I’ve always hated the term “chick lit,” with its idea that books under its banner will only appeal to women. I bring this up because D. Thrush, author of The Daughter Claus, uses this description in her author bios and other marketing materials. Maybe this is a buzzword that appeals to its core audience and I’m overthinking it, but, to me, it comes across as exclusionary to anybody outside its target audience. I am even more perplexed when this is attached to a book like The Daughter Claus, a novel that is as much about breaking gender norms as anything else. Granted, the term is applicable as far as it features a female lead character, a bit of romance and—as the blurb tells us—a dash of girl power.
The blurb for The Daughter Claus, which is the first part in Thrush’s Santina Series, also tells us that the protagonist, Tina (or Santina, if we use her full name and designation for this series) is the daughter of Santa Claus, and the brother of Nicholas Jr, is forced to return home to run the family business, or, as it is known by most of us, Santa’s workshop. What results is a fun Christmas story about somebody running the “business” while struggling to prove themselves to their family, and fighting to demonstrate their unseen worth.
Thematically, I appreciate what Thrush does with this story. Call it what you will, but stories about the aforementioned girl power, or women smashing the glass ceiling, have a necessary place in art, given the world we find ourselves living in is still somehow struggling to grasp the full concept of gender equality. Thrown in for good measure are themes regarding family allegiances, generation gaps, and the different ways these generations go about their business.
Thrush wraps this up in an endearing tale that does not feel like it’s preaching its case, with these elements fitting naturally into the narrative. At 256 paperback pages, or an estimated 258 Kindle swipes, the book comes in at a moderate length, but is a breezy read that I got through in a single sitting. Throughout this wintry tale, the author brings a sense of humour, with amusing moments throughout, Christmas-themed cameos, and a look at the inner workings of Santa’s workshop that go beyond the simple naughty and nice list, letters of demand from children the world over, and the indentured labour of those poor elves (to be entirely honest, though, one thing The Daughter Claus makes abundantly clear is that Santa’s elves get paid).
Unfortunately, however, one of the major reasons The Daughter Claus is such a breezy read is because of the book’s prose. During my time reading this, I got no sense of the author’s voice, and the text summarises the story’s events more than it tells the story in an engaging way. This is made even more obvious through Thrush’s habit of telling, rather than showing. The reader never sees how a character is feeling, instead the reader is told what emotion the character is feeling. Rather than drawing me in, this enforced a distance between myself and the book’s events.
As The Daughter Claus’s prose felt stiff, the dialogue also felt stilted. While some of this felt fairly natural, large amounts of it didn’t. This is more evident given the amount of dialogue in the story, which outpaces most books that I read—not that lots of dialogue is in itself a bad thing, it is something I can really appreciate. There are no real grammatical differences in the various characters’ dialogue and speech patterns, with them all sounding the same; the result of which means only their point of view and Thrush’s descriptions differentiate them.
My issues with the characters go further than the dialogue, however. Santina is a fairly bland lead who oscillates between her duty and her desire to return to her studies; however, as the book progresses, she does show some leadership skills. Her best friend, Lisa, seems to exist purely for Tina to bounce ideas off of. Santa is a grumpy old man who will never see his elder daughter as equal to his younger son. Said son, Nicholas Jr. or simply Nick, is where I have the biggest issue. He is a character that wants to follow his own path, but rather than looking at this with any depth, he is instead treated as someone constantly whining and refusing to pull his own weight.Despite the aspects of the book that I take issue with, there is a fair amount to enjoy if you can move past them. It is a holiday tale with some nice musings, and I appreciate how Thrush has used the Christmas mythology. I would have really appreciated, however, if the prose and dialogue were more creative, and if the characters were more fleshed out… and likeable. Sadly, I won’t be looking at the rest of The Santina Series, as these obstacles were a little much for me, despite the enjoyment I found in this outing. If they’re not too much for you and you’re a fan of “chick lit,” whatever that means, you may find a lot to enjoy.
“You know I can’t feed the materialistic machine that you’re perpetuating with your yearly greed fest. I can’t support it.” He shook his head vehemently.
“What did he just say?” Santa asked suspiciously. “Come here, Nick. I’ll support you all right.”
Clara patted his arm. “It’s okay. We’ll find another solution.”
She sank onto the edge of the bed in defeat. How could she ask their daughter to sacrifice more of her time? Tina had certainly come through for the family as usual. She didn’t want to take advantage of her willingness to help out by making her miss fall semester. She dreaded their next conversation.The Daughter Claus, Chapter 15: “A Little Snag”
The Daughter Claus was purchased for the purpose of providing an honest review.
The Daughter Claus is available in paperback and eBook formats, (including—but not limited to—Amazon).
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