The Guardians: Book Two
by William Joyce
“Try as she might, Katherine couldn’t keep the tears back” (Joyce, 97).
Chapter Eleven – Chapter Fifteen
Upon hearing of Nightlight’s absence, the three realize that Pitch must have attacked Santoff Claussen. So they (along with Kailash as a stowaway) use the Lamadary rocket to fly to the village.
On their way, Ombric tells them about Pitch and his daughter. Katherine is particularly struck by the news. She finds the idea of Pitch as a father baffling.
At the same time, due to her own absence of a father, she begins to feel a sense of pity for him and what he’s lost. For now “mixed with that feeling of dread was now a sadness that twined with her own sense of loss and longing” (92-3). This is because she can understand what it’s like to lack one half of a parent-child relationship. She begins to relate to Pitch in an inverse empathy due to her lack of a father.
They arrive at Santoff Claussen and survey the damage. And it’s incredibly ominous:
“It was as if all the life of the place had gone away. There was no movement. No breeze. Not one firefly or night bird flew to greet them. Even the raccoons and badgers were nowhere to be seen” (95).
(Unrelated but raccoons don’t live in Siberia, but there’s an explanation later for how this makes sense.)
An atmosphere of dread seeps off the woods. As if everything has vanished or simply ended. As the trio investigates further, Katherine and the other two discover this is truer than they may have expected – the spells of enslavement have reappeared:
“Something was glinting in the light of North’s sword. Ombric stooped to pick up what appeared to be a small piece of glass. He held it up to the light: It was a tiny porcelain squirrel. It was like a toy” (96).
My first response was something like: oh, no! My second was: nice reference back to the previous book.
They discover that all the animals, included Petrov and the bear, as well as the Spirit of the Forest and all the adults of Santoff Claussen have been transformed into toys. I had many feelings reading this part and I found the description of the Spirit of the Forest especially sad:
“The Spirit’s normally flowing veils hung still and stiff, her gemstones were dulled with the lifeless shine of ceramics. Her frozen expression was one of fierce determination. In her hands she clasped a jeweled sword. She had clearly been petrified at a moment of intense struggle, just as she had once done to all who had fallen under her spell” (97).
Like I said, I had a lot of feelings about this scene. The sheer sense of lost coupled with her determination to protect Santoff Claussen really touched me. Although it’s too bad we didn’t get to see her fighting or the fight at all in a visually active way.
Moving into Big Root, the three find all the children and books have vanished. All the owls and other creatures are toys, too. The only one left to tell the story is our old friend the moonbeam from the first chapter in Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King.
Katherine discovers it among the shattered pieces of Nightlight’s crystal hiding “beneath the largest piece” (100). The “small tarnished moonbeam” is in a terrible state, but it “shimmered with all the strength it could muster” to tell what befell Santoff Claussen and Nightlight (100-1). (You keep going, moonbeam. You’re cute and have guts. I like you.)
The next chapter is told entirely from the moonbeam’s point of view and voice. And I especially love it. I’m not entirely sure why, but there was a charming simplicity to its word choice and a unique candence to its tone.
In the moonbeam’s “Tale of Woe” (as the chapter title calls it) we see a little of the description I wished to see early about how the Spirit of the Forest fought and how the battle looked. For example, as the moonbeam’s explains,
“So fiercely fast the shadows came. Out of the forest. Toward the village. Toward the Big Root. Toward us! The Forest Spirit lady, she is fighting most ferocious, but the Pitch cannot be stopped. He wears the metal djinni suit and had a sword so dark. It takes all light that comes near. The Pitch says words –spells, I thinks – and all who are close go changed. They’re made small and still” (103).
While its a slim description, it does allow me a little more sense of what the battle looked like and provides a sense of motion and action.
It’s worth noting that the dichotomy between dark = bad and light = good revives. Admittedly the light in this context is probably more moonlight, which is night (i.e. dark) associated. At least to me. The trouble is how the dark is negative; it devours the light. It sets up an emotional reaction where darkness is fear – we don’t want that – and light is safety – we do want that. And that’s a thematic motif that can stay down in Pitch’s old prison.
In the moonbeam’s tale, it also mentions that Nightlight has a clever trick to outwit Pitch, who now has become an even greater threat with his new sword.
So armed with a sword that sucks up light, Pitch is stronger than before and demands to have all the books in Ombric’s library. But the books mysteriously vanished in a flash of light when he appeared. Finding no cooperation from Nightlight and the children, he takes them as ransom for the library.
At the end of its tale the moonbeam confesses its feelings: “I hates the feeling I am having. A scaredy feeling. But I am stronger by the telling of the tale!” (107). Moonbeam! 😭 And yes to the power of storyelling. I like how telling what happens gives the moonbeam strength. It’s a part of how stories are so meaningful and important.
After this, Katherine, Ombric, and North try to figure what to do. As their minds spin with ideas, they suddenly develop a weird mind meld. It comes from the deep friendship between them and allows them to pool their thoughts and questions into a quicker more coherent mass. It feels like an easy way to move the plot along because it seems to come out of nowhere. Why should their feelings of friendship create this particular type of bond? And yet it is actual relevant later.
Finally for this part, I will say there was a lot more of Katherine’s pov which I liked in contrast to Book One. I would also say that it’s here, finally, that the story picks up. Now there’s danger and a mystery. Something is happening. Which is that Katherine and North decide to find the last relic and get help on Easter Island.
Ombric: “‘Lead found at the core of the Earth,” Ombric explained. ‘It has never known light – any kind of light – so no light can penetrate it'” (111).
Explanation of what Pitch’s sword is made of.
Joyce, William. E. Aster Bunnymund and Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core! New York: Atheneum Books, 2012. Print.