Book review

Mister Monday by Garth Nix (2003)

Part One of The Keys to the Kingdom sequence

For me, the best thing about a good fantasy story is being let loose to explore in a whole new world. The more internally consistent the world is, the better I enjoy the book. And Garth Nix did a brilliant job creating the Old Kingdom in his Old Kingdom trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen. From those books I carried away with me the certain knowledge that there were such things as Charter Magic and Free Magic, and necromancers and sendings and the Clayr... And to be Abhorsen was both a privilege and a burden.

So I was perplexed and disappointed when I first read Mr Monday. The story obviously turns on strong and unpredictable magic, but I found the interface between reality and the magic in the House so bizarre that it seemed to get in the way of the story.

That was my first reaction. So I slept on it. When I woke up the next morning I lay in bed and took a walk round my own house, seeing it with fresh eyes. Well, there's the room where I keep all my beekeeping equipment, that smells overwhelmingly and gorgeously of beeswax and honey. There's my study that is stacked high with teetering piles of children's books. There's the kitchen where the cast iron range belts out warmth and appetising cooking smells night and day, summer and winter. And that's just part of my own input. There's everyone else in the house too. And each of the rooms in my house is in its own way packed with bizarre and unexpected elements.

And that made me feel more comfortable in Garth Nix's House in this book:

Arthur picked himself up a little slower than Suzy, who was already sliding the elevator door open. He expected to see an office like the one they'd run through down in the Atrium, all dark wood, green baize and gaslights. His mouth hung open at what he saw instead.
The elevator door opened out on to a shaded grove of very tall, very thick-trunked trees. They formed a circle around a roughly trimmed lawn, which had the remains of a campfire sitting in a burned patch at its centre. A narrow but beautifully clear stream cut through one corner, burbling gently along. A wooden footbridge crossed the stream, with a paved path leading across to an open summerhouse that was like an old-fashioned bandstand. In the summerhouse were a desk, a lounge chair and some bookcases.
'Here we are,' said Suzy. 'The Office of the Efficiencer General.'

Why is Arthur roaming round this extraordinary house?Because he's a keyholder - but that was Mr Monday's big mistake. He only meant for Arthur to hold the key for him for a few moments.

Now Arthur's got the key and he thinks he needs to hold onto it and sort out a few problems of his own while he can. And of course, there are a few problems in the House that need sorting out too. So he's a busy boy. See if you can work out who's on Arthur's side, and who isn't.

There was a free CD-ROM with my book. Full of games and stuff about Garth Nix and Mr Monday, and Grim Tuesday.

What can I read next?

As I said, Garth Nix has also written the superb Old Kingdom trilogy, which is highly recommended. Rather more serious magic than Mister Monday:

If you really enjoy the zany magic of Mister Monday, then of course you have the rest of the week to look forward to. So far we have:

  • Mister Monday
  • Grim Tuesday

You might also be interested to have a look at this book by Michael Ende which makes use of a wild succession of characters:

And I think you might also really enjoy this book by Diana Wynne Jones:

Of course, there is always the classic, by Lewis Carroll, which is unbeatable. Characters don't come any more bizarre and enjoyable:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Mister Monday features in these lists: