This review does not contain spoilers.
Arthur Penhaligon has a broken leg and a bad attack of asthma, but there’s no time for recovery. Drowned Wednesday has sent a ship to pluck him from the sqfety of his bed, miles from any ocean, and sail him back to the House.
From hospital room to high seas, Arthur must battle pirates, storms, monsters made of Nothing and a vast beast that can’t stop eating. Arthur struggles to unravel the mystery of the Architect’s disappearance and the plotting of the Trustees. For the sake of all that dwell in the Secondary Realms, he must discover the third part of the Will and claim the Third Key.
But first … can Arthur trust the Raised Rats? Where are Leaf and Suzy? And how will he survive life aboard ship on the treacherous Border Sea?
For a while there I was worried that The Keys to the Kingdom was going to be an underwhelming read after a stellar first book. Fortunately, Garth Nix has brought back the whimsy and excitement, stepping away from the formula of the first two books and putting Arthur in completely new situations.
Drowned Wednesday does waffle on a bit. I expected everything to be relevant, as Garth Nix has a habit of dipping seemingly inane characters and occurrences in foreshadowing. By the end of the book, however, some parts are yet to be revealed as important or even necessary. Instead, they seem like obstacles or writing exercises developed while Nix was figuring out the rest of the plot.
Thankfully, the strongest elements in the book cut through the excess plot and endless minor characters. Readers are given a more complex view of the Trustees, and Drowned Wednesday somehow earned my empathy though I had always expected to find her abhorrent.
Arthur’s two lives are beginning to intersect and I can’t wait to see more of this. Leaf is a breath of fresh air in the House and, while she’s capable of thriving on her own, she provides a constant tether to his home life. The Skinless Boy, who made a cameo in the last book, finally looks set to wreak havoc in Arthur’s world in the next book.
While Arthur is taking charge of his own destiny, he’s forced to question whether the Will has been honest with him about the Architect’s wishes and Arthur’s own role in the unfolding events. There’s nothing like the impression of a sinister subplot to make you question everything you think you know.
Though the book often feels unnecessarily long, I found Drowned Wednesday to be a much more interesting read than its predecessor. Now that Nix has shown that battles with Trustees do not have to be repetitive, I’m looking forward to seeing what new situations he comes up with. For now, I’ll hold onto my fervent hope that Drowned Wednesday is a sign of things to come in The Keys to the Kingdom and not an outlier in the series.