It’s finally the month of December and Christmas is just around the corner! Can you feel the Christmas spirit? It always brightens my day whenever I see colourful Christmas decors and lights having put up in malls, houses, and along the streets coupled with Christmas songs being played in the background. Christmas, as people often say, is the season for giving. People, young and old, would happily look forward to this holiday as they celebrate the day with gift-giving, planning or attending feasts with their loved ones depending on their beliefs and cultures, and most importantly, they are brought back to the time of rejoicing Jesus Christ’s birth.
Moreover, Christmas is also the time when all the innocent children talk about gifts they want to ask from Santa Claus. We all know how Santa Claus came to be. And speaking of him, it just so happened that I recently read a book that is Christmas-related which focused on St. Nick. The Guardians Book One: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (by William Joyce and Laura Geringer) is something that children would definitely enjoy reading this Christmas season.
Here’s the plot description from the cover jacket of the book:
Before St. Nick was St. Nick, he was North, Nicholas St. North, a daredevil swordsman, ruffian, and notorious outlaw. His prowess with weaponry of all kinds was infamous and he sought treasure and riches at all costs. Hardly hero material.
But heroes are not born – they’re tested.
When real villains enter the scene in the shifting shape of Pitch and his dreaded Fearlings, North finds a different use for his famed fighting abilities.
Here, in this first in a series of epic Guardian adventures, meet the legendary St. Nick. You’ve known about him for years, but, it turns out, you don’t really know him at all…
Yes, this book is not about the Santa Claus we know – the old, round-shaped bellied man who lives in North Pole and rides a sleigh pulled by eight reindeers to deliver Christmas gifts all around the world. Instead, this book discusses the early and young life of Nicholas St. North before he becomes Santa Claus.
As much as it is about North, this book is also interconnected with the first children’s picture book, The Man in the Moon. Tsar Lunar, AKA MiM, watches over the Earth to protect the children from having nightmares caused by the Fearlings and Nightmare Men. He sends moonbeams to Earth and by fate, one of the moonbeams awakens a boy trapped in Pitch’s stone body and the villain Pitch himself, causing grave danger to Earth. This mysterious spectral boy, who is released from Pitch’s body and whose name is to be revealed towards the end of the book, immediately finds his purpose and begins to roam around to fight the evil with light.
It is the moonbeam which leads Nicholas St. North to Santoff Clausen, a village “sanctuary” created by the most powerful wizard of all, Ombric, and a place where only a person with goodness of heart can enter. I feel that this part is where the authors prominently imply the difference between good and evil. Children who read this book would surely favour good over evil, light over darkness. On the other hand, Joyce and Geringer also provide a message that one cannot contain only goodness in this imperfect world where evil inevitably exists. As proven in the story, Ombric encloses so much goodness in Santoff Claussen that a small encounter with evil would already bring too much anxiety and fear to the villagers.
Moving on, I love the character development of both North and little Katherine. Their characterization is dynamic that one cannot help but love them and the turn out of their friendship. Their relationship is strong enough to break any spell. Katherine looks up to North and would go an extra mile to protect and save her loved ones. Her hunger for adventures all the more strengthens her bravery even at such a young age. Furthermore, North, in the end, is able to find his purpose for living, not as a bandit, but as a Guardian of Childhood. Because of Katherine, he feels belonged and loved. This proves to show a child’s dream can motivate a person to aspire to become what he is expected to be. One might ask how North become the Santa Claus we are familiar with. I don’t know and I hope the authors will eventually answer this question.
Overall, the book is an enjoyable read. The lyrical prose is agreeably appropriate for young readers. The richness of the words and the structure of sentences will immerse readers in this magical world. Similar to The Man in the Moon, this book has some illustrations in it, too, drawn by William Joyce himself. I surely cannot wait to read the next book.