I read the first book in the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix back when I was in grade 5. Grabbing each book as it was released, I pre-ordered the final book. Now having finished the last book of the series, I have the usual mixed feelings of joy and sorrow one gets at the end of a good book series.
The Keys To The Kingdom series is mostly set in a fictional place called the ' House' which is the epicenter of the universe and everything else (referred to as the Secondary Realms in the series) created by an Architect who has mysteriously disappeared. The House is controlled by seven corrupt trustees – who were selected by the Architect to execute her will but didn’t – who rule using objects of power called the seven keys. Arthur is the mortal who has been selected as heir by the Architect’s Will (it’s a living being) to claim the rightful ownership of the seven keys and execute the will. The way Arthur gets the keys, his adventures, the friends and enemies he makes along the way form the basic premise of the series.
In the final book, Arthur has arrived in disguise in the Incomparable Gardens and has to search for the seventh part of the will and with its help wrest the seventh and final key from Lord Sunday. Its even more dangerous than usual as Lord Sunday’s power is paramount to all others and can even override the other keys. That’s not the only challenge Arthur faces, the House is crumbling and corroding under the onslaught of Nothing ( a mythical substance which everything is made up of, but also destroys everything it comes in contact with), caused by the corruption within the house and if its lost, everything will cease to exist.So it’s a race against time for Arthur as he rushes to acquire the final key and save the House and the Secondary Realms. Is he able to do it in time and save his friends, family and everyone he cares about ?
Though the series’ plot basically sounds like a video game’s plot where we have to defeat each level’s boss and proceed to the next (it is kinda like that), it is the way Nix writes and keep you engaged in the story and characters with good dialogues and excellent twists that makes the book a pleasure to read. Told through the intertwining viewpoints of the protagonist Arthur Penhaligon, his friend Leaf and General Suzy Blue, the story keeps you hooked.
Our main character, Arthur Penhaligon is an asthmatic 12-year old boy who has defeated six of the seven trustees and on the last lap of his journey. His personality of a humble, caring boy whose aim was to just execute the will, get the mess he’s stuck in sorted out and return to his normal life is very relatable. Affected by the sorcery of the House he develops sudden bouts of rage and self-pride while trying to keep his human side alive as well. When Arthur starts doubting himself too much or falls into trouble, his friends (usually Suzy Blue ) swoop in and save him. The most fun character is undoubtedly, that of Suzy Blue with her eternally optimistic and don’t-give-a-crap attitude. Not just the comic relief, she also has formidable fighting skills which have saved Arthur’s hide dozens of times. The other prominent mortal character in the story, Leaf is as good. Her straightforward and helping personality is shown as she helps the humans on Earth escape from the dangers appearing on Earth. Though a few readers might have hoped that Leaf and Arthur would end up together, I am happy that a romantic angle wasn’t even hinted at because its not necessary for the guy and girl to fall for each other at the end of every story. The female characters, especially Suzy, stand tall on their own. Each of Nix’s villains represent one deadly sin. Lord Sunday has subtle traits which show his vanity. Unlike every other denizen of the House, who are obsessed with ranks and titles, he simply signs his letters with an ‘S’. His domain is named the ‘Incomparable Gardens’ and the way he haughtily refuses to fight Arthur when challenged for the ownership of the seventh key showcase his sin.
I really liked how the final book finishes the story. Though the climax is not completely unpredictable, it does wrap up the series very nicely. Every character is tied up in one fell swoop, and the ending is open-ended enough so that the reader is not tied down by how the author envisions each character leads their life after the series. My favorite parts of the story are the ones with Suzy in them, especially when she stands up against authority. Except at the beginning, the pace of the book is excellent and is entertaining at all times. It’s a page turner that I finished in a single day taking breaks only when I was shouted upon to eat/study etc.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has the slightest liking for fantasy. Trust me, you will love it. I know it joins my list of favorites. This is my first review, do comment what you thought of it! :)
Rating : 8/10