A fun tale of adventure, friendship, and overcoming fear. With the help of some mythical magic.
After a thousand years of imprisonment in a dark hole, the Nightmare King rises again to take his revenge and haunt the happiness of children. The wizard Ombric asks the Man in the Moon for help against the threat and receives it in bold, swashbuckling bandit Nicholas St. North.
Our heroes are clearly such and risk much to fight the threat that is upon them.
Katherine is a kind, gentle, courageous child, even softening the hardened North and becoming friends. Ombric is a kindly and valiant teacher and protector. North's bandit life is clearly wrong, though he does hold to some morals. He grows during the story. He's a cheerful, child-friendly fellow. He turns down a thing of his dreams to aid frightened children. North and children alike have a desire to learn and plenty of imagination.
A "spectral boy" is determined to help children as best as he can and help defeat Pitch. The village children have a knack for avoiding bedtime. At one point, they sneak out and their curiosity leads them to explore in the dark of night.
A character is locked inside another's heart.
As mentioned before, Ombric is a wizard with Atlantean origins and has knowledge of a great many spells. He can communicate with owls telepathically. He's said to have helped invent time and gravity. He teaches the village children to make anything they think of come true. He devises a number of protective magical barriers - including the Spirit of the Forest who can turn men to stone - around the village.
Villagers remember that "magic's real power is in believing". "I believe" is chanted a couple times to effect. Ombric says that there's a little bit of wizard in everyone.
Pitch is said to have been "possessed" by villains past. He also delights in turning some children into Fearlings (shadowy slaves of his); he threatens one character with such a fate. Pitch himself is able to "possess" things. He also studied Ombric's book of enslavement spells; this allows him to know how to turn living beings into porcelain.
North and his bandits are led and magically supported by moonbeams on a mad ride. Moonbeams form a path again for another character. Lunar lamas are "holy men" dedicated to the moon and the Man in the Moon. They bow to both him and the spectral boy (whether in mere respect or worship, it's not made clear). MiM is able to communicate via a gong.
Pitch is found impaled through the heart to a rock (he's not dead). When enemies attack the village, Ombric's barriers fight back. The spectral boy bravely fights off Fearlings with his light. The battle mentioned in "The Man in the Moon" is retold here.
North is a skilled and formidable warrior. He attacks a malicious bear, striking, riddling it with daggers, and driving his sabers in an otherwise non-graphic fight. He also fights against Pitch.
Ombric is swallowed by a bear at one point, but comes back. He also destroys a mountaintop.
Drug and Alcohol Content
None, unless you count Ombric's elixirs.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
North once refers to children in general as brats, though not necessarily meanly.
This was a fun read, with mystery and action from the very beginning, diverse characters, and different points of view. Imagination and learning are greatly encouraged and the values of friendship are made clear. There's a good deal of magic (though not of a dark nature) and of belief therein, which may put off some readers.