Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The Coal Elf (Santa Claus, the Communist)
All the Communism coincidences aside, this was a really fun read. I might not call it YA but more MG based on the tone and character interactions, but nonetheless, it was an interesting take on Santa and his elves. Ember was a strong main character and you gain a lot of respect for her throughout the novel. I thought the underlying message was strong in that the order must be kept and people must fulfill their place in society for it to work efficiently. That cog in the big wheel mentality did strike me as very Communistic which I'd never think of putting with Santa Claus...and yet it works, really well. And gives the whole story/setting quite a unique take.
Rumblings in the Mines #1: While the first part of the story dwells on how much Ember hates being a Coal elf (miserable life that it is...I mean Coppleysites? Eww.), things really kick into motion when Sturd rips up the list. We're talking the reason for Coal Elves in the first place, the list of Naughty and Nice. After all, if there weren't any naughty, no one would be needed to work down in the mines. Based on Ember's feelings in the beginning of the story, I was surprised to see her try and salvage said list, but she collects the pieces, believing them to be important.
Rumblings in the Mines #2: Ember spends her time fixing the List, but meanwhile, things are changing down below. They don't deliver the coal on Christmas. None of the elves down below work, except for Ember, furiously pushing ahead to fix the old List. But because the coal isn't delivered, it disrupts the balance. After all, their main food, Nessie fruit, comes from kids' happiness. Now they've got an overabundance of Nessie. The overflow causes most of it to rot and both above and below, people are getting sicker and sicker. Some are dying, especially up above.
Rumblings in the Mines #3: With a repaired List and a dying friend, Ember decides to breach the surface. If she leaves, she'll be severely punished as a deserter, but with everyone falling ill, she doesn't know what else to do.With the help of the others, Ember manages to sneak to the surface, even with Sturd hot at her heels the entire time. She uses a rejected reindeer and flies to the Boss's lair to confront the higher ups about what's been going on in their land. The small Council she runs into seems highly disorganized and inept at handling the problems down below. But with the old List and a willing volunteer in Ember, she becomes Santa's official helper, the Coal Elf to deliver coal to the bad children on Christmas.
What I thought was most intriguing about the ending is that it didn't end with her going back up to the surface or living happily ever after underground with her crush. Instead, it focused on how her role in society made her happy, reinforcing the heavy Communist undertones of the book. I found this absolutely fascinating and definitely not what I expected--in a good way. Although, the book is worth reading for the creative world alone. The author builds an incredibly detailed universe off of the traditions surrounding Christmas.