It’s been a few years since Rise of the Guardians came out, and I’m still in love with the story. Unfortunately, though there’s been occasional talk of a sequel, I think it might be wise to not get our hopes up. As such, wanting to know more about the mythology behind the movie, I finally sat down to read the book series the movie’s based on.
Nicholas St. North chronicles how North went from a Cossack outlaw into the man we know as Santa Claus. As this is a book series, it naturally has a lot more mythology and characters than we see in the movie. And at 228 pages with large font, it’s a very easy read; I blew through the first novel in just a couple hours. Nicholas St. North is a simple, engaging read, and I loved almost every moment of it.
The books take place before the movie and introduce a variety of new characters. As the first book focuses on North and serves as an introduction to the series and the world, we don’t get much in the way of female characters or other representation. By the first book’s end, North has still yet to meet the other Guardians, and the majority of the story takes place in Russia. We are, however, introduced to a child named Katherine, who plays a central role to the narrative. Unfortunately, Katherine is the only female character of note in the first book.
Like Rise of the Guardians, our story here begins with Pitch causing havoc and attempting to take over the world by spreading nightmares and turning children into Fearlings. We are then introduced to a wizard named Ombric and his ward, Katherine. Ombric is the head of a secluded town in Russia called Santoff Claussen. He uses his magic to keep the town safe and spends his days teaching the children what he knows about magic, belief, and imagination. Under his protection, the children in question, including Katherine, have never had a nightmare. Naturally, Pitch is drawn to them, and Santoff Claussen is thrust into a world of fear and chaos.
Knowing that Ombric will need help in his battle against Pitch, the Man in the Moon, known as Tsar Lunar, sends a moonbeam down to find a legendary outlaw named North who’s never lost a challenge. Under the moonbeam’s guidance, North, believing there’s treasure in Santoff Claussen, makes his way to the town. Once there, he sees the children being attacked by Pitch, so shoving all thoughts of gold and other riches aside, he rushes to the children’s aid. He manages to beat Pitch back temporarily and the town feels indebted to him for it. Ombric later takes North on as his apprentice and teaches North all he knows about magic. North in turn discovers that he likes to combine magic with his own inventions—allowing him to create “impossible” machines—and enjoys spending time with Katherine, who has become his very first friend.
With Ombric, North eventually sets out on a journey to find five pieces of the moon that have ended up on Earth. Once combined, these pieces will form a weapon powerful enough to defeat Pitch. Along their way, Pitch attacks and uses magic to transform North and Ombric into toy dolls. Katherine learns of what’s happening, and using the magic of belief, she manages to save both North and Ombric. Pitch loses the battle once again, and North and Ombric find one of the moon pieces. North vows to the Man in the Moon that he will continue on in the fight against Pitch. Therein ends the first book.
As I said, it is a very simple and easy read—the books are designed for children after all. But it was certainly worthwhile to lose myself in its pages, even if it was only for a couple hours. Nicholas St. North sets out to capture a reader’s imagination, and I think it does just that. It introduces us to a vivid world filled with new mythology and magic. I am, however, always bummed out a bit when I read or watch a story about children when it portrays said children as being entirely innocent and free from wrong, as if children can do no wrong. I do believe that children are capable of some truly evil acts and that they are not the paradigms of goodness both The Guardians and Rise of the Guardians make them out to be.
That said, even though I take issue that the books portray children in such a narrow, unrealistic view, I do like the book. Like the movie, it doesn’t shy away from putting children into bad situations and allowing the children’s imaginations to be a useful tool to get them out of those situations. Just as the Guardians wouldn’t have won in the movie without Jamie, in the book North and Ombric would have lost without Katherine.
I am of course, still a little upset that Katherine is our only female character. I still like her, and since we spend more time with her than the other children, she comes across as more realistic and relatable than they do. She is not defined by her goodness and innocence. I still would have liked a little more from her—I think her friendship with North could be more fleshed out, and as Ombric’s ward, I would have loved to see her do more with spells—but for the most part, I was happy with her character. And even though this book only had one female character, I don’t think that’s going to be the same for the other books. Both Tooth and Mother Nature still have yet to be introduced, and after reading Nicolas St. North, I’m looking forward to the future books as well.
Sadly, I don’t think Jack Frost is a character in the books, since they take place before his time. We are, however, introduced to a character named Nightlight, who has a staff and can fly around on clouds. I was confused by him initially, since he is described in a way that’s similar to Jack. Nightlight is actually Tsar Lunar’s personal Guardian. He does help out our characters in the fight against Pitch, but for the most part, we don’t learn that much about him. He’s very elusive, and like Katherine, I have a feeling he will play a bigger role in the later books.
If you are a Rise of the Guardians fan, I would check out this series. So far, it’s fun and engaging. If you’re reading this blog, chances are the novels are significantly below your age level, but they’re still a good read. (At least, the first one is. I’ll get back to you on the others.)