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Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians Series #1)

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians Series #1)

4.4 38
by William Joyce, Laura Geringer

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Don't miss The Rise of the Guardians, soon to be a major motion picture in theaters November 2012.

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


Don't miss The Rise of the Guardians, soon to be a major motion picture in theaters November 2012.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Launching the Guardians series, a chapter book counterpart to Joyce's Guardians of Childhood picture book series, this beguiling clash of good vs. evil brings together several legendary figures, updated by Joyce. Key players include Ombric, a wizard who teaches the children of the village of Santoff Claussen how to make anything they imagine come true; Nicholas St. North, a reformed bandit who becomes Ombric's apprentice; Nightlight, a "spectral boy" who is guardian to Tsar Lunar, ruler of the moon; and Katherine, a brave foundling whose dream foreshadows what North will become: "a powerful figure of unending mirth, mystery, and magic, who lived in a city surrounded by snow." All join forces to defeat Pitch, the King of Nightmares (called "Boogeyman" by children), a mission that culminates in a dramatic battle in the Himalayas. With agility and flair, Joyce and Geringer build layer upon layer of fantasy and provide rich background information about the characters, while leaving much to readers' imagination—and much still to be revealed. As in the narrative, shadow and light play enticing roles in Joyce's b&w illustrations. Ages 7–11. Agent: Michael Siegel & Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stole my son! The book came into our house, and the boy disappeared, for hours. Eventually he returned, but it seems that his imagination never came all the way back. A part of him will always remain tangled in the deep, dark, dazzling, insouciant mythology of this latest and most wonderful of William Joyce’s worlds.”

—Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

"The authors do a great job of creating excitement and intrigue, and for those who love to wend their way through extraordinary tales, this novel will not disappoint. The illustrations are wonderful charcoal, graphite, and digital renderings that convey all the magic and fear contained within the story. Fans of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers (Hyperion, 2004) may want to give this book a try."

SLJ, January 2012

"Joyce’s detailed illustrations capture the multitude of fantastical settings, weapons, and creatures populating this fast-paced tale."

BOOKLIST, November 1, 2011

"William Joyce’s magnificently creative illustrations, rendered in charcoal, graphite, and digital media have an old world feel that extends the text. In the world of fantasy, this book rises above the rest."

Library Media Connection, March/April 2012

Kirkus Reviews

Streaks of preciousness mar, or at least mark, an "origins" tale framed as a monumental struggle between the King of Nightmares and a Cossack bandit plainly destined for a later career bringing gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

Escaping 1,000 years of captivity, Pitch, the Nightmare King, has sent hordes of Fearlings out to darken the dreams of children worldwide and attacked the happy Siberian town of Santoff Claussen. Orchestrated by Tsar Lunar, the Man in the Moon, a small company sets out to gather the first of five ancient relics that will help defeat Pitch. The band is made up of kindly old wizard Ombric Shalazar (last survivor of Atlantis and inventor of "time, gravity, and bouncing balls!"); his ward, the intrepid young orphan Katherine; a mysterious elfin creature; and, last but not least, Nicholas St. North—an exuberant former bandit chieftain turned inventor who is "no longer a thief of treasures but a buccaneer of fun" thanks to Ombric's tutelage in magic and science. With help from an army of yetis led by the Lunar Lamas (who are quaintly described as "inscrutable" and also look identical in the accompanying illustration), Pitch is fended off in a great battle in the Himalayas, the relic is recovered and it's off to further episodes. Many further episodes, as this is just the opening novel in an ambitious multimedia project dubbed "The Guardians of Childhood." (The Man in the Moon, 2011, is the companion opening picture book in the project.)

