Mister Monday by Garth Nix
Digital Audiobook narrated by Allan Corduner
Published by Listening Library on October 31st 2006
Series: The Keys to the Kingdom #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 361 pages or 8 hours, 9 minutes
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Arthur Penhaligon's first days at his new school don't go too well, particularly when a fiendish Mister Monday appears, gives Arthur a magical clock hand, and then orders his gang of dog-faced goons to chase Arthur around and get it back. But when the confused and curious boy discovers that a mysterious virus is spreading through town, he decides to enter an otherworldly house to stop it. After meeting Suzy Blue and the first part of "the Will" (a frog-looking entity that knows everything about the House), Arthur learns that he's been selected as Rightful Heir to the House and must get the other part of the clock hand in order to defeat Monday. That means getting past Monday's henchmen and journeying to the Dayroom itself. Thankfully, Arthur is up to the challenge, but as he finds out, his fight seems to be only one-seventh over.
With a weapon-wielding hero and a villain who doesn't make Mondays any nicer, Nix's Keys to the Kingdom launch is imaginative and gripping. After an action-packed crescendo to the book's middle -- when Arthur finally learns his destiny -- Nix keeps the drama going and doesn't let it fall. By the end, you might be winded from all the fantastic explanation, but you'll definitely be salivating for what's to come.
Arthur just wants to breathe.
After a nasty flu epidemic when he was a baby, Arthur Penhaligon has severe asthma and no parents. Well, no, he has no birth parents, but he does have adopted parents in the way of a famous scientist/doctor and a retired musician known in his heyday as “Plague Rat”. While dying, he finds himself entrusted with a key by two strange figures. As far as he can tell, this key does two things: it helps him breathe, and it makes men with bulldog faces chase him. Oh boy.
When a nasty epidemic sweeps his town, Arthur knows that the bulldog men and the mysterious key have something to do with it. He must get into the house that nobody else can see to find a cure before people start to die, including his adoptive mother. Faced with eyeball-hungry clockwork people, word-devouring pirañas, a Will that must have its way, and a girl displaced from 14th century London, Arthur must navigate his way through the House and get the other key from Mister Monday so he can (hopefully) get home and save everyone.
Lets talk about heroes and villains.
In middle grade novels, the lines between good and evil are typically pretty well defined. Saving someone’s life and helping him find his inhaler? Good guy. Being super lazy and ordering your servants to kill people? Bad guy. Basic stuff. So going into a book like this, you’re not going to find a lot of mysterious intrigue. However, I found the quirks absolutely delightful. Mister Monday is a bad guy BUT he’s not murderous – just a bit comfortable in his power and in all fairness, Arthur does have his key.
Because even when we think bad is bad and good is good, we can always see a little good in someone who is bad and a little bad in someone who is good. A lot of children’s and middle grade novels forget that aspect, but Mister Monday doesn’t. It makes the characters multi-dimensional, and I appreciated that.
This world was incredibly interesting.
Between a small town in the UK and the inky chaos that is the Lower House, you get an incredible feel for Arthur’s world. I remember Garth Nix excelling at world building way back when I read the Abhorsen series as well, so this came to no surprise to me. I delighted in it. The characters are quirky, the universe is run by a peculiar but perfectly understandable set of rules, and there are rich hierarchies. It was fun.
There’s a play on the standard creation story here that I thought was harmless and interesting but some might be offended by the fictionalized theological beginnings. God, for example, is a woman, simply called “The Architect”. Theoretically, then, the denizens of the House would be angels… etc. I know in my own family there are those who dislike any take on biblical stories other than the standard Christian view, so I’m warning you now that, as with most fantasy, there are fictional beings involved.
Well… this was unexpected.
So I added Mister Monday to my TBR a very long time ago when, in a fit of panic, I wanted to be sure that the story I was working on hadn’t been entirely written yet. To my delight, despite Google Searches telling me that The Keys to the Kingdom series would be similar, it’s definitely not. The extra good news? This story was a delight. It wasn’t Sabriel, but as a middle grade novel it was much better than I was expecting, and honestly? I’ll read the rest of the series.
I’m also a little curious why I never heard of these before my panicked Google Search frenzy? This series is one I would have loved as a kid, and it was available then. I sort of feel like the world failed me on this one, guys. Fortunately, I’m not too proud to read it now. 🙂