The Guardians’ powers are put to the ultimate test in their final battle in this conclusion to the epic chapter book series from William Joyce.
When we last saw the Guardians, they were celebrating their victory during Bright Night, the final great Battle of the Moon, where they defeated Pitch once and for all. Or so they thought. Now, many years later, the Guardians have settled into their final selves, embracing their public images and the Earth Holidays. But the world has not been without evil since Pitch’s imprisonment. First there was the World War, then The Crash which has led to what the humans call a Great Depression. All the Guardians feel the weight of these events, but Jack Frost—now half human, half of his former self Nightlight—feels it the most.
Jack’s transition from Nightlight to Guardian was not an easy one. Always inclined to keep to himself, Jack has become especially isolated from the other Guardians since his transformation. Yet it is Jack who Ombric Shalazar (once a great wizard, now known as Father Time) trusts with a tremendous secret. But for Jack to fully understand this secret, he must revisit his past—and finally tell his story.
Jack’s story, however, isn’t the only one to be reopened; an old enemy whose chapter we thought closed will reappear and with him bring a darkness and destruction that will test the Guardians like never before. It’s a battle of superlatives—the worse fighting the greatest, but where, oh where, is Jack?
A Nose Is Nearly Nipped CHRISTMAS EVE WAS JACK’S favorite day of the year. And for the last few decades or so, he had spent that day in his favorite place: his tree.
Jack’s tree was the oldest in Central Park. A thousand people, maybe more, walked past it daily and had done so for many years, but not one of them knew that Jackson Overland Frost was very often living inside it.
This tree was much older than the park it stood in and was even older than the city of New York itself. It was a sapling when the city was still called New Amsterdam and there were more Native Americans than settlers living in the swampy forests of Manhattan Island.
By this Christmas Eve 1933, millions of people lived within shouting distance of this noble oak, but its secrets were still more absolute than they had been when flintlocks or bows and arrows were the order of the day.
A heavy snow was falling over all of the East. It muffled the sounds of the city, though New York was already quieting down. People had finished shopping and were heading to their apartments and penthouses and homes. Jack, however, could feel the thrum of excitement from the children. Sleep would be difficult for them. It was, after all, Christmas Eve.
A busy night for Sandman, he thought.
The inside of Jack’s tree contained more than a dozen rooms within its majestic hollow, and the furnishings were a mix of pieces from several centuries: spears, shields, stools, and pottery from the various tribes of the Iroquois, along with colonial tables and ornate chairs and couches brought over from Europe. There was a tomahawk from a chief of the Algonquians. The jacket that George Washington had worn the night he crossed the Delaware was hanging on a hat rack that had belonged to Teddy Roosevelt. This tree, like all the tree-houses Jack called home, was a handsome, comfortable clutter of the region’s history.
Jack was readying to meet up with the other Guardians when he felt the dull, worrying ache in his left hand. He wanted to ignore it. He knew Nicholas St. North would already be grumping about his being late.
Jack Frost! The fair-weather Guardian! North would playfully gripe. Comes and goes when he pleasies!
The word, my dear North, is “pleases,” E. Aster Bunnymund would correct.
Go lay an egg, General Rabbit Bunny, North would retort, and they would begin to amiably argue.
Jack could imagine it exactly. He grabbed his staff, Twiner, and prepared to leave, but then paused as another even sharper pain seared through his hand. He looked at his palm, at the curious scar etched across it. The inky stain of Pitch’s blood had discolored it and was, Jack knew, the source of the pain, for it only twinged when Pitch or his forces posed a threat.
He turned back to a cabinet, well hidden, where he kept his daggers. There were several similar daggers in this secret cabinet. All of them were made from large, sharp, single diamonds, and each gemstone had been formed from the tears of someone Jack had loved. As far back as his earliest days as Nightlight, Jack had possessed the ability to turn sorrow into a weapon. These daggers could only be used against dark forces or to protect the kind and weak. But there was one dagger, unfinished, that was different from the others. It had come from the tears of Pitch himself. This dagger had one purpose only.
Jack had never completed its construction, but he knew now in his heart that it was finally time to use it. And this worried him deeply as he took the dagger and tucked it into its sheath. He slipped on his blue hoodie, which he wore as a sort of uniform, then set out for the pole. The North Pole.
The thousand or so squirrels that sheltered in his tree were eating nuts and singing squirrel carols around a squirrel version of a Christmas tree, a cone-shaped mound of acorns covered with candles. They squealed “Merry Christmas” to him in squirrel-speak. Jack squealed back; he spoke fluent squirrel and chipmunk.
As he leaped out of the hollow, he felt his hand throb once more. Not now. Not tonight. He gave his hand a shake.
A breeze suddenly kicked up. The trees swayed and lurched, their message clear. Danger was near. Twiner instantly transformed into a bow and a quiver full of gnarled arrows.
Jack quickly nocked an arrow.
“Where?” he whispered to the bow.
He let Twiner lead him to where he needed to aim. While Jack could sense danger, Twiner could always see where it was coming from. The wind stilled, and the snow stopped.
William Joyce does a lot of stuff but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Guardians, Dinosaur Bob, George Shrinks, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also his Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. Talk to William Joyce and look at upcoming work at @HeyBillJoyce on Twitter and Instagram.