A quick read, with plenty of rococo weapons, characters and creatures (notably reindeer). (Fantasy. 9-11)

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—A meteor strikes Earth and from the giant crater it creates, a tree grows. Ombirc, a wise, ancient wizard, tends it and recognizes its magic. Soon the tree is large enough to house not only Ombirc, but a whole community of curious dreamers who live in harmony with nature and with one another. All is well in Ombirc's small, idyllic village until Pitch, the Nightmare King, is released from his prison to spread his evil across the land and infiltrate Santoff Claussen. Enter the heroes, Nicholas St. North, a wandering bandit-turned-good-guy, and Young Tsar Lunar, last member of the Lunanoffs and the protector of dreams. Together with Ombric and Katherine, a young resident of Santoff Claussen, these forces defeat The Nightmare King. This is an imaginative adventure with more than its share of fantastical beings and occurrences. In fact, there may be so many strange people, places, and things that struggling readers may find themselves distracted from the story. Some of the language is also a bit awkward. That being said, the authors do a great job of creating excitement and intrigue, and for those who love to wend their way through extraordinary tales, this novel will not disappoint. The illustrations are wonderful charcoal, graphite, and digital renderings that convey all the magic and fear contained within the story. Fans of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers (Hyperion, 2004) may want to give this book a try.—Mary Beth Rassulo, Ridgefield Library, CT

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
William Joyce's Guardians Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In Which The Great War
Is Renewed

THE BATTLE OF THE Nightmare King began on a moonlit night long ago. In the quiet town of Tangle-wood, a small boy and his smaller sister woke with a start. Like most children (and some adults at one time or another), they were afraid of the dark. They each slowly sat up in bed, clutching their covers around themselves like a shield. Too fearful to rise and light a candle, the boy pushed aside the curtains and peered out the window, looking for the only other light to be seen during these long-ago nights—the Moon. It was there, full and bright.

At that moment a young moonbeam shot down from the sky and through the window. Like all beams, it had a mission: Protectthe children.

The moonbeam glowed its very hardest, which seemed to comfort the two. One, then the other, breathed a sleepy sigh and lay back down. In a few moments they were once again asleep. The moonbeam scanned the room. All was safe. There was nothing there but shadows. But the beam sensed something beyond the room, beyond the cabin. Something, somewhere, wasn’t right. The beam ricocheted off the small glass mirror above the children’s chest of drawers and out the window.

It flashed through the village, then 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. Like a searchlight, the beam shot out into the darkness until it found a cave.

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.

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

The darkness seemed to go on and on forever. Finally, the moonbeam came to a stagnant pool. Black water reflected its glow, dimly lighting the cave. And there, in the center of the pool, stood a giant figure. He was denser and even darker than the shadows that surrounded him. Still as a statue, he wore a long cloak as inky as an oil seep. The moonbeam scanned the figure slowly, cautiously. When it reached his eyes, they opened! The figure was awake!

The shadows began writhing about at the feet of the figure, their low drone filling the air. They grew, crashing against the cave walls like waves against a ragged jetty. But they weren’t shadows at all! They were creatures—creatures that no child or Moon messenger had seen for centuries. And the moon-beam knew at once: It was surrounded by Fearlings and Nightmare Men—slaves of the Nightmare King!

The moonbeam paled and faltered. Perhaps it should have given up and fl ed back to the Moon. If it had, this story would never have been told. But the moonbeam did not flee. Inching closer, it realized that the phantom figure was the one all moon-beams had been taught to watch for: It was Pitch, the King of Nightmares! He had been pierced through the heart, a diamond-like dagger holding him pinned against a mound of ebony marble. Warily, the moon-beam crept closer still, grazing against the weapon’s crystal hilt.

But light does not go around crystal, it goes through it, and suddenly, the beam was sucked into the blade! Twisting from side to side, the moonbeam was pulled on a jagged course to the blade’s tip. It was trapped, suspended in Pitch’s frozen, glassy heart. Pitch’s chest began to glow from within as the moonbeam ricocheted about in a frenzy, desperate to escape. It was terrifyingly cold there—colder even than the darkest regions of space. But the moonbeam was not alone. There, just beyond the edge of the blade, in the farthest recesses of the phantom figure’s heart, it could see the spectral shape of a tiny elfin child curled tight. A boy? Hesitantly, the beam illuminated the child’s head.

