Friday, June 8, 2007

Review #1

Well, eight hours into the day (sadly, only four of those were reading hours), and I've finished my first book of the challenge.

Title: Sir Thursday
Author: Garth Nix
Length: 344 pages

Sir Thursday is the fourth book in the sequence called The Keys to the Kingdom, in which Arthur Penhaligon, an asthmatic poster boy for "in the wrong place at the wrong time," has been anointed the Rightful Heir of, well, everything. In the past three books, he's faced down Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, and Drowned Wednesday with assorted helpers who pop in and out at random, with the exceptions of Suzy Turqoise Blue, a.k.a. Monday's Tierce (the hour midway between Dawn and Noon. Knew that? I didn't.), and Dame Primus, who is the embodiment of the Will of the Architect of All, along with an assortment of officials known as Dawns, Noons, and Dusks. It's a shame that such beautiful, powerful Denizens of the House that is the epicenter of the universe are usually trying to kill him. Throughout these battles, poor Arthur has amassed the titles of Master of the Lower House, Lord of the Far Reaches, and Duke of the Border Sea, and the Mastery of Three of the Seven Keys to the Kingdom.

Despite using far more than its allotment of capital letters and inherent surrealism at most parts, I have enjoyed this series, and Sir Thursday was especially clever in its use of otherworldly military tactics on a very interesting battlefield. Sir Thursday's command is known as the Great Maze, a massive grid of square-mile tiles, a thousand miles to a side. Besides the handfull of fixed locations, these tiles move to new positions every night at sunset as preappointed by Sir Thursday himself. Don't get stuck on the borders at sunset. For those of you familiar with the Harry Potter universe, think severely botched Apparition. For everyone else, the phrase "death by dismemberment" should suffice. It's also very good for splitting up large companies of enemies, which is exactly the use it's been put to.

And while Arthur has been pushed, prodded, and pulled by the hair into the midst of battle (somehow the poor kid managed to get himself drafted into the Glorious Army of the Architect, commanded by Sir Thursday and based in the Great Maze), back on Earth, his friend Leaf has something else to contend with entirely - a form of House-specific monster, called Nithlings, masquerading as Arthur and spreading a mold to everyone around him that, when fully formed, transforms the host into a total puppet under the Nithling's command. Now, Leaf's popped up a few times on Monday and Tuesday and had a very large part in Drowned Wednesday, when she decided she wanted the adventures Arthur was having and followed him into a pretty nasty situation involving pirates, slaves, and extremely hungry Leviathans. She's been thoroughly cured of her need for adventure by this point, but now she's actually needed. Her job is to make sure that the puppet-master Nithling is stopped. Fun, huh?

These books are particularly interesting when you can see hints of the author's earlier work. In this case, the style with which the military scenes are executed is highly reminiscent of Garth Nix's series for slightly older readers, The Old Kingdom Trilogy or The Abhorsen Trilogy (I'm not sure if either of those names is official, but I've seen it called both), composed of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. In these books, a huge wall of stone and magic keeps a strict divide between magical and nonmagical realms coexisting in the same world, and instead of the standard fantasy attitude, which would be to leave it wide open with only menacing rumors to ward off intruders so that some plucky schoolboy hero could climb over it and into adventure, a military zone called the Perimeter has been established and strictly enforced. (Trespassers will be shot without warning.) There are similar situations scattered throughout Sir Thursday, and they were written in a forward-motion, making-light style that held a comfortable familiarity for me as a repeat reader.

So, my overall impression of the book was a good one. (For what it's worth, I'm still partial to The Abhorsen Trilogy. What can I say? I liked apocalyptic fantasy.)

I know that I need to work on my reviewing style. Trying to balance informative with unspoilery is, um, difficult. I hope that was at least mildly interesting, though.

Now a short break, and on to my next book, an old favorite that I'm rereading in preparation for certain releases in July. Care to take a guess? ;)


Robin Brande said...

Go, Miri!

Sherry said...

I added a link to your review to my Saturday Review of Books ( Please feel free to come by any Saturday and link to future reviews and read everyone else's book reviews.