I’m mildly irritated whenever someone starts off a review by comparing a series to another, already wildly popular, series. So I’m not going to do it. (However, if you see some obvious parallels, feel free to run riot in the comments. Or…yeah. Run calmly in the comments. Whatever suits your fancy.) That said, Garth Nix’s Mister Monday is the first in a seven-book series, about an unassuming boy with an ‘interesting’ future.
Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets.
I first heard of Garth Nix through his Old Kingdom series, which is comprised of novels Sabriel (which I reviewed here), Lirael and Abhorsen, and short story The Creature in the Case. These books are addictive, dark, adventurous and just a little morbid. Then I read Shade’s Children, one of Nix’s earlier works and what I’d term a dystopian YA novel. That book rocked me – in the way that a good YA dystopian or post-apocalyptic story will do (at least in my little world). After that, I was pretty sure that Nix could do no wrong. That’s when I picked up The Keys to the Kingdom series, of which Mister Monday is the first entry. Nix = all-star? Confirmed.
Mister Monday begins the story of Arthur Penhaligon, a young man who by all rights should die young of asthma complications. But something interesting happens. Actually, several interesting and menacing things happen all at once, and Arthur is thrust into the center of a perfect storm. The only way out? Is to the save the world. Of course, you say to yourself. But it’s not like that. It’s a grand adventure, sure. But it’s also Arthur growing up and having to be brave and survive without feeling sorry for himself or worrying for even a second, because the action never stops. He shows such determination and resourcefulness (without verging on sappy), that you just pull for the kid. It’s like watching the underdog. You want them to WIN! But you know that no matter the story, winning’s only half the battle.
And that’s what this story is. It’s an epic adventure all in itself, with marvelous world-building and fantastic characters, but you get the feeling that you are only standing at the precipice of a huge universe that goes on around, under, and over ours – in another dimension entirely. It’s grand and entertaining, and its characters make you laugh and shudder and tear up. So: the plot’s excellent. The characters are believable and lovable. The writing? Simply fantastic. There are allusions and references to classic literature, history, culture and world problems, galore. I felt smarter after reading this book. And it’s MIDDLE GRADES fare? No wonder I love this author.
So, having just given this book the most glowing of reviews, who will enjoy it? I dare say that anyone would. Here’s the part where I break my promise: if you liked Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Ranger’s Apprentice, The Warrior Heir, you’ll probably gobble up The Keys to the Kingdom like cotton candy. Best of all? The last book in the series, Lord Sunday, just came out, so you don’t have to wait for the next installment!