Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Mister Monday

by Garth Nix


Arthur Penhaligon is a schoolboy with severe asthma. He's more concerned about fitting in at his new school than looking after himself, however, but if he doesn't sort out his priorities he could easily wind up dead. So when the peculiar Mister Monday shows up and gives him a key with special powers, he's not expecting Arthur to hold on to it for long.

Monday hopes that Arthur will give up the key when he dies, which Monday thinks will happen soon. But Arthur has other ideas, and so does the Will. The Will is a creature of text and purpose that can take living form, and is part of the instructions left by the Architect. And if that sounds a little strange, that's because it is. Arthur is mixed up in a battle between immortals from another realm entirely.

Arthur's own parents died of a highly contagious disease, so he's adopted. When another infection breaks out soon after some otherworldly creatures are sent to hunt him down to make him give up the key he knows that something's very wrong. Without a cure from outside the normal world, he's afraid that everyone he knows will die.

Whilst the idea of a modern-day child travelling to a fantastic otherworld is not uncommon, Mister Monday is still downright weird. Arthur enters a realm where things can be created from Nothing, which is like the raw material of the universe, and everything was originally created by an Architect. The Architect has gone, leaving her instructions in the form of a Will and her creation in the care of a number of Trustees. These beings may have hints of religious origins, but it's far too simplistic to see them simply as angels, devils and gods. Garth Nix has borrowed elements from Greek myth and from religion, but for the most part the setting is all his own. Arthur enters a large old house with Tardis-like dimensions and connections to many different times and "Secondary Realms", places such as our world. But the house itself is in disorder, affected by an atmosphere of decadence that's set in from above as those in charge don't seem to want to take care of anything.

The fanciful nature of this story suggests that it's aimed at a slightly younger audience than books such as Sabriel. But to get the most out of this novel it helps to understand the references, especially to stories from Greek myth. Yet Mister Monday is a delight even if some of it passes you by. Arthur meets a host of vivid characters as he hurtles at breakneck speed through this adventure. He's a likeable character who thinks for himself and never wallows in self-pity, no matter how bad his situation is. The author seems to enjoy confounding our expectations, and few characters turn out to be quite as they first appear.

Mondays have a reputation for being depressing, dull, and generally the worst day of the week. Not this one.

Book Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Male Protagonist  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Garth Nix