Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lit Rec: The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix

While talking to my fellow tlydfers (both readers and contributors) I have found that many of us have read the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. Which is all well and good, amazing books, but not many have even heard of his other series, The Keys to the Kingdom.

On first look, this series of books may seem to be riding the coattails of Harry Potter. It does star a young orphan boy who is thrust into a situation that he doesn’t understand. But what I love about these books and all of Nix’s work actually, is how incredibly original the story is. I cannot imagine thinking up something like this.

The story is set sometime in the close future, everything still feels basically the same as the present, and a great pandemic has just ravaged the country. The main boy, Arthur Penhaligan, lost his parents to the disease.

The first book opens with twelve year old Arthur, content in his life with his adopted family, almost dying at school due to an asthma attack. While fellow students run off to get help a man in a wheelchair with a Nestor-like butler appear seemingly out of nowhere, and after having a bit of an argument, place something in his hand. And immediately he can breathe. Then suddenly the butler starts talking in a loud commanding voice, words that don’t make sense. The decrepit man in the chair springs up faster than Arthur could previously imagine and there is a large cacophonous explosion.

The butler and the man in the chair have disappeared, but Arthur still has what was given to him, the minute hand of an antique clock.

This starts one of the weirdest, mysterious, adventures I’ve ever read about.
Arthur finds his way to “The House,” the epicentre of the universe. Where “The Architect” used to reside and from where she created Earth and all its inhabitants as well as the rest of the known universe.

The House is split into seven parts,
-The Lower House
-The Far Reaches
-The Border Sea
-The Great Maze
-The Middle House
-The Upper House
-The Incomparable Gardens

And The Architect entrusted each part of the house to one of the Trustees upon her disappearance. They were to look after that part of the house and its accompanying key, until a suitable heir could be found.

The trustees, took their keys and their new found positions of authority, split the will and hid it (the will has a conscience and can be a sentient being) and vowed to run the world as they saw fit.

See what I mean about original, who comes up with this stuff? (Nix, obviously...)
The number seven is very important in this series. There are seven books, seven parts of the house, seven parts of the will, seven keys, seven days of the week, and seven deadly sins.

Each of the Trustees (they call themselves the Morrow Days) have domino over one part of the house, one key, and one day of the week. On the day of the week they have domino their key is more powerful than the others (Sunday is possibly an exception) and they have certain privileges in the lower realms (anywhere outside of the House; Earth). But each Trustee also has a weakness, a mortal sin that afflicts them.

Mister Monday – Sloth
Grim Tuesday – Greed
Drowned Wednesday – Gluttony
Sir Thursday – Wrath
Lady Friday – Lust
Superior Saturday – Envy
Lord Sunday – (presumably as the book has yet to be released) Pride

If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous recommendations, I love this sort of thing. The books are very original and new and at the same time, they have references and call backs to so many different stories, myths, legends, and heroes. Dickens novels, Greek myths, fairy tales, and varying religions all make an appearance in these books. Even Arthur’s name is very reminiscent of Arthur Pendragon.

The characters are so vast and intriguing, and you never really seem to know everything about anyone. On the mortal side of things, there’s Arthur’s friend Leaf who appears to have some sort of true sight and can see some denizens of the house for what they are. Her part in everything keeps changing you never really know where Nix is taking her.

On the other side of the fence...well, it gets confusing. First there is the seven parts of the Will. They (allegedly) each represent one of the seven heavenly virtues and always appear in the shape of an animal (until they join up to become Dame Primus, a tall elegant fierce lady). The will is focused entirely on regaining and maintaining proper control of the workings of the house. The Trustees have let things slide and it is beginning to affect the mortal world. This isn’t always a good thing as Dame Primus is seen to disobey Arthur frequently and hinder more than help his cause.

Suzy Turquoise Blue is one of Arthur’s first friends in The House and is very loyal yet has her own difficulties. She, with many other children, was lured to the house by the Piper and can still be controlled by him. She generally adds some much needed humour to the mounting tension.

The Old One is a Prometheus character. Chained to a large clock for disobeying The Architect, his eyes get taken out every couple of hours with just enough time in between for them to re-grow. He is also seen as a Satan character.
The Piper, the Mariner, and Lord Sunday are all children of the Architect and the Old One. No one really knows where their loyalties lie or what they truly want. Although the Mariner owes Arthur a debt, the Piper seems to think he should inherit everything, and...well, we don’t know much about Sunday yet other than, he enjoys his gardens.

And then, there’s Arthur. A normal boy who just wants to save his family and have things go back to normal but as he spends more and more time in the House, and gains more and more power, his mortal presence starts to fade and his immortality grows. In the last book, he may save the world but I don’t see him going back to the way things were.

I wonder how he’s going to explain to his (adopted) parents.
And really, all this is just the tip of the ice berg. I didn’t even get into the Doorman, or a plethora of other mysteries happening in these books. You should just read them.

For my next rec I'm going to be doing other vampire/werewolf books. If you have read any and wish to recommend them to the people, please type up a short paragraph and send them to Thanks muchly!

Moon.witche is our resident fantasy YA groupie as well as the Temptation Podcast Einstein. She is slightly quirky with a bit of bite and is here to tell you what you should have already read.

1 comment:

  1. I keep seeing the House of Night series by P. C. Cast, Kristin Cast everywhere- I haven't read any of them- though I feel a pull too whenever I see them...just wondering, have you ever read them- if so, would you recommend them???


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