Arthur's first day of school is not going very well. It's bad enough that he had to start a week later than every one else, because he was hospitalized after a particularly bad asthma attack - but now his gym teacher is making him do a long-distance run with the rest of the class because Arthur doesn't have a note from home excusing him. The run starts out okay, but then the asthma hits, and before he knows it he's on the ground, gasping for air but unable to take any in.
It is at that moment that he sees a very strange sight: two strange men approach him, who appear to be a servant and a master. The servant assures the master that Arthur is about to die, and it is safe to give him the keys. He is an heir, he can accept the keys, he will die, and the keys can be returned to the other man. The master hands Arthur something - it looks like the hand of a clock - and the moment Arthur's hands close around it, he feels much better. The two men start to argue, and then everything becomes confused. People rush up to help Arthur, who is still in the throes of the asthma attack. The men vanish, and Arthur, afraid someone will take the clock hand, hides it beneath a bush. He is taken to the hospital, and from that point on things go from strange to bizarre.
Strange creatures pursue Arthur, and in their wake the leave a sort of pestilence, the kind of illness that killed Arthur's parents when he was just a baby. Arthur must follow what appears to be his destiny as the named heir to some kind of will, a will literally made manifest and determined to set matters straight. Arthur could care less about being an heir, but he enters a massive, ornate house that only he is able to see, in an attempt to stop the plague from spreading - but he will contend with forces and beings beyond his greatest imaginings. Most of them do not wish him well.
I loved Garth Nix's Sabriel series, so I was excited to try out the Keys to the Kingdom, which is targeted at slightly younger readers. This first book sets the series in motion very nicely, immediately establishing Arthur as a sympathetic character that I was rooting for from the very beginning. The fantasy elements are unusual and interesting, and there were plenty of surprises along the way. I found it an enjoyable book to listen to - Allen Corduner does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension with his storytelling style. I am looking forward to listening to the next book in this exciting series.
Books in the Keys to the Kingdom series:
1. Mister Monday
2. Grim Tuesday
3. Drowned Wednesday
4. Sir Thursday
5. Lady Friday
6. Superior Saturday (forthcoming July 2008 - U.S.)
7. Lord Sunday (forthcoming date tbd)
Mister Monday (#1 in the Keys to the Kingdom series) by Garth Nix; narrated by Allan Corduner (Listening Library, 2003)
Also reviewed at:
Marianne the Librarian
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