Keys to the Kingdom: Book One
by Garth Nix
I thought I'd try another Garth Nix book, as I loved so much his series that begins with Sabriel. The protagonist here, a teenage boy named Arthur Penhaligon (is that supposed to remind me of Arthur Pendragon? but I didn't see any similarities in the story) lives in a world very like ours, but apparently set in the future. He's just started a new school, and added to that awkwardness, suffers an asthma attack in gym class on the first day. During which he receives a visit from some very strange people and is given a metal clock hand referred to as The Key. Arthur quickly finds himself the target of dangerous creatures from another dimension who are trying to get the Key back from him; at the same time he rather intuitively discovers powers of his own and ways to use the Key. It's interesting that along with the fantasy elements there's also quite a bit of medical stuff going on in the story- Arthur's struggles with asthma, his mother's work as a researcher developing vaccines, and the looming threat of viral outbreaks (severe quarantines enforced by the government). It seemed to me that Arthur's parents would get more involved in the story later on due to her role and the constant fear Arthur had of a serious disease outbreak, but I didn't get far enough to find out.
The storyline of Mister Monday just wasn't holding my interest. While I was curious about a protagonist who had to combat mysterious enemies while at the same time dealing with his physical weakness (asthma), I found I didn't really care much for him as a character after a while. The magical world gets introduced so quickly and is entirely confusing- from looking at other reviews after setting this one aside, I got the impression that it continues that way through the entire book! The action scenes are a muddle to read, and it was just too much work to figure out what was going on when I didn't really care about who it all was happening to. I was rather disappointed. I didn't find this book nearly as rich and engaging as Sabriel and its companions.
Abandoned ........ 361 pages, 2003
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The Book Muncher