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Dark fantasy writer Garth Nix expanded his readership with his excellent "Seventh Tower" series. Now he expands further, in a darker, grittier, more realistic fantasy set in our world, where a confused young boy has to escape dark forces that want to use him for their own ends -- or kill him.
Arthur Penhaligon has asthma. As a result, he ends up in the hospital regularly. But one day he encounters a strange man called Mr. Monday and his creepy butler, who leave him with a Key shaped like a minute hand and a little book with dancing letters. When he returns home after another stay in the hospital, Arthur finds that the Key seems to be attracting unwanted attention -- a statue of a Komodo dragon comes alive, and a winged man-dog tries to come into his house. What's more, a House has appeared -- one that is also inside the little book.
Soon Arthur is being pursued by more dog-faced Fetchers, and a strange plague is sweeping his town -- and somehow the Key is keeping him alive, even though he was supposed to die of an asthma attack. His answers lie inside the House. But what lies beyond it is like nothing in our world, where ghastly nithlings roam and the Piper's children run wild in the streets. And the sinister Mr. Monday wants the Key back.
Garth Nix takes his focus from high fantasy (such as the Abhorsen trilogy or the Seventh Tower series) to a more modern fantasy that takes place in our world. Though Arthur skips to another world, he's clearly from our own world. But Nix doesn't downplay his brand of horrific fantasy either; stuff that would seem silly for most other authors is magic in his hands.
As in his other books, he melds an exceptional, original fantasy world with elements of horror. The handling of the parallel world, the Will, Sneezer, and the Key and Atlas are all wonderfully woven together (not to mention the characters of Dawn, Dusk, Noon for each day, and so on). At the same time, we have the bloodwinged, silver-tongued Noon and the ugly Fetchers, not to mention the hideous nithlings. This is dark fantasy at its best.
Arthur is a likable kid, with an unusual problem (asthma). Like most of Nix's heroes, he's desperately running and searching, and learning from those ahead of him. Quirky Suzy is reminiscent of a Lloyd Alexander heroine. The writing is detailed, evocative, and never lags for a minute.
"Mister Monday" is another great book from Garth Nix, combining darkness and fantasy and leaving me eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. Brilliant.
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on July 3, 2003
I think Keys to the Kingdom is my new favorite series by Mr. Nix. Once again, he has created a deep, detailed and believable world that leaves readers hungry for the next book. The story of Mister Monday begins in the normal world, where Arthur is starting his first term at his new private school. During a PE endurance run, his asthma leaves him gasping for breath, and he collapses. Just when he's about to pass out, he meets two strange men, who give him a small book and a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Once Arthur touches the key, his asthma attack suddenly stops as if it had never started. The two men begin to fight, and then they vanish, leaving a confused Arthur with the book and key, wondering if he had been seeing things. Things escalate from there, and as Arthur realizes the extent of the key's powers, he finds that lots of intruders from the House, another world, would be willing to kill to get it. Left with no other options after a mysterious plague sweeps his town following an attack by intruders, Arthur travels to the House to unravel the mystery of the key and the book. It's really amazing how, over and over again, Nix can imagine new, perfectly functional, interesting societies, with suspenseful and enthralling plots to match. I think Mister Monday is a great book for people of all ages, not just for teens and young adults.
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VINE VOICEon August 19, 2003
Arthur Penhaligon dreaded his first day at his new school. His family had just moved to the area and he was starting two weeks later than everyone else because he was in the hospital with a severe asthma attack. His PE teacher thought he was just slacking off when Arthur told him that he couldn't run so Arthur thought it was best to just go with the flow and joined the other kids. Arthur knew it was a mistake when he felt his lungs start to shut down in the middle of the park - far away from help. Not even his inhaler seemed to be giving him oxygen. When he saw a cadaverously thin man with terrible teeth pushing the most beautiful man Arthur had ever seen in an old fashioned wicker wheelchair, Arthur was sure that he was having a weird, oxygen-deprived dream. Then the beautiful man gave Arthur a key and he could breathe again. After Arthur recovered from his asthma attack, he discovered that the key was actually the key to a clock and that it came with a book, the Compleat Atlas of the House and Immediate Environs, which shows pictures of how to use the key to get into a big house on the block that only Arthur can see.
Arthur doesn't know what to do, but he knows that he cannot stay at school when an army of dog-faced Fetchers show up to get the key from him. Even more frightening than the Fetchers is Mr. Noon, who is just as beautiful as the man who gave him the key, and just as deadly. When a deadly virus strikes Arthur's new town, he knows that he has no choice but to go into the House. When he passes through the gateway, Arthur is immediately plunged into a strange world where people collect paper and writing and the children the Pied Piper lured off are trapped. Suzy, one of the trapped children, decides to help Arthur and, together with the Will, a mysterious creature that Arthur is not sure is helping him or not, Arthur and Suzy set out to win the other key from Mr. Monday and take over the world so that Arthur can return home. But it seems that everyone Arthur meets has another plan and he doesn't know who to trust and why was he chosen to have the key anyway?
Mister Monday was a good book and I enjoyed it, but it was pretty confusing and very different than other books that I have read. I was kind of expecting this because Garth Nix writes a lot of really good dark fantasy, but it isn't what you would call easy to understand. I liked Arthur, but he was a little standoffish and the other characters were pretty weird too. The worlds that Arthur explored were the most confusing, but this may be on purpose because the reader only learned and understood things when Arthur learned and understood them. I think it may be too confusing for younger readers, but older readers and those who have enjoyed the Harry Potter series will enjoy having another set of books to read in between waiting for Rowling's next offering. This appears to be the first in what will be a new series for Nix and I am eagerly awaiting the next - Mr. Tuesday, I presume?
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on June 15, 2011
I like Garth Nix on the basis of the Abhorsen trilogy, so I bought this with some excitement. I was dissapointed. I too found it confusing, vague, and dreamlike in an unpleasant way. It has a wierd mix of Alice in Wonderland and Arthurian legend (Arthur Penhaligan, Arthur Pendragon). The characterizations and settings are such that I found my mind's eye failing to "see" it, which was also unpleasant. Forgive me but the quality of a writer is not based on his or her imagination so much as the ability to create a cogent image in the readers' mind, Mr. Nix fails here--I found myself just waiting for the scene to end so as to get passed the confusing blankness.

