The Keys to the Kingdom #7: Lord Sunday

By Garth Nix [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Arthur has battled and defeated the first six trustees, but now he must face the most powerful of them all: Lord Sunday. To make matters worse, the House has almost completely collapsed into nothing, his best friends Suzy and Leaf have been pressed into dangerous military service against the Piper’s army, his mother is missing, and he is now completely, irrevocably a Denizen. As he struggles to overcome Lord Sunday and free the final part of the Architect’s Will, the Will’s true meaning is about to become clear, shaking the very foundations of the House and all of existence.

Since I can’t discuss my reaction to this book without talking about the end, major spoilers are unhidden behind the cut.

I’ve already spoken at length about this series in general, so I won’t rehash all that again. Suffice to say that I love the characters and the world-building, and have been waiting extremely impatiently for this, the last installment in the series.

And, well, I was disappointed.

It’s still very well-written. Arthur is still a fine protagonist, and his sidekicks Suzy and Leaf are still wonderful. There’s nothing really wrong with the book; I have no objective, critical comments to make.

(Well, no, I actually have one. Arthur’s mother – his smart, awesomely competent mother – is killed off off-page in order to give Arthur a momentary pang, then basically forgotten. The killing of female characters in order to bring pain to or forward the narrative of male protagonists (an infamous phenomenon in comic books) is one of my least favorite things to encounter in fiction and I was angry and disappointed that Nix used it.)

But the big twist is that the Will, when completed, is the Architect, and that Her reappearance triggers the complete dissolution of the House into Nothing, thus freeing the Architect from the self-imposed trap of her own existence. Rather than let her creation be completely destroyed, though, she offers Arthur the opportunity to become the new Architect. He accepts, with a caveat: he splits himself into two beings, the Architect, and a mortal Arthur who doesn’t remember any of his adventures.

And so the entire series is a pyrrhic victory. Arthur does not manage to save the House, but he is left with the painstaking work of rebuilding it from scratch. He does not manage to remain human, but he creates a human copy of himself, though neither New Mortal Arthur nor Architect Arthur come across as the Arthur we’ve come to know throughout the series. And hanging over all of these events is the depressing knowledge that everything Arthur did throughout the series was a roundabout way of accomplishing exactly what he was trying to prevent. In trying to save the House, he destroyed the house. It could be argued that the House needed to be started afresh and this is all a good thing, but it’s extremely frustrating to spend an entire series rooting for a character to succeed, only to have that success snatched away at the last second.

I do still think that The Keys to the Kingdom is an excellent series, and I do still love the characters and the world-building. But I really, really didn’t like the ending. Since I know my reaction is very subjective, and since I’m loath to give the book a really bad grade thanks to my former love of the series, I’m settling on a middle-of-the-road three cupcakes.

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