This review contains mild spoilers.
Arthur Penhaligon has wrested five of the Keys from their immortal guardians, the Trustees of the Will. But winning the Sixth Key poses a greater challenge than any he has faced before. Superior Saturday is not just one of the Trustees, she is also the oldest Denizen and the most powerful sorcerer in the House. Everything seems to be part of a plan she has been hatching for ten thousand years.
Arthur is beset on all sides. Nothing is eroding the House, and only the power of the Keys can hold back the tide of destruction. His home city is under attack. His allies are unreliable. How will Arthur get inside the apparently impregnable Upper House? And even if he does, will the Sixth Part of the Will and the Sixth Key be enough to counter Saturday’s sorcerous hordes and stop her bid for ultimate power?
Okay, here’s the tricky thing with this book: it’s awesome. But it also just seems to ignore things that I want to hear about. By the end of the third chapter, the entire Lower House has been eaten away by Nothing and then we just never hear about some of the cool characters from the Lower House ever again. Like Sneezer and Monday’s Noon (who used to be Monday’s Dusk, who has always been pretty rad)? Nothing.
I’m counting that as a mild spoiler because it basically says that on the blurb and because it’s so unclear that I’m not even sure if it is a spoiler. Maybe these characters are alive and well. Maybe they’re totally fine and just chilling out in some of the other places that haven’t been eroded by Nothing. But I honestly have no idea, and Arthur never even asks after their wellbeing. From that, I have to assume either that they are dead or that Arthur’s transition into Denizen-hood has quickly turned him into kind of a dick.
Throughout the entire book, even as we visit cool new places and meet some really fascinating characters, I can’t stop remembering other characters that I liked who are probably dead now. But let’s put that aside for now and focus on some other things.
There’s a sense of urgency in this book that the others haven’t managed to convey. It’s now a race against time to get the Keys and save the human world. With the threat of a nuclear bomb looming, Leaf is in her own perilous situation but, surprisingly, Arthur’s journey is interesting enough that I’m not straining to get back to Leaf this time. The entire story is captivating right up until the last confusing whirlwind moment.
The Upper House is strangely enthralling, though there is so much left unexplained. Superior Saturday herself is a piece of work but she’s the first Trustee so far who seems to have an explanation for her being such a gremlin. Her insatiable envy has not slowed her; it requires her to strive harder to achieve her goals and she has earned a place alongside Sir Thursday as one of the most believable and complex depictions of villainy.
Superior Saturday is a thrilling penultimate instalment in The Keys to the Kingdom. The life or death consequences and non-stop action kept me interested, but this is the shortest book in the entire series. Maybe that’s why it was so exciting; there wasn’t a lot of time for extra padding or random character cameos so all (or most of) the important points were centre stage and everything else just fell away. Lord Sunday is going to have a hard time beating this one.