But there were worse things. First the endless reminders that Arthur has asthma; at some point I found myself saying "OK he has asthma, it's brittle, not compatible with life, I get it...", how many times do I need to be reminded and how many words were expended on reminding me. I am not a kid but I love these sorts of books, even if I was a kid I would be annoyed by this. It gets to the point that you begin to think that the goal is to teach kids that kids with asthma are good kids too. Really.

Finally, every new step in the journey is difficult, relentlessly, joylessly, incompatible with life difficult. On some level this poor kid is endlessly, hopelessly stuck in the plot equivalent of 'Mississippi Mud' struggling for breath and you just wish you could pluck him out, give him an inhaler and go home to watch some cartoons, but you can't because then everyone will die. That image my mind's eye could see. Awful.

Having said all that, I will buy the next book hoping that it will get better. It's not that I require it to be a "romp" but no task, no matter how difficult, is completely joyless even if it fails. Life isn't like that even in the most hopeless fight there are moments of joy and ease, even if it is based on insanity. Slaughter House Five has more joy and humour than this book.

So I rate it as OK, only because I'll buy the next one becuase I still have respect for Garth Nix.
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on October 5, 2003
Now, I had read all of the Seventh Tower Books before this book came out, so I knew that Garth Nix was a good author. I saw the book and said " Hey, Cool, He wrote a new book!" This book was excellent, and brilliantly written. I would give it 30 thumbs up if I could! This book starts off with the main character, Arthur, going to a new school. on his first day of school, he is surprised by a mandatory run. He tries to jog and run for a while, but he is azhmatic and faints whle he is running. Then, a mysteriuos man called mister Monday gives him a key, with the thought that he would die any second. But the key altered his "record" and he lived, to the surprise of Mister Monday. That is where the adventure begins. That's all I'm going to say for now, but this is an awesome book, and its worth more than what they sell it for. I hope this review helps in your decision.
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In the beginning there was The Architect who created everything from nothing. Eons passed, and then there was The Will. The Architect's Will was broken into seven pieces by the treacherous Trustees to prevent it from ever being executed. The first fragment was fused inside a solid crystal and then placed inside an unbreakable glass box which was locked inside an indestructible cage. The cage was anchored on the surface of a dead sun at the end of time, and was guarded by twelve sentinels, who were supervised by inspectors. These security measures may have been nothing to sneeze at, but sneeze the inspector did, and somehow the fragment escaped.

Arthur Penhaligon was an asthmatic child who wasn't enjoying his first Monday at his new school. This was due to a sadistic teacher who forced him to run a cross-country course, resulting in a near death experience, during which he encountered the unlikely duo of Sneezer and Mister Monday. Suddenly he was the holder of a strange key, shaped like the minute hand of a clock, and Mister Monday was impatiently waiting for Arthur's expiry date to come up.

