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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday

Reviewed: April 8, 2004
By: Garth Nix
Publisher: Scholastic Books
361 pages, $9.60

“In the beginning was the Word.” That’s what it says in the Gospel of John, and this word, or “Logos” was the moving force that spun the flywheel of time and set the universe in motion. You might say it was the Will of the Creator made manifest.

Garth Nix has taken this notion and made it the keystone of a series which will take us through a very odd week in the life of a most unlikely hero. This is yet another book with an Arthur in the lead role. Arthur is a sickly lad who has a lot of trouble fitting in at school. On the day that things really get going for him, he was supposed to die, but fate had other plans.

The Will of the Creator, you see, had been broken up into fragments of text and imprisoned in a number of isolated spots, and the guardians of the days of creation were left to run the show much as they pleased. The results were not, perhaps, what the Creator had had in mind. So it was that a fragment of the Will, a line of text, escaped from its prison, and made its way to that particular part of reality inhabited by Arthur, along the way influencing one of the agents to locate someone who could serve as an Heir to the Will. He reaches Arthur just as the boy is about to die from an asthma attack.

Arthur is left with a strange book and the minute hand of a clock, both of which seem to imbue him with better health than he has enjoyed in some time as well as the ability to see things that no one else can. When a mysterious illness suddenly attacks his community, he feels the answers can be found in the strange house that only he can see not far from where he lives, and so he sneaks in, only to find himself transported to another reality altogether, struggling against the will of Mister Monday and his agents, and trying to understand how he could possibly have a role to play in such a cosmic struggle.

This is an exciting young adult book, with something of the flavour of Neil Gaiman and Mervyn Peake to it. The pacing is good. I enjoyed the sideways references to various classical mythologies, and the bad guys were suitably creepy. Arthur himself was well drawn as an innocent thrust into danger beyond his understanding. There is a resolution to the immediate problems at the end of the first volume, but it does simply lead on to other possible conflicts.

Nix is an Australian writer who has already proven himself successful with a number of earlier multi-book projects, mostly fantasies. This is one of those books that crosses back and forth between worlds, and this particular concept is one I have always enjoyed.

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