A chance encounter with a reindeer reveals 12-year-old Carol’s secret powers, which she will need if she is to save Christmas from a terrible threat.
Carol has more abilities than the average Defender of Claus, but she must learn to harness them or risk hurting herself and others. Enter the odd Mr. Winters, who promises to train her before the upcoming holiday season. But even with his tutelage, Carol is unprepared for all that she learns about herself and her family. When she picks up a distress call from a missing Defender, she accompanies Santa and the other Defenders on a rescue mission to the Dominican Republic. There they discover the masked villain’s evil plan: to destroy Santa and ruin Christmas for the entire world. While the depiction of the North Pole is beguiling, the beautiful setting is not enough to overcome a predictable mystery, a whiny heroine, and a disjointed narrative. Mr. Winters is an innocent tutor, but his secretiveness and request that Carol run away with him present a troubling message that will have alert readers wondering how much they can trust him. While Carol and the other principals are mostly white, Defenders come from as far away as the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, and Japan.
Promising but problematic. (Adventure. 8-12)