Billy Christmas review

Billy ChristmasBilly Christmas by Mark A. Pritchard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Billy Christmas is a story about a boy called, strangely enough, Billy Christmas. Nearly a year ago, Billy’s father mysteriously disappeared and nobody has seen him since. His mother withdrew into herself, and twelve year old Billy is forced to cope on his own. Then, shortly before Christmas he gets what turns out to be a magical christmas tree along with twelve mysterious ornaments. Each ornament leads to a task which Billy must perform in order to complete a quest which will hopefully find and return his father.

This story, which is Pritchard’s debut novel, mixes elements of fairy tales, magic and fantasy as Billy embarks on his quest. Along the way we meet his best friend Katherine, Agnes the mysterious old duck lady, Robert the school bully, and many others. The characters are all well drawn and thoroughly believable. It’s set in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow (halfway between Maidenhead and High Wycombe, just off the A404). and thanks to having aged relatives near there when I was a boy, I was well able to visualise the locations just as they were described, from Higginson Park, the church, the suspension bridge, weir…

I can’t help thinking that the title is going to let this book down and consign it to the realm of seasonal offerings, which would be a shame. Even though it’s about a boy called Christmas, and set around Christmas, it’s suitable for reading at any time of the year. And not just by kids; although it’s “aimed” at ages 12 and up, really anyone from about 10 to, well, the oldest person you know, will get a kick out of reading it. The one downside is the price. It’s a paperback, albeit a deluxe luxury paperback with flaps and everything that makes it feel really quite special, but it’s at a hardback price, i.e. the ouch end of expensive, which means you’ll need either to grit your teeth or buy the Kindle edition.

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