NICHOLAS ST. NORTH AND THE BATTLE OF THE NIGHTMARE KING by William Joyce

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When a curious moonbeam accidentally releases Pitch, the Nightmare King, from his imprisonment, all of the children in the world are in danger of being turned into shadowy Fearlings.  In more danger than most are the children of Santoff Claussen, an idyllic Russian village established by the wizard Ombric which had hitherto been shielded from all evil and unpleasantness.  Although a mysterious spectral boy has been keeping the Fearlings and Nightmare Men at bay, the Man in the Moon believes that more help is needed to defeat the evil Pitch.  He reaches out to Nicholas St. North, king of the Russian bandits, who—together with Ombric and his ward Katherine—may be able to drive Pitch and his armies out of Russia.

This book is the first novel in the “Guardians of Childhood” series.  Each book deals with a different mythical figure that features prominently in childhood (St. Nicholas, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Man in the Moon, and the Sandman).  Joyce and Geringer reimagine these figures in a way that makes it seem as though our modern legends have evolved from bits of truth passed down from the ancient battle against darkness.  Although the concept was interesting, I did not find the writing engaging.  There was a lot of expository narration that told how characters were developing, and the actual actions of the characters came second—almost as examples of how the change were taking place.  As a result, it was hard to really get into the story since it felt like I was being told bits of information in retrospect rather than watching and experiencing an adventure as it unfolded.  I suspect that this is one of those instances where I will enjoy the movie more than the book.

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