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Kringle, Tony Abbott
This was an appropriate book to finish in time for St. Nicholas Day!
Kringle has never known his parents. For the past twelve years he has been brought up in a hidden glen by an older woman named Morwen. His favorite tale is of the night he was born, when a fleeting sparrow dashing through Morwen's cabin caught the end of a special bell carried by Kringle's mother and the resulting sound gave Kringle his name. And it is in the midst of this story told once more that the fearsome goblins that stalk the Earth attack their home and send Kringle straight into a nightmare of adventures.
Abbott has woven an epic fantasy simple enough for children to read but grand enough for adults to enjoy in a story set in post-Roman Britain (or at a point where the Romans have almost abandoned the country), mixing pagan elements with the new religion of Christianity, and the lore of the northland (elves and goblins) with real-life historical events (the presence of rune stones, the Saxon invaders). Kringle's first thought is to help rescue Morwen, but it is clear he has been chosen for a larger journey: is it to live with the elves that save his life? rescue the runestones? Or is it to rescue the children enslaved by the goblins, who are plotting a terrifying future? Abbott also introduces items and characters that will later play a part in Christmas traditions.
My own minor quibble: Kringle talks to himself too much. (Granted, I do it myself. And I definitely wouldn't want to read about it!) Otherwise, a splendid fantasy tale with some full-page illustrations and sketched chapter headings, and, in the hardcover edition, a fabulous brightly-colored cover with Celtic overtones.