Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

The Guardians: Book One

by William Joyce and Laura Geringer

“At that moment a young moonbeam shot down from the sky and through the window. Like all beams, it had a mission: Protect the children.” (Joyce,2).
Chapter One

I first read William Joyce’s The Guardians back in 2012 when Dreamworks’ Rise of Guardians, inspired by his The Guardians of Childhood series, premiered. I loved the movie, so when I learned there were books about the same concept, I got my hands on as many as had been released by that point (Book One, Book Two, and Book Three). Since then Book Four has been released and Book Five is scheduled for release next year.

I should add that I’m only counting the novels; there have been three picture books released as part of The Guardians of Childhood, with seven planned to focus on each Guardian.

Have I mentioned yet that I’m really excited about that?

Part of it may be because my introduction to the Guardians of Childhood was actually The Man in the Moon. I found it in a museum store and read it.

Now that I’m thinking of it, I might have actually read that before I saw Rise of the Guardians, because I recall having some sense of the backstory between Pitch and the Man in the Moon.

But anyway! Let’s talk about Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. (I love his titles! They may be long and cumbersome, but there’s a nice beat to them when I recite them to myself).

The story starts with two children afraid of the dark, and that’s when a moonbeam comes down to dispel their fear. After succeeding in this mission, it shoots out the window into some lovely description

“…into the surrounding forest of pine and hemlock, flickering from icicle to icicle. Startling bats and surprising owls, it followed the old snow-covered Indian trail to the darkest part of the deep woods — a place the settlers feared and rarely ventured” (3-4).

First, I need to remember to  use “hemlock” in my writing because it sounds pretty and has a daring history (thanks, Socrates).

Second, I love the sense of motion and light in the first sentence.

Third, I’m not sure what to think of “Indian trail”. I don’t think it’s my place to comment on terminology, but I’ll say that it struck me as an odd phrase for (I’m assuming) a North American setting.

And fourth, the reference to “settlers” sets the story in a possible time frame. My guess was the 1700s. This was not something I noticed on my first read through, but it fit with the rest of the story as I continued reading.

“Our heroic moonbeam” (c) William Joyce

The moonbeam continues through the woods until it comes across another nice bit of description:

“Strange rocks, curling like melted wax, framed the yawning mouth of the cavern. The cave was thick with shadows that seemed to breathe like living things. In all its travels, the beam had never seen anything so ominous” (4).

Like the last one, I love the visual image the first sentence evokes. The idea of melted rock is just kind of eerie. (Also, I have no idea why I’m going into so much detail for this book. I just really love it. Actually, the last time I got this involved in a book that should have been short was The Land of Green GingerAnd together that should tell you something about me.)

It was also here that I noticed the equivalency of shadows and darkness to danger. While it makes sense in the context of the story, what with nightmares coming at night, etc., it does remind me how darkness is often associated with negative traits.

Although I like to think that when the moonbeam observes that the shadows were “ominous”, it means more so than regular shadows.

Going down into the cavern, the moonbeam finds Pitch, the Nightmare King, pinned in place by a crystal dagger in his heart. Curious, it gets closer and is sucked into the hilt because in (what I think is) good science, “light does not go around crystal, it goes through it” (6).

Its light reveals a spectral boy in Pitch’s heart; by its growing radiance, the boy suddenly wakes up, grows to full size, and is released from his prison. This also frees Pitch finally, too.

Once he is, we learn this fun character trait about him:

“Breathing deeply, he trolled the winter wind for the prize he coveted, the tender meal he had craved even beyond freedom all those endless years of imprisonment down below: the good dreams of children” (9).

Yikes. At least that’s what I thought when I read it. Destroying good dreams takes precedent over his own freedom.

At the same time, his armies of Nightmare Men and Fearlings begin to rise from the cavern and rise into a third striking piece of description: “Like giant bats, they glided over the forest and beyond, invading the dreams of all who slept nearby” (10). Again the sense of motion here is exquisite, even if I technically think bats are wonderful.

Up on the moon, Tsar Lunar (or the Man in the Moon) senses danger brewing.



  • trolledv. 1. to sing or utter in a full, rolling voice; 2. to sing in the manner of a round or catch; fish for or in with a moving line, working the line up or down with rod, as in fishing for pike, or trailing the line behind a slow-moving boat; 4. to move (the line or bait) in doing this; cause to turn round and round; roll

Book Quote:

“The moonbeam wavered and then — not sure if it was being brave or foolish — dropped down, following the shadows into the pit below” (4).

Works Cited:

Joyce, William and Laura Geringer. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. New York: Atheneum Books, 2011. Print.


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