That little ray of light was all it took; the spectral boy began to grow. He burst forth from Pitch’s chest joyfully, free at last! The moonbeam was thrown from side to side as the boy, with one quick tug, wrenched the radiant dagger from the cold heart that had trapped him. Bearing the blade aloft, with the moon-beam still caught inside lighting the way, the boy shot like a rocket straight up and out of the cursed cave and into the starry night. By the time his feet hit the snowy ground, he looked every bit like a real boy, if a real boy could be carved out of mist and light and miraculously brought to life.

Freed from the dagger’s impaling, Pitch began to grow as well, rising like a living tower of coal. Swelling to a monstrous size, he followed the boy’s illuminated trail to the surface.

Looking wildly up at the sky, Pitch sniffed the air in ecstasy. With one shrug and a toss of his midnight cloak, he blotted out the Moon. He crouched down and dug his fingers into the earth, letting the scents of the surrounding forest reach into his searching brain. He was ravenous, overwhelmed by a fiery hunger that burned him from within.

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 innocent children. He would turn those dreams into nightmares—every last one—till every child on Earth lived in terror. For that’s how Pitch intended to exact his revenge upon all those who had dared imprison him!

As glorious thoughts of revenge filled Pitch’s mind, they ignited around him a cloud of sulfurous black. The cloud seeped upward from the seemingly bottomless pit of the cave. From that vapor, hurtling in all directions at once, came the shadow creatures— the Fearlings and Nightmare Men—thousands of them, horrendously shrieking. Like giant bats, they glided over the forest and beyond, invading the dreams of all who slept nearby.

By now the moonbeam was frantic. It had found Pitch! The Evil One! It had to return to the Moon and report back to Tsar Lunar! But it remembered the sleeping children back in their cabin. What if the Fearlings went after them? How could the moonbeam help if it was still trapped inside the diamond dagger? The beam bucked and strained, guiding the boy, who skittered along, light as air, back through the town, back to the small children’s window. They skidded to a stop.

The spectral boy pulled himself up onto the windowsill. As he peered in at the children, somewhere in his heart an ancient memory or remembrance stirred of a sleeping baby and a distant lullaby. But the memory dissolved almost as soon as it appeared, leaving him feeling deeply and unexpectedly sad.

Something dark flashed past the boy and into the children’s room. Suddenly, two Fearlings hovered and twisted in midair above the sleeping brother and sister who turned restlessly, clutching at their quilts. Instinctually, the spectral boy leaped off the windowsill and snatched a broken tree branch from the ground, attaching the diamond dagger to its end. He aimed his gleaming weapon at the window.

The Fearlings shrunk back from the light, but they did not disappear. So, for the second time that evening, the moonbeam glowed with all its might. The brightness was now too much for the Fearlings. With a low moan, they twined and curled, then vanished, as if they had never been there at all.

The children rolled over and nestled into their pillows with a smile.

And after seeing those smiles, the spectral boy laughed.

Up on the Moon, however, there was no cause for laughter. Tsar Lunar—the one we call the Man in the Moon—was on high alert. Something was amiss. Each night he sent thousands of moonbeams down to Earth. And each night they returned and made their reports. If they were still bright, all was well. But if they were darkened or tarnished from their travels, Tsar Lunar would know that the children of Earth needed his help.

For a millennium all had been well and the moon-beams had returned as brightly as they had ventured forth. But now, one moonbeam had not returned.

And for the first time in a very long time, Tsar Lunar felt an ancient dread.

© 2011 William Joyce

Meet the Author

William Joyce has put his personal stamp on all types of children’s media. His books include the New York Times bestseller The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core!, and Santa Calls. He’s won three Emmy awards for his Rolie Polie Olie animated series, developed character concepts for Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, and made films including Robots and Meet the Robinsons. He’s currently executive producer of the DreamWorks Animation release of Rise of the Guardians (Fall 2012) inspired by his new series. He is also producing The Leaf Men, based on his book The Leaf Men. And his star continues to rise—he’s been nominated for an Academy Award for his innovative short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. He lives in Shreveport, LA, and is the founder of Moonbot Studios.

