Nix's strange new world
Garth Nix, the acclaimed author of fantasy books for children, including the Old Kingdom trilogy and The Seventh Tower series, has created a new world for young readers to explore. The first book in The Keys to the Kingdom series, Mister Monday revolves around Arthur Penhaligon, a seventh-grader who is in for an exciting and revealing journey. Through some rather odd circumstances, Arthur comes into possession of a mysterious and powerful Key that's shaped like a minute-hand. When the forces of Nothing come after the Key and unleash the Sleepy Plague on his town, the magic minute-hand helps Arthur survive. Faced with only one true solution to the crisis, he plunges into the strange world of the Key (a house of unfathomable proportions, ruled by representatives of the days of the week), where he hopes he will find the answers to his questions about the Key and learn how to use its power to save his own world and that of the off-kilter house. Along the way, Arthur meets a diverse assortment of allies and enemies, as well as characters who fall somewhere in between those two categories. From the Fetchers, bowler-hat-wearing dog-men, to Suzy Turquoise Blue, Arthur's newfound friend, to the sinister Mister Monday himself, the "Denizens" of the House are numerous and colorful.
Although there are a couple of light-hearted segments and a few truly funny comments and statements (a la Neil Gaiman), it is clear that Arthur is on a perilous, all-important quest. Nix traps the reader in his world much as the House traps Arthur. At the end of this first book, many questions are answered, but not the largest and most nagging. It is clear that each entry in this series of seven (one presumably titled for each day of the week) will be complete in and of itself, but not so complete that readers won't want to learn more about the larger story, woven like a tapestry throughout each novel. Luckily for young readers, this overall story is, like the House, "too cluttered, complex, and strange to reveal its many details" in just one installment.
John Green, an admitted sci-fi/fantasy geek, writes from New Orleans.