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The fifth book in the “Keys to the Kingdom” series brings Arthur Penhaligon one step closer to claiming the seven keys to the House, and the seven parts of the Will of the Architect – which is to say, this fictional universe’s creator. But each time Arthur uses the power of the keys, he also comes closer to becoming a full-fledged Denizen of the House. Once he completes that transformation, he will be unable to go back to his family and his home on Earth.
Arthur needs the keys to survive the many dangers of the house, especially as he goes after each of the seven unfaithful stewards of the House – the previous holders of the keys – each of whom proves a tougher opponent than the last. Even with four parts of the will jingling from his belt, Arthur has a tough road ahead of him as his mission pits him against the increasingly desperate “Morrow Days.” Plus, since his last adventure, he must also race against a competing claim to be the Rightful Heir: the Piper, who has invaded the House with a huge army and terrible powers at his command.
In this phase of the story, Arthur continues to penetrate deeper into the mysteries of the House while, at the same time, fighting his way towards the top of its structure. He has taken control of the Lower House, the Far Reaches, the Border Sea, and the Army of the Architect; but now he has to tackle the Middle House, which is like a vast, strange world unto itself. He has beaten powerful sorcerers who represented the deadly sins of sloth, greed, gluttony, and anger; but neither he nor, perhaps, you can guess which vice Lady Friday will represent, or what ghastly form it will take in her abuse of the powers lent her by the Architect. And though Arthur doesn’t know it, Lady Friday has an extra-special bargaining chip – or maybe bait for a trap – in her favor.
Reading the first four books in this series is seriously required before you read this book. This is too rich and complex a fantasy world simply to plunge into it. Even the first book is quite a plunge, as I recall. But this far in, the series continues to reward hungry minds with new and strange-tasting treats. Try to imagine a world whose denizens are immortal, ageless, practically indestructible; where everyone can instantly tell you his exact rank in a byzantine hierarchy reaching into the millions; where each demesne of the House is defended by superior denizens designated as Dawn, Noon, and Dusk; where you can travel absolutely anywhere, either by walking up the Improbable Stair (which appears out of nowhere) or by jumping into a circle of seven grandfather clocks set to just the right time; where children lured from earth have a way of never growing up; where Paper Pushers patrol a canal of “textually charged” water that flows uphill; and where every inch of territory is contested between shifting coalitions of strange armies, including Gilded Youths (who are one step up from wind-up soldiers) to Winged Servants of the Night (who speak in signs and have names like One Who Survived the Darkness).
Here there are Internal Auditors who wield pens that can kill; telephone operators who can melt your phone if you don’t stay off the line; necklaces of words written on your skin that can strangle you if you don’t obey; and a chilling type of drug trade that drives Lady Friday, the greatest pusher and addict of all, to destroy countless mortal lives and even, if necessary, the House itself. If she was Arthur’s only problem, he would have a lot on his hands. But Superior Saturday and the Piper have both invaded the Middle House, menacing Arthur, his friends, and each other in a struggle to possess the Fifth Key. So even though it may mean losing everything he is fighting for, Arthur will be pushed to use his powers. And you will be pushed by this book’s swift conclusion to plunge straight into the sixth book, Superior Saturday.