Book Series Review: “The Keys to the Kingdom” by Garth Nix

October 28, 2018

The first book I read by Garth Nix was Sabriel, which ignited a passion to read everything by the author I could get my hands on. So when the first book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, Mister Monday, came out in 2003, I wasted no time in devouring a copy. For the next seven years, Nix released one book in the series a year until 2010, when Lord Sunday was released. When Mister Monday came out, I was 12; by the time Lord Sunday was released, I was already in college. As much as I loved (and still love!) Garth Nix, I never got around to finishing the series. That’s why, when Scholastic re-released the series with new covers this summer, I knew it was time to revisit an old favorite.

 

 

It didn’t take more than a few sentences after opening Mister Monday to be completely re-immersed in the series as all the old details came flooding back to me. The key conceit of the series is that the Architect who created the universe disappeared years ago, leaving a Will to make sure things continued to run smoothly both in the Secondary Realms (Earth et al.) and in the House (essentially the bureaucratic center of the universe). Unfortunately, the Trustees left in charge of executing the Will were soon corrupted by power, and they have locked the Will away for millennia. When part of the Will escapes, it makes a beeline for Arthur Penhaligon, a human heir who it hopes can restore justice and order to the House.

To do so, Arthur will have to fight to win back the House keys from the seven Trustees – Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday, and Lord Sunday. Of course, the Trustees are none too pleased about the prospect of losing their power and do everything they can to stop Arthur, including sending a deadly plague to Earth. In hopes of saving his world, Arthur must venture into the House… and make it out alive.

The best thing about the series is that Nix has designed a fictional world every bit as intricate and surprising as the Architect’s designs. Even in just the first book, the story flits from one impossible wonder to the next, synthesizing to create a rich, magical epic that moves unrelentingly forward until the last page. I’m still utterly charmed by how the series takes the days of the week (and times of the day), personifies them, and then continuously finds new ways to play with such everyday conventions that structure our world, building them into a bureaucratic wonderland (more fun and more dangerous than it sounds), which is the landscape onto which the story unfolds.

I’m so glad that these books are being re-released, giving a new generation of young readers the chance to fall in love. And for older readers who, like me, started but never finished the series: Take it from me that it’s definitely worth going back and finding out how it all ends! Need to restock your library? Links to purchase each of the gorgeous new editions are listed below.

Copies of these books were provided by the publisher, Scholastic, for review.