Friday, 11 January 2013

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

Publisher: Atheneum
Format: Hardcover/e-book
Released: October 4th, 2011
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

Forget the huge belly and the jolly old elf stuff because before Santa grew out the beard and shimmied his way down your chimney, he was a swashbuckling young man with a bit of a wild streak-and a talent for wizardry. When St. North's latest invention, The Robot Genie, falls under the spell of The Nightmare King, Santa pays a terrible price. He is shrunken, frozen in place and trapped in a metallic shell and turned into a toy which means he is powerless to stop The Robot Genie from enacting The Nightmare King's evil plot to terrorize children. But, toys are magical things, aren't they? Without being able to speak or interact, they can form powerful and lasting bonds with young children, children who care for them and love them with all of their hearts-and when St. North the toy falls into the hands of a little girl who needs a toy more than most, they unlock the spell and set off a chain of events that send St. North on a sleigh ride through a starry, starry night...and lays the foundation for the next Guardian books. 


I saw the Rise of the Guardians film in November and was surprised to find it was based on a series of books, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce. I bought all three novels the night I saw the film (I loved it, seriously) and started the first one straight away. I enjoyed it so much, although it's very different to the film.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King sets the scene of the guardians, and introduces plenty of characters I wasn't familiar with, like a wizard called Ombric and a child called Katherine. Both have huge parts to play in the book, along with North who will one day become Santa Claus and a whole host of other people and creatures. Ombric is one of the last great wizards, the last survivor of the lost city of Atlantis. He lives in a huge tree called Big Root and he can talk to any animal or insect - in their language! How cool is that? He's like Gandalf and Dumbledore rolled into one, with a nice pointy hat to round him off!

This book starts off with a visit from the nasty Nightmare King, Pitch, who is intent on destroying children's happy dreams and replacing them with nightmares and darkness. Ombric knows his story, it's the famous story of the last battle of the Golden Age, when Pitch was first destroyed. Or so they thought. The moon and its beams have a helping hand in bringing North into the story, who is a sword-wielding Russian thief, in order to protect the world's children. He's a kick-ass swordfighter and a budding magician that can get out of any sticky situation!

I don't want to spoil the ending, but it sets the rest of the series up nicely and certain elements (as well as several throughout the novel) were adapted for the film. The next book is about the Easter Bunny, and the third about the Tooth Fairy - all of which are characters I'm looking forward to seeing in book form! Also, each book is accompanied by brilliant drawings and art done by the author. They're all fantastic to look at and compliment the text really well. I'm sure children will love this series!

I highly recommend this magical adventure story, but if you're looking for a faithful text of the film, you'll be disappointed. The books focus on a different guardian and weave their history through it, rather than have all the guardians united together in one place. I hope that happens in the series eventually, as I know I'll be reading these until the end. They're perfect for fans of The Chronicles of Narnia and Fablehaven, both of which I've read and would also recommend. Happy guarding!

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