24. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer. Illuminations by William Joyce (US) - (Canada)
The Guardians, Book 1

Pages: 228
Ages: 7-11
Finished: Jan. 21, 2012
First Published: Oct. 4, 2011
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: children, fantasy, steampunk
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The battle of the Nightmare King began on a moonlit night long ago.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village.

When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal.  The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Clausen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and, he’s not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time."

Not since "The Spiderwick Chronicles" have I read a children's fantasy aimed at the 7-11 crowd that is so engaging, quality literature with awesome illustrations to bring the story to life.  This book is not genre specific as it mixes fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, and fairytale retelling all together until one can't really categorize it.  It takes place on our Earth and yet includes creatures from Atlantis and the Moon.  As I was reading I often had a feeling of L. Frank Baum's writing style; the book looks and has a voice similar to a 19th/early 20th century children's fantasy, chapters have titles such as " In Which a Twist of Fate Begets a Knot in the Plan" and "Where the Impossible Occurs with Surprising Regularity".

The text is large and double-spaced with frequent illustrations so is much shorter than the page numbers would indicate and this does make character development suffer.  One never really gets a full sense or deep caring for the characters but I did find the little girl Katharine to be the most fleshed out character and the one I cared for the most.  The book ends with the story arc being concluded and yet the overarching story of the series has only just begun, thus it very much has a first in a series feel.

However, to clear a little confusion.  This is not the first book in the series, even though it is called Book 1.  This is a direct sequel to "The Man in the Moon" which is confusingly listed as "The Guardians of Childhood, Book 1".  The Man in the Moon is a picture book but characters and events from the book are present and crucial to the story in "Nicholas St. North", so do read it first.  Those over 11 may find the book lacking in depth, plot development and characterization as this is not  a heavy or detailed read.  What it is though, is a fun, whimsical, outlandish fantasy crossed with other genres written to especially appeal to the 7-11 age group and those adults willing to be a kid again.  I'm impressed and eager for the next book which will feature the Easter Bunny (excuse me, E. Aster Bunnymund).


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