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Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My all-time favourite kids series of all. It is certainly the Guardian of Childhood.
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
Nicholas St. North and the Nightmare King is a fun and new explanation about the origins of Santa Claus. It has something for everyone, both those who celebrate Christmas, and those who do not. There’s fighting, action, magic, invention, and some captivating descriptions about light and dark and good and bad. The purity and innocence that comes with childhood really plays an important role in this swashbuckling adventure. North, the Santa Claus figure, is dashing and roguish and nothing like the Santa we think of now, but children will love to see him in this new light. Everything about the story is special and holds this sense of enchantment that will charm even the most reluctant readers. While the story focuses on Santa Claus, it doesn’t go into any sort of religious background. Instead, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, taps into the magic that comes with the holiday season and the childhood wonderment that this time of the year invokes. It’s a dreamlike story that will delight readers and enchant them with a new way of thinking of their dear Santa Claus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book. If anyone loves different spins on old classics as we are seeing in Once Upon a Time and in Wicked, they will love this take on childhood heroes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is of the best I ever read, and I have read alot of books.
Nightlight1 More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I love it very much. It captivated my imagination and hid it in the forests of Santoff Claussen with the bear and the Spirit of The Forest and the Great Reindeer too. It is dreaming sweet dreams with Kathrine and Nightlight. My imagination is happy as am I. This book is marvelous. To those that say otherwise I am sorry that you have no imagination
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book for children and is a good book for reading around christmas time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Luv it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joyce did an amazing job. I really felt I was in the story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me start by saying that, like many others, my first intoduction to this series was rough Rise of the Guardians. I came into this knowing in general what to expect. So having now read it, let me tell you what you can expect - and not expect. The characters, as in the movie, are the strongest part of this book. The only one you'll be recognizing is North - this is his book - but the cast that supports him are just as engaging and entertaining. The plot is pretty basic. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. But what it lacks in great plotting, it makes up for in sheer imagination and wonder as described in setting and lore. The places you read of and things the characters do all retain that same sense of dreamlike amazement you might expect from this series. If there's a real weakness to be had, it's in writing. This is obviously a children's book - you can't even get away with callin it YA. Even with that in mind, the author takes a very "tell don't show" approach. Everything is told very matter of factly, with nothing really left to the imagination. Character feelings are told straight up. And perhaps worse, many times dialogue is completely thrown aside for simply telling what the conversation was about. Go in expecting the right thing, and you won't be disappointed. Or better yet, get this for your kids. Just don't expect too much feom it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These series of books are about the characters who are most important to our childhood! This book focuses on who is Santa Claus and how did he come to be and how does he "protect" us! GREAT BOOK(S)!!!!!!
KaylaBeck More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book as a part of the Magnificently Magic Read-A-Thon* both because it was a book I had been wanting to read and because of how perfectly it fit the criteria. Being as it weighs in at 228 pages and is assuredly lower middle grade might have had something to do with choosing it. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is the first book in The Guardians series. It takes place after The Man in the Moon, which is the first book in the picture book companion series, The Guardians of Childhood, also written by William Joyce. (It's a quick read, and I recommend that you read it first.) The Nightmare King, Pitch, escapes his imprisonment after the inadvertent actions of a moonbeam releases an elfish boy made of light encased in a dagger in Pitch's heart. This sets of a chain of events that is the focus of this. I'm not sure if I've ever said this on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for middle grade novels. There is rarely any gore, minimal depressive events (before you say anything, I believe Harry Potter 5-7 is YA), and a lovely, magical sense of fun whether there is literal magic or not. Nicholas St. North gives us just that. Joyce & Geringer brilliantly draw the reader into the story, while setting up the world in