I borrowed this book from a friend because I was curious. I'd read "Interview with a Vampire" ages ago and was not overly impressed, but then I read Anne Rice's 'reconversion' story in I think Newsweek, and was fascinated.
I really liked the book. From a religious viewpoint, it's quite an interesting question the book dives into - what was it like for the child Jesus to grow up, being fully God, but yet fully a child that had to go through all the mess of childhood?
Being a science fiction and fantasy reader, I also saw a quite a few parallels with your typical fantasy hero, who grows up in a fairly low position in society, has something 'special' about him that he can't quite figure out, until he discovers his magic, power, talent, etc, and adventures ensue. In some of the early chapters, Jesus brings a dead child back to life, after accidently killing him, brings clay sparrows to life, and discovers that when he tells the rain to stop, it stops.
At the same time I was reading this, I was also reading a fantasy series exactly like that, where the hero discovers in the second book that as well as human he is part of another race entirely, and as such has all these talents and powers that need to be awakened, so he can then save the world. The character even undergoes a baptism of sorts, when he is immersed in a pool for several days to cleanse himself of a serious addiction.
The parallels between the two books remind me of what Tim Keller said in a sermon about why we like fantasy. (Those of us that do like fantasy, that is, I suppose. Which would be me.) We're looking for that hero, the knight in shining armor that will come and save the world and defeat the forces of evil. Who is, of course, Jesus.
I liked the characterization of Mary as well, but had a bit of issue with the Roman Catholic theology inserted that she remained a virgin always and never had any children with Joseph. Rice makes James the older son of Joseph from a previous marriage, which I assume is also taught, but bugged me since there is no mention of another child in the Christmas story. The details are so carefully recorded, and if Joseph had to drag his nine months pregnant wife down to Bethlehem to be counted, surely he would have had to take his son as well? But there's no mention of anyone else being with them.
Those details don't ruin the fantasy of the story, however, and I've placed the next book, as well as Anne Rice's biography on my wish list.