A moonbeam goes to earth and into a cave and accidentally frees a spectral boy trapped in the heart of Pitch, the Nightmare King. The spectral boy was the only thing keeping Pitch prisoner, so now he and his Fearlings are free to haunt the nights of children.
Away in the far north, the last of the great wizards Ombrik Shalazar protects a village from the bad influences in the world. Pitch almost invades the village, but he is fought off by North, a young man who was formerly a bandit and happens to be in the village to protect the children. This is the beginning of a battle that will involve flying reindeer, mystical lamas, yetis, and the Man in the Moon.
This story is the first of the series called The Guardians, a franchise that also includes the movie The Rise of the Guardians. It is written to be read to younger children or read by children who are slightly older, maybe up to eight or nine years old. It is straightforwardly told in a fairy tale style, and although it has imaginative ideas, the writing style is not distinctive. There is not much to interest an adult, humor for example, but kids will certainly enjoy it.
The book is illustrated by William Joyce in black and white pictures, which although interesting, do not have the charm of some of his brightly colored picture books. The style is a bit on the steampunk side, and I’m sure the pictures would have been more interesting in color. Many of them seem dashed off, although others, such as this one of Ombrik, are beautifully detailed. In reading part of the story about the Man in the Moon, I realized I had read the precursor to this book, which was a lovely picture book for younger children with pictures in a steampunk style.