‘He couldn’t believe he was in this situation. He was supposed to be some sort of hero, going up against Mister Monday, and here he was without any pants on, worrying about being bitten somewhere very unpleasant by Nithling Snakes. Surely no real hero would end up in this predicament.’
Arthur Penhaligon is a rather ordinary boy; much too ordinary to be any sort of hero. He has just moved to a new town and the first day at his new school is not going well. He has asthma, he can’t tell the ultra-cool kids from their opposites, and the PE teacher is making him go on a cross country run. When he collapses in front of everyone, surely things can’t get any worse?
Well actually, they can. As Arthur lies dying in the park, he finds himself in possession of a minute hand from a clock, and a peculiar notebook, thrust on him by Mister Monday who expects to retrieve them as soon as he dies. Unexpectedly he lives and becomes the target of sinister men in bowler hats while around him a plague erupts and threatens the population. Arthur is forced reluctantly into the role of hero as he enters the House and an alternative world. Here he is dependent on a scrap of Will which disguises itself as a frog, and an Ink-Filler Sixth Class called Suzy Turquoise Blue if he is to survive, find a cure for the plague and return to his own world and family.
Readers who are familiar with Nix’s Sabriel trilogy should not expect a re-run in this first part of The Keys to the Kingdom series. Unlike Sabriel and Lirael, Arthur comes from a world which is essentially our world. The fantasy world of Mister Monday is not the same as the Old Kingdom of Abhorsen. The good news is that if you did not enjoy Sabriel, it is still worth giving Mister Monday a go. On the other hand, if you loved Sabriel and are hoping for more of the same, you may initially feel disappointed. But ‘different’ is not the same as ‘bad’. There is a wry humour to the book, an active imagination and at its heart an uncertain, vulnerable hero who resoundingly proves himself up to his task. Well worth the read, and with the next two volumes in the series already published, if you get hooked you can move straight on to Grim Tuesday.