Billy Christmas is a boy with a man’s problems. Since his father disappeared mysteriously last Christmas, Billy’s mom has withdrawn into her grief, neglecting him and everything else. Now, in addition to his schoolwork, Billy must also keep the household running for both of them, paying the bills from their ever-dwindling bank account. Meanwhile, his father’s departure has become the chief topic of conversation in the small town of Marlow, and most of Billy’s classmates either ignore or bully him. He relies on his best friend Katherine for strength, and on his own inner certainty that somewhere, somehow, his father is still alive and wants to come home. Then, twelve days before Christmas, Billy is given a magical challenge, a series of twelve difficult and dangerous tasks. If he completes them all, his dream of being reunited with his missing dad might come true.
Mark Pritchard is a writer in the tradition of well-loved British and American authors, from E. B. White to Madeleine L’Engle, from J. R. R. Tolkien to J. K. Rowling, whose books, though directed at the young, capture the hearts and minds of readers of all ages.
“This is a book destined to be battered, much thumbed, read and read again until its pages come loose”
Pritchard’s debut novel is a magical treat in the grand tradition of children’s Christmas tales – he’s a natural storyteller, whose characters will engage and delight even the most hard-hearted scrooge.
— Kate Whiting, Worcester Book Reviews
A beautifully woven narrative with rich, compelling characters, this novel is sure to strike a chord with any fan of fantasy literature.
This is a book destined to be battered, much thumbed, read and read again until its pages come loose. It will graduate into the packing crate going off to college, then to the shelves at home, because Pritchard treats his young audience with emotional and literary respect. Pritchard understands that children’s emotions are as genuine as those of their parents, dark and foreboding in places, but never without hope.
— James Clark, writer and former Sunday Times journalist
Billy Christmas, the first novel from Oxford-based author Mark A Pritchard, is a strong, confident debut. The action rattles on at a good pace, as Billy’s Herculean labours become increasingly difficult and dangerous. The characters are well drawn, as is the book’s setting, with the town of Marlow recreated in loving detail by the author. In fact, it is this strong setting that grounds the story, providing a solid base as the more magical and mystical elements gradually creep into the narrative. The transition from the book’s realistic, down-to earth opening to something altogether more mysterious is handled extremely well, the strong, likeable main character carrying the reader effortlessly along.
—Robin Derbyshire, Daily Info Book Reviews