Christmas, but not in a way that anyone was expecting. There were a couple of times I thought the story would go in a different direction, but I was pleased with the final destination. The unexpected twists and turns made it an enjoyable read. (And props to the Hamilton mention!) I like the stories that are complete, but I wouldn’t mind reading more, and this accomplishes that.
“Miss ‘Lil Toe Head” by Michael Leonberger
This one is weird. It’s like two stories in one. The first have is very realistic, and kind of depressing in a way, but it could have ended there. Then the weird stuff happens. The weird half could have stood alone, too. The first half was good writing, but not really my cup of tea. I liked the second half a bit better and the message it gave.
“Unexpected Guests” by Andrew Wilson
This Mrs. Claus has more of an Elsa from Frozen feel, but after a couple of centuries. It takes place in a different realm, and three humans have dropped into her lands with cold iron. She deals with it with the wisdom of centuries and the understanding of having done things like this before. Again there is much more of a story to be told here, and we’ve only been given a peek at a corner of the bigger picture.
“The True Story of Christina and Kristopher Kringle” (Revealed without permission) by Ross Van Dusen
Christina and Kris start off as children growing up together. Christina is special and the best at everything she does, and that’s just an accepted fact. Kris just follows along and does as he’s told. This is a charming story, and one I wouldn’t mind reading to my nieces and nephews. I could see this being turned into a children’s book, if Mr. Van Dusen were so inclined!
“Shouldering the Burden” by M. L. D. Curelas
Our Mrs. Claus is a bit closer to the traditional than we’ve seen in this anthology so far. She hails from Greece, and is returning there (on an airship, because why not?) on a gift-bearing mission. She hits a snag during the delivery, but manages to hold her own. I do wonder what the result of her gift-giving will be, though. It’s sure to cause a commotion!
“You’d Better Watch Out” by Maren Matthias
Our Mrs. Claus here, Fianna, is very self sufficient. While she may be married to Father Christmas, she is the Mother (and like many mothers, so has to wrangle her husband as well as her children!) She sets off on a rescue mission and manages to kick ass while doing it. The family dynamic in this one is nice.
“Captain Lizzy and the Stranger in the Fog” by Anne Luebke
Lizzy is the captain of an airship (the second in this anthology!) and prides herself on being a good one. She is sailing from New York to Chicago in the fog when a mysterious pilot she cannot see, due to said fog, has a very strange conversation with her. It’s a very cute story! We don’t get many physical descriptions of the characters, but that makes it a bit more surprising when you get to the end!
“Agatha Sings to the Scorpions” by Jeff Kuykendall
We’re in space! Agatha is bringing gifts to children. Her “Santa” to her “Mrs. Claus” was killed by terrorists, so she’s going this one alone. The children she’s bringing gifts to are not human, or even humanoid – they’re beings referred to as Scorpions, but they are not from Earth. And some people don’t like them. This one is both sad and a bit uplifting. There’s no actual magic here, although there’s a lot of background information. It kind of reminds me of Ender’s Game a bit.
“Red to Hide the Blood” by Hayley Stone
Another story about how Mrs. Claus became a Mrs. Myra is a hunter of creatures up north, and something just attacked Nick’s reindeer. Myra is set to find out what happened, and the actual cause is surprising. We have multiple Santas in this one with separate territories, which is fairly uncommon, but makes sense. Nick is a bit uncertain about some things with Myra, but it all works out in the end.
As with almost all anthologies, there were some stories that I liked, and some that were not really my kind of thing. But all of them were well-written, which is nice! Rhonda Parrish did a good job of putting a collection of interesting stories together. So if you’re looking for something to put you in the Christmas spirit, give this a try!