"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews Lady Friday



Lady Friday (The Keys to the Kingdom, Book #5)
Author: Garth Nix
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN 10: 0-439-70088-4
ISBN 13: 978-0-439-70088-7

Here is another adventure fantasy that is part of a complex series. Readers are advised to begin with Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, and Sir Thursday in order to understand what is going on in Lady Friday.

Arthur Penhaligon is a sickly adolescent who may be the heir to what is essentially the whole universe; but the seven Trustees (think of fallen archangels) are loath to give up the godlike power that they have been wielding in the Architect’s absence. Arthur has been fighting them individually, to stay alive and protect his human family and friends more than to gain his inheritance.

As he defeats each enemy, Arthur gains another portion of the Architect’s Will; yet each gain transforms him slightly more into a Denizen of the House. If Arthur is forced to claim his full Inheritance (defeat all seven Trustees), he will have become more than mortal and can never return to Earth. By this volume, the action has already moved from Arthur’s normal home and school locale into the supernatural realms within the House.

Lady Friday is divided into two parallel stories. Leaf, Arthur’s mortal school chum, is drawn into the House despite Arthur’s hopes to protect her, when Lady Friday decides that the girl may make a valuable hostage. Arthur has the support of the loyal teen friends he has met previously, Suzy Turquoise Blue and Fred Initial Numbers Gold; but they are now identified as children of the Piper, one of Arthur’s more dangerous adversaries, and possible pawns under his control. Arthur is urged to kill them by all of his other supporters.

The plot and action, full of traps and potential betrayals, are almost incidental to the exotic areas within the House. Leaf explores and tries to escape from Lady Friday’s lair within the huge crater of an extinct volcano, with hundreds of galleries and balconies and walkways surrounding a large central lake.

Arthur and his companions must traverse a snowbound Middle House which is the locale of the Guild of Gilding and Illumination (a castlelike stone fortress), the Guild of Illustration and Augmentation (“and a nastier bunch you’ll never meet, unless you go up to the Top Shelf, where the so-called High Guild of Binding and Restoration laze about. I understand that Lady Friday’s Scriptorium is actually beyond that, on the mountain peak, …”), and the Extremely Grand Canal which flows up the mountainside, with the Paper Pushers (“the Noble and Exalted Association of Waterway Motivators”) who regulate the traffic upon it.

All the novels of The Keys to the Kingdom series are filled with imaginatively bizarre imagery, and Lady Friday adds to the eclectic marvel of the universe-filling House.

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