Sunday, 7 March 2010

My Thoughts On...The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix

The past week, especially yesterday, I have been chomping on Garth Nix's hit series, The Keys to the Kingdom Series.

A huge thank you goes to HarperCollins for sending me the entire collection for review. I didn't want to read book 7 without reading the previous ones. I'm glad I didn't read it on its own, because it wouldn't have made a lot of sense. Whereas some of the other books could be standalone (if the reader couldn't get hold of the other books), book 7 is where everything gets revealed and resolved.

Books with links to the reviews

This post is just my thoughts on the series as a whole. It does contain spoilers about the stories, because here I'll reveal details of the theories that I developed while reading the books. So if you haven't read the books yet and don't want the story spoilt for you, please stop reading this post. I'd rather you did read it, but perhaps leave it until you've finished the series.

Various thoughts on the series as a whole, including my own personal theories regarding certain aspects of the plot.

Arthur

My initial reaction to Arthur's name, namely that it reminded me of the Arthur in Merlin, never resurfaced. I believe this is a very good thing, because it shows how different the characters are. It helped that Arthur's surname wasn't mentioned too much. As a main character, he was a good choice. His asthma provided a physical weakness, making him not perfect. The physical damage/changes he receives over the books have continuation. By this I mean that when his lungs are damaged, there is an effect on his ability to move breathe in later stories (which does get healed eventually). The more he changes into a denizen (although not really because he is quite different to everyone else), the more a desire for power and destruction grows within him. Arthur really has to battle against this, and it is Elephant who helps remind him of who he was. I thought the part where he got his ears washed was brilliant, because for a small while he couldn't remember his identity, or his goal.

Leaf and Suzy.

If I have to pick one, Leaf is my all time favourite character. She doesn't appear enough in the earlier books for my liking, but as a writer I can see why she doesn't hit the limelight fully until Sir Thursday. Up until then having the story from her point of view (pov) doesn't have as much as an impact as having it from Arthur's pov. I like her hippy background, how happy she is to help Arthur even though she doesn't know him. She gets the coolest weapon (umbrella....sword). She hates adventures but unfortunately has to stay in a very large one in the series. She's compassionate (looks after the sleepers in Lady Friday), if she takes on a duty, whether voluntary or not, she sees it through to the end. I'm glad that she didn't have to stay as Lieutenant Keeper of the Front Door. She gets to go back home.

Suzy - what can I say about her? She is definitely the light-hearted character of the series, although there are a few moments of seriousness. The way she tries to avoid Dame Primus' attempt at making her into a lady provided great laughs. I love the sneaky side of her character, how she acquires objects and ranks without people really giving them to her. Her ideas often save the day, and aren't usually conventional.

The Days

The concept behind all the ideas in this series is first class. Each of the days as a particular personality, as do their minions. Not all are evil to the core. I felt sympathy for Wednesday's plight. Despite his incredible evil-ness, I adored Lord Sunday. He's scary in a 'I'm-scary-just-by-existing' way, rather than an in-your-face-scary way like Monday and to some extent Tuesday and Thursday. Friday - initially she seemed pretty harmless, but the whole 'lets-gather-up-parts-from-peoples'-souls/memories-and-devour-them' reduced her appeal. Saturday - she's just a nutcase. I mean really, she believes she's better than Sunday. The Architect put Sunday above Saturday for good reason. All the days, although not so much Sunday, were power hungry. Wednesday was hungry in a different way. Villains will never, ever learn that greed will be their downfall. Or the Will.

The Will, the Architect and the House.

All three ideas are highly imaginative concepts. I loved learning about the different areas of the House. It was a lot larger than I first imagined. Each area affects the other - especially when Nothing eats away at it. The Architect created an incredible universe, and was a figure the days should have remained wary about. The lack of presence of the Architect led to their greed and jealousy.

The Will - was an interesting set of characters. I loved how each part took a different form, and had differing personalities. As a whole, it was a thing of evil. It was only during Lord Sunday that I understood why the Will had been split up. It wasn't meant to be together.

