Summary (from Goodreads):
Fantasy master Garth Nix dreams up a world where time mixes with place — and one boy must enter it to recover one of seven all-powerful keys — in this first mind-bending installment of The Keys to the Kingdom.
Arthur Penhaligon’s first days at his new school don’t go too well, particularly when a fiendish Mister Monday appears, gives Arthur a magical clock hand, and then orders his gang of dog-faced goons to chase Arthur around and get it back. But when the confused and curious boy discovers that a mysterious virus is spreading through town, he decides to enter an otherworldly house to stop it. After meeting Suzy Blue and the first part of “the Will” (a frog-looking entity that knows everything about the House), Arthur learns that he’s been selected as Rightful Heir to the House and must get the other part of the clock hand in order to defeat Monday. That means getting past Monday’s henchmen and journeying to the Day room itself. Thankfully, Arthur is up to the challenge, but as he finds out, his fight seems to be only one-seventh over.
With a weapon-wielding hero and a villain who doesn’t make Mondays any nicer, Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom launch is imaginative and gripping. After an action-packed crescendo to the book’s middle — when Arthur finally learns his destiny — Nix keeps the drama going and doesn’t let it fall. By the end, you might be winded from all the fantastic explanation, but you’ll definitely be salivating for what’s to come.
So, I haven’t read a lot of YA fantasy in a while, and found this whilst browsing through the middle school library. What attracted me to the story was the hero, because he’s not the typical hero; he suffers from … wait for it … asthma! So, as we are introduced to Arthur, he’s in the middle of an asthma attack, searching for his inhaler, while Mister Monday and Sneezer battle after bestowing Arthur with the Key, anointing him the heir to the Lower House Realms.
What follows is Arthur’s journey to The House, the center of the universe (the universe was created by Nothing by the Architect in The House), in search of answers, especially as to what is the mysterious plague, the ‘Sleepy Plague’ (brought on by the creatures that hunt Arthur in the mortal world), that threatens the lives of the people he loves most, and how he can stop it.
While the beginning of the novel is a bit slow, the pace does pick up, and moves quite steadily to a climax that kept me gasping for breath. This is a well written novel set in a world that is believable and quite clearly visualized, with characters that are also well realized, (although I don’t quite understand the purpose of Leaf and Ed), and a plot that is exciting and difficult to put aside, even for sleep.
Well worth a read, and I’ll be checking out book 2 soon.