Garth Nix is one of my favorite fantasy writers. I first discovered him through his Abhorsen trilogy–a richly written set of fantasy books for a young adult audience. Those books are on the long side and are what I would consider YA if not adult literature. Nix’s more recent writing endeavor, a series of seven books entitled The Keys to the Kingdom, began in 2003 with the publication Mister Monday. As you might have guessed, each book is titled for a different day of the week.
Lady Friday is the fifth book in the series (first published in 2007) with the next installment due out in August 2008. Before saying anything else, I have to say that this is not a stand alone book. If anything is going to make sense, you have to read the series starting at the beginning. If you can also read them close together, even better. For my part, I had to wait over a year before I procured a copy of this book. As a result, some of the details were a bit fuzzy until I remembered what was happening in the story.
This series takes place in the course of one week (one day for each title). And, for Arthur Penhaligon our twelve-year-old hero, it has been a very long week. Arthur is the Rightful Heir of the Architect (the creator of Earth and everything else). Over the course of the first four books, Arthur has worked to free parts of the will of the Architect in order to gain help while battling the treacherous Trustees who decided to imprison the Will and steal the Architect’s power for themselves. Four trustees have been defeated, their keys taken, but that doesn’t mean Arthur has time to rest on his laurels.
Arthur’s friends, Suzy and Fred, are still imprisoned by the Piper whose New Nithling army has taken over the Great Maze in the House. Superior Saturday, in an attempt to cripple Arthur’s efforts to consolidate power, is cutting off phone and elevator service to and from the House. To make matters worse, Arthur still isn’t sure when he’ll be able to go home or if he will be able to at all. Meanwhile, Lady Friday sends Arthur an offer that he might not be able to refuse. Even if it might also be a trap.
This novel moves the action from the Lower House to the new territory of the Middle House. The descriptions here are really fun. Lady Friday is in charge of all the House’s record keeping and book making, so there are a lot of book references in terms of places and characters. Nix also incorporates a lot of information about Arthur’s military training during Sir Thursday to good effect.
As Arthur races to find the Will and Lady Friday’s key, the story also follows Leaf’s own difficulties with Lady Friday. This part of the story is interesting and does eventually tie in with Arthur’s story, but at the same time it made for a slow start. (The books prologue begins with Leaf.) In the early chapters, Nix alternates between Leaf and Arthur which I guess integrates the stories but it also made for some really frustrating cliffhangers at chapter ends.
Lady Friday had a bit of a slow start compared to earlier novels in the series, but the dramatic ending makes up for it. A fine addition to a fine series.