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MisterMondayHere's a quick review for Mister Monday, the first book in the ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ series by Garth Nix, which I found enjoyable, if a tad simplistic and lacking in substance – i.e. an above average, but otherwise run-of-the-mill Fantasy book for younger readers (age and otherwise).


The book follows the adventures of a boy, Arthur Penhaligon (no kidding – with a name like this you have to have strange adventures!), who is thrown into an alternative world by circumstances outside his influence. This is the first book in a series of seven, one for each day of the week.

Where to start? Maybe with the creation myth, which, IMHO, is the best part of the book…
So, in the beginning was Nothing, and from the Nothing the Architect came (just Architect, BTW… no Masonic references here!). Hard on her heels came the Old One, her counterpart, always in opposition, but not inimical to her works. The architect created the House and its Denizens, at the epicentre of All Creation, to observe, record, and document everything, but never to interfere. She then threw out Nothing into the emptiness, and from this the Secondary Realms came, of which our world is but one.
But then, after aeons, the Architect went away, leaving the House and the secondary realm to her Trustees – one for every day of the week. They had no intention to follow her Will (which she left), but, not being able to destroy it, broke it into several fragments, and hid them in the remotest corners of space and time.

The story starts with one fragment of the Will freeing itself from its prison, and, having a will of its own (no pun intended), starting to remediate the situation.
Enter Arthur Penhaligon, who, on his first day at his new school, suffers an Asthma attack, and is dying, literally. Except that, all of a sudden, Mr Monday (yup, him of the title) appears, and hands him a clock hand, known as the ‘Lesser Key of the Lower House’, which saves Arthur’s life. Mr Monday didn’t do this out of goodwill, though – he was tricked by the Will to do so, in the hope of Arthur dying in a few seconds, and the key falling back to him, legitimately this time. When this doesn’t happen he tries to get the key back by sending some of his minions to retrieve it – and while they fail to do so, they spread a new ‘sleepy plague’ on earth, which spreads like wildfire (did anybody say Bird Flu there?). On the run from Monday’s minions, and desperate to find a cure for the plage affecting his family and friends, Arthur enters a mysterious, huge house the Will and the key direct him to, and which only he can see.
Once inside the House (to which the strange manifestation only was an entrance to), he is led by the fragment of the Will, to wrestle control of the Lower House from Mr Monday by finding and binding the Major Key to himself, too.

So, now you have an idea about the setting of the book and the kind of story this is. So what about the book itself, I hear you ask?
Well, as you could have guessed from the title, it’s part of a series, one for each day of the week. It’s squarely aimed at the ‘teens and young adults’ age group (also known as the Harry Potter segment… yes, this includes adults who read those kind of books, too). It’s a coming of age story, set in a fascinating magical world, but with strong parallels in the ‘real’ world and a certain overlap and interference between the two (just to show that the magical world is real, and not imaginary?).
We, just like Arthur, are learning the rules of this new world as we go along. We’re given tantalizing glimpses of a ‘bigger picture’ which is not being explored in the book, but leaving us with the feeling that this all makes sense somewhere, that there is a structure, a plan, and an order to things. If we only knew what it was (hint: buy the other 6 books, and thou shalt know?).

Overall this is a readable and enjoyable book, if not exactly with extensive depth of story or characterization (utilitarian use of characters ?). I has drive, suspense, and plenty of surprises and twists through the frequent introduction of new figures, characters, or concepts at decision points.
Can I recommend it? Not fully – whilst it is interesting and readable enough it left a bland taste, and doesn’t make me want to read the other books in the series. If you’re looking for books on these topics and aimed at this age group then you’d do better with Philip Reeve or Somtow Sucharitkul, in my opinion.

More Garth Nix

Title: Mister Monday
Series: The Keys to the Kingdom
Series Number: 1
Author: Garth Nix
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin Australia
Publisher URL: http://www.allenandunwin.com
Publication Date: 2003
Review Date: 1 January 2007
ISBN: 174114213X
Pages: 328
Book URL: http://www.keystothekingdom.com
Format: Paperback
Topic: Fantasy
Topic: Childrens

 

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