After these exciting and intriguing introductions, Garth Nix launches into the meaty part of the first book of The Keys to the Kingdom series, where one of the most unlikely of heroes struggles reluctantly to fulfill his destiny, while trying to save his own world from a deadly plague. This story contains a great deal of violence, but fortunately while it is perfectly clear that pain is being inflicted with gleeful enjoyment and wanton abandon by Monday's associates, the descriptions are not graphic enough to be overly upsetting to the faint of heart.

Young adult readers may be slightly confused by all the twists and machinations, but will still be thrilled by the adventures of Arthur and his friend Suzy Turquoise Blue as they negotiate the secrets of the House, guided by the Will, and armed with nothing but the Key, a great deal of common sense, and a very strong will to survive.

Amanda Richards, June 23, 2006
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on December 17, 2004
Garth Nix has done it again, he has again come up with a new and creative plot in a magical world even more real than that of his Old Kingdom. The book follows the adventures of a young, asthmatic boy, who inherits a strange clockhand. It is not long after before things start going amuk, and strange forces threaten his world.

The boy, Arthur Penhaligon, drawn into complete despair, ventures into a house only he can see, and into a world he where he should not be.

This book is sort of a cross between Harry Potter and the Matrix, but with clear invention and an all together fun story. Hold on tight, and don't be left behind!
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on August 31, 2003
Mister Monday, takes us on a familiar journey of a young outcast boy struggling to survive in a new town when suddenly faced with unimagined dangers and unsolvable problems and adventures that naturally follow such. While the outline is familiar, Nix has found a truly imaginative way to transporting the reader to a new world filled with amazing places (The House, dead Suns, a Future vision, the Past), things (Robots, Written Words that talk and act, Unbreakable Chains) and people (with Wings, Magic, Faults, and Secrets). Perhaps the fact that Nix is an Aussie allows him to invoke a Victorian English matrix over this fresh new world with should wit, humor and charm.
Nix's new realm allows the reader to gain an understanding of the use of language that is flexible and that interpretation of ones' worldview is within their control. The power of working together to solve problems, trusting others and forgiving are also expressed within this book. Any parent would be surprised by the underlying message of hope in this book (and a fair amount of conflict to keep your attention too). While the elements of conflict, risk and danger where in the book, I think a bit more character development would be to the benefit of both reader and author.
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on November 5, 2006
For this new series of book, Garth Nix obviously had a younger public in mind than for his best selling Abhorsen trilogy. The plot is simpler, the protagonist is younger and the language is easier. Difficult words are being explained. Having said that, this must be an absolute thrill to read when you're nine or ten. It puts an ordinary boy in charge of the Center of the Universe, if just for the Monday, and which ordinary boy wouldn't think that a very attractive idea?

It's a story about adventure, but also about responsibility, and courage, and overall I could recommend it to any boy or girl, and their parents, to read it!
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on March 31, 2009
This was not my first Garth Nix novel. I whole-heartedly enjoyed the Abhorsen Trilogy. So I was very intrigued when this book came to my attention. I immediately checked it out from the library and gave it a whirl. After a complete reading, I have decided that this series isn't for me. To provide another viewpoint, I am posting a link to the review that got me interested in the book in the first place, here.
Mister Monday (the first in the Keys to the Kingdom series) is the story of Arthur Penhaligon, a serious asthmatic, and the adopted son of a brilliant medical researcher and musician. Arthur is thrust into adventure, rather unwillingly, when he suffers what should be a fatal asthma attack but is saved by the appearance of a mysterious key which is literally thrust into his hands. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, so all I will say is that this key is related to the original forces which created the world. These forces have been twisted and are currently being used for no good by those very beings who were put in place to protect them.
Mister Monday is very fast moving. There are plenty of great moments in this book, and it really never lags. After I finished reading, it was hard for me to put my finger on what I didn't like about the book. After two days, I'm still unable to provide a concrete reason, except to say that I found the premise a little difficult to follow. It is difficult to talk too much about the parts of the book I found somewhat confusing without giving plot details away, so I will refrain. Basically, I felt that Nix tried to paint a grand canvas with this story, but it came out a bit jumbled. All I can say is, give this book a whirl and see if you like it any better. I have a feeling I am in the minority after reading other reviews.
One caveat, I would not recommend this book to those who are offended by novels which have plot lines involving the creation that may differ from a Christian perspective, such as the His Dark Materials series (which I enjoyed very much). I will definitely continue to look for new novels by Nix, but I won't be continuing on with the Keys of the Kingdom.
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