The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Mister Monday is Book One of The Keys to the Kingdom series. You may know this author from his earlier books, including Sabriel and Lireal. Nix has won the Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy Novel, Best Young Adult Novel, and Best Children’s Novel — all in the same year (About the Author). For you budding authors, the Q & A with Garth Nix section is quite interesting. Nix talks about how he would make up stories as a kids and get his friends to help act them out, how he gets ideas for his stories, roughs out the series, and the discipline of writing for set periods each day.

Our hero Arthur is an unlikely asthmatic youngster, in a new middle school, whose real parents died in a disease outbreak. He was adopted by a couple where the mother is a famous disease specialist. On one of his first days at school, the P.E. coach forces him to run cross country, even when Arthur tells him that he was recently in the hospital for his asthma. Arthur collapses and a brother and sister, Ed and Leaf, come to his aid and summon emergency personnel. Leaf will become his ally in one of the future books in the series.

Soon strange things start to happen. Figures dressed in clothes from long ago appear and get Arthur to accept a key which looks like the antique minute hand of a large clock. This sets in motion a string of events where Arthur must escape the dog-faced Fetchers, who also unleash an epidemic, requiring the school and surrounding town to be quarrantined. In the ensuing chase, the school library catches fire. Arthur soon finds himself on a quest to gain the hour hand from Mister Monday in order to be able to return to his time and place to stop the plague.

Things are not what they seem as Arthur enters the Lower House, a surreal world inhabited by the denizens, mortal child captured long ago, and other workers who seem somewhat like angels (but usually not the nice kind). Who can he trust? He joins forces with Suzie Turquoise Blue, an ink filler his age, who doesn’t remember where she came from. Arthur meets a giant who started the creation of our world along with the Architect. Arthur begins to wish he had learned more about mythology and religions as he threads his way through this complex and shifting world.

In the Afterward the author discusses how the days of the week got their names, what the Seven Deadly Sins are and how they relate to the books and some other interesting factoids. I am interested in Quest books and as I wrote this review, I made the connection of King Arthur, another quest figure.

This book would be enjoyed equally by boys and girls, probably at least 10 years of age. My daughter picked it up to look at and was immediately drawn in. Some of the images are graphic and stomach turning to me as an adult (people’s eyes being gouged out, knives working their way into your chest) but I remember reading about similar incidents such as blinding the Cyclops in the Odyssey and not being as grossed out by it as a kid. Maybe when you have had more actual blood in your life as an adult, your imagination is more vivid and one has more of a “gut reaction.”

ISBN-13:978-0-439-55123-4, 361 pages, plus an afterward q & a with the author and a preview of Book 2.


About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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