Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King: The Guardians, Book 1

Common Sense Media says

Early days of Santa Claus are busy but not wholly engaging.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is a fanciful fantasy that chronicles the back-stories of some very recognizable figures from fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and holiday traditions.

Positive messages

The characters must work together to battle the forces of the Nightmare King. Their belief in each other and their essential goodness allow them to prevail.

Positive role models

The title character, Nicholas St. North, starts the book as a thief and a scoundrel but gradually reveals his bravery and his devotion to the denizens of Santoff Claussen. Other characters, including a young girl named Katherine, courageously do their part to oppose the Nightmare King.

Violence & scariness

The Nightmare King unleashes his army of Fearlings and Nightmare Men on the residents of the peaceful little town of Santoff Claussen, causing the children to experience terrible (but not described) nightmares. Two likeable characters seem to be killed, but they are quickly resuscitated.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is a fanciful fantasy about the origins of certain characters from mythology and fairy tales, focusing on the young man who would become Santa Claus. In this first installment of William Joyce's chapter book series The Guardians, good battles evil, but the level of tension never rises too high for its target readership. Children in the book experience terrible nightmares (which are not described). Two likeable supporting characters seem to be killed, but they are quickly resuscitated. The 3-D computer-animated fantasy adventure film Rise of the Guardians, which comes out Nov. 21, 2012, is based on books in both The Guardians and The Guardians of Childhood, Joyce's picture book series.

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What's the story?

Nicholas St. North is a thief, a rascal and a scoundrel, but when the town of Santoff Claussen is threatened by the Nightmare King and his minions, Nicholas learns how to become a hero. The other defenders of the town include the great wizard Ombric Shalazar, a young girl named Katherine, a robotic djinni and a mysterious, spectral boy. Together, they fight to save their friends and families and learn the power of belief.

Is it any good?


NICHOLAS ST. NORTH AND THE BATTLE OF THE NIGHTMARE KING purports to tell the origin story of the young man who would become Santa Claus. Unfortunately, Nicholas is rarely the center of the narrative's attention. Narrated from a peculiarly detached point of view, the story feels busy without being completely engaging. The near-omniscient point-of-view shifts willy-nilly between a wide range of supporting -- and less interesting -- characters. Many plot threads will undoubtedly be taken up in the series' subsequent volumes, but, for the moment, the sequence, for all its whimsy and invention, feels a little sketchy and disjointed. William Joyce's black-and-white illustrations add visual magic and a sense of coherence to the story.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about where holiday traditions come from and how they have changed through the ages. Have you heard other origin stories of Santa Claus?

  • Why do you think people are always coming up with new visions of Santa Claus' world, from The Polar Express to The Santa Clause?

  • Why are nightmares so scary? What can you do to take away some of their intensity?

Book details

Authors:Laura Geringer, William Joyce
Illustrator:William Joyce
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Book characters, Holidays
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:October 4, 2011
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):7 - 12
Read aloud:7 - 12
Read alone:7 - 12
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King: The Guardians, Book 1 was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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