Mister Monday theories:
  • Theory: that Leaf and Ed would feature in the series as Arthur's sidekicks. Correct: well, Leaf featured more than Ed (thankfully). Other points related to this theory: Arthur's family also featured a bit more than expect.
  • Theory: the House was next to Arthur's house because he was present there. Correct: it moved positions throughout the series, in accordance to where it was needed the most.
Grim Tuesday theories:

  • Theory: Life will not quieten down for Arthur. Correct. It doesn't until the very end of the series. Other points related to this theory: Even then I don't think life will be super-smooth for Arthur.
  • Theory: Alongside the issues of the days' agendas, there is a greater evil brewing, and it could possibly be to do with the Will. Correct: The will has its own agenda, as seen in Lord Sunday when it wants to destroy everything with Nothing. Other points related to this theory: This is hinted at throughout the series, by how Dame Primus acts. She begins to dislike obeying Arthur, and it is the small details that hint she wants to be more than a trustee of the keys.
  • Thought: Will Arthur be able to set everything right for his family, himself and his friends once the series is over? Yes: But only by being the Architect and replicating everything.
Drowned Wednesday theories:

  • Theory: a little hazy, but I think Arthur was going to be on a ship for a fair amount of this book. Correct: He rarely touched land....
Sir Thursday theories:

  • Theory: Arthur will become a denizen (as indicated by the crocodile ring), but this will be reversed: Half correct: He does become something like a denizen. It isn't reversed per se, but he gets to be himself at the very end, once the Architect splits in two. Other points related to this theory: the fear of being a denizen and actually becoming one feature throughout the later books. This has impact on how Arthur behaves, and the course of action he chooses to take.
  • Theory: Arthur will make a lot of personal sacrifice to save the whole universe. Correct: he has to (or so he thinks) give up being a mortal and returning home to his family.
Lady Friday theories:

  • Theory: The creature on the front cover is linked to the story. Correct: It's the fifth Will and is friendly!
  • Theory: Dame Primus might turn on Arthur: Half-correct: the Will goes wild at the end, and Dame Primus is made up of the Will. (This theory also turns up in Superior Saturday)
  • Thought: Arthur might notice that the days want certain beings destoyed, and he will use these beings to help defeat the days: Half correct: both Raised Rats and the Piper's Children help in the final battles.
Superior Saturday theories:

  • Theory: umbrellas may have an evil purpose: Half correct: they are not evil in themselves, but can be used for magical purposes (which can be good or evil).
  • Theory: Saturday will cause a lot of problems before she is restrained. Correct: I think her actions speeded up the course of Nothing destroying the House.
Lord Sunday theories:

  • None, not really since everything was resolved here!
Themes: water and creation

Water was a prominent element throughout all the books. Whether it was the sea, rain, a pool - the reader can't escape from water. Neither can Arthur and his friends. As I commented in one of my reviews, there could be a reason for water featuring so much. Maybe it is because Garth Nix lives in Sydney, which is right by the sea.

The one area I thought I might get away with discussing, but can't, is the theme of creation in this series.(generally I avoid discussing religion, which like politics is a volatile subject). Having seven days with different bosses, the Incomparable Gardens and the Architect are all part of a view on the Creationist theory (that something created the universe). This is a popular theme in fiction. I didn't find it offensive in this series, unlike another series which crossed the line on several areas for me (this series will rename nameless). Garth Nix takes the common element for most creationist stories (a supreme being = the Architect. Paradise = the Incomparable Garden. Place of punishment = some areas of the House under the control of the days), weaves his own imagination into it and makes it quite an entertaining read. I think this theme could make readers address their own beliefs, and see the humourous take on it. The way that the front covers have the saying On the Xth day there was Y is another incorporation of the Creationist theme.

Illustrations in order of preference
  1. Umbrella with rain (Superior Saturday)
  2. Crocodile Ring (Sir Thursday)
  3. Gauntlets (Grim Tuesday)
  4. Clock (Lord Sunday)
  5. Mirror (Lady Friday)
  6. Hats (Mister Monday)
  7. Whale with teeth (Drowned Wednesday)

Days in order of preference

  1. Sunday (because he's just cool!)
  2. Wednesday (because it wasn't her fault entirely that she was a whale)
  3. Saturday (for being such a nutcase)
  4. Friday (for being elegant)
  5. Monday (for being the stupidest of the days)
  6. Tuesday (for having a few more brains than Monday)
  7. Thursday (for being so power hungry and evil in recruitment)

Final Thoughts

This series rules! I definitely want to get the Abhorsen trilogy and reread it. That is also a different take on how the world works.

Keys to the Kingdom series = a success!

2 comments:

maryom said...

How lucky to get the whole series at once. I find it so irritating when the next in line isn't available. Lizzie loved Sabriel/Abhorsen trilogy so will try to track these down - library will probably run out at book3 though!

Yunaleska said...

Yup! There are pros and cons to being a book reviewer. Sometimes it is possible to get a whole series at once. Other times, you get a book a few months before everyone else then have to wait even longer for the next one.

I love it though :)