Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer

I have enjoyed the work of children’s book author William Joyce for some time.  I have read a number of his book to my children; from Dinosaur Bob to Wilbur Robinson to Rolie Polie Ollie.  More recently, I really liked the imagination and creativity of the Guardians of Childhood picture books (The Man on the Moon and Sandman). Oh, and my kids liked them too.

So when the movie release caused me to realize that there was a chapter book series inspired by the picture books I thought this would be a good time to read them.  So I used a coupon and picked up the box set.

I have been enjoying the series so far.

The first book, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, touches on an appropriate character for this time of year.

For those unfamiliar with the books or movie here is the blurb:

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.

I found it to be a fun, action packed romp that builds on and adds to the picture books.

First, however, a warning: if you are looking for a fully flushed out and detailed back-story to Santa you will be disappointed.  This is less detailed and more plot driven than that. Sure, there are hints and the beginning of a story here but nothing like the fictional mythology or world building of some other books.

Instead it sort of drops you into the world introduced in the picture books and takes off with action and adventure.  A lot is left to the imagination of the reader. There are lots of fun imaginative details but not a systematic world or highly developed characters. Like most series the fun is in exploring the world and getting to know the different characters; there is almost always a lot left for the remaining books to fill in and expand ou.

But of course I love the whole package: the well done cover art and the great illustrations throughout and the whole sense of enchantment and wonder the series evokes.  And there is a simplicity that makes it accessible for all ages.  I would think this would make a great read out loud story for children (we haven’t tackled this one yet).

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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