the novel for the entire series. Where the picture book, The Man in the Moon introduced the reader to Mim, AKA Tsar Lunar, in this novel we meet Nicholas St. North (Santa, perhaps?), Ombric the Wizard, and Katherine, a little foundling girl in Ombric's care. Nightlight, a character and friend of Mim's in The Man in the Moon, makes a reappearance in this novel. The first half of the story is mostly devoted to world-building (which is rich), but the action is exciting once it comes. This would be a fantastic story for fans of fairy tales or reimaginings, and I highly recommend this book for reluctant readers. There are illustrations scattered throughout the book, and the pacing is gripping and fast enough to hold on to those frustratingly short attention spans. There is also the film adaptation, The Rise of the Guardians, that can be used as a tool to bring readers to Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King and vice versa. 3.5 Stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book on a bus. A girl on my schoolbus was reading the second book. I asked her what she was reading and she showed me the cover. I saw the author was William Joyce so I wrote that name in Sharpie on my arm. When I got home I looked up his name on my nook. Then I added every book in the Guardians series to my wishlist. I checked the whole series from the library. On my birthday I bought the series. These books are utterly magical and wonderful. If you love a book with a great story and funny bits of humor then this book is for you. -ichigo tachikawa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that I can read over and over and never get tired of, it's written beautifully and I love I love books in which you can't help but root for the bad guy (North). Also this is a story about a young man who as no memory of the family he used to have who later finds himself through Ombric (a wise - yet loony wizard) and Katherine (a young orphan girl raised by Ombric), then realizing that he is not a theif or a ruffian, but a hero!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stinks! Kidding, it is so awesome!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic story! My daughter is a 9 year old "reluctant reader" who wanted no part of this book until she sat down and started reading it. From the very first chapter she fell in love with it and I think would have very well read it from cover to cover if I would have let her go without sleeping! This is a terrific story, full of  adventure and action, magic and mystery and my child can't put it down! We've already got the next two books lined up waiting to read! What a delightful feeling it is to have her excited and anxious to read what happens next! Well done Mr. Joyce! Thanks for the adventure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jack looked at Tracy with the most dazzling eyes she had ever seen. He said, "Are you lost?" Tracy said, "Well...It's...um...yeah...," in a tiny voice. Suddenly a growl emerged from the blanket of white that was now descending upon her and Jack. She jumped. Another growl emerged. Then another and and another as wolves appeared out of nowhere. But these wolves were like no other. They were black as night, and if Tracy looked hard enough, she would see that they were made of a fine sand. Jack stepped in front of Tracy and said in a commanding voice, "Don't move." Tracy squeaked, "What...are those?" "Nightmares." "What?!" "Pitch must be here." "Who's Pitch?!?" "He must be trying another scheme." "YOU'RE NOT MAKING ANY SENSE!!!!" Suddenly, one of the night-wolves growled. "Shhhh." said Jack. Then, from out of the white nothingness surounding them and the wolves, a larger, stronger wolf, the alpha male, came charging out of its hiding spot, ran towards Tracy like a man possessed, and bit Tracy soundly on the arm! Tracy let out an ear-piercing scream and threw the wolf off her arm. Cluthing her wound, she noticed with horror that the fine sand that made up the wolves was now seeping into her bloodstream. Suddenly, the growls of the wolves seemed distant. She swayed and fell onto the powdered snow. She heard Jack calling to her- "Are you ok?!"- but his voice seemed faint and far away. Her eyelids then just got too heavy to keep open, and she let herself slip into unconciousness. ------------------ Jack saw Tracy fall to the ground. He tried to call her, but he didn't know her name. As she slipped into unconciousness, Jack knew she was in serious danger. He picked her up and called to the wind, saying, "Wind, take me to the Pole!" A sudden gust of wind blew by, carrying Jack and Tracy away from the dangerous wolves. Soon, the North Pole came into view. Jack rushed inside, where North was finishing up designs for a snow-themed train set. Jack ran up to the big, jolly Guardian and said, "We have a big problem." Part three will be at E. Aster Bunnymund by William Joyce. If you want to read part one, that is at Rise of the Guardians Junior Novel. Tell me what you think. No bad language, please!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book so much that I asked my librarian when she got the chance if she could get the second book for me thats how much I loved it!!!!!!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will love this book! Buy it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago