Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Lady Friday: Book Group Discussion
Garth Nix's Lady Friday is the fifth of the seven "Keys to the Kingdom" series. In it, Arthur, a 12 year old boy who's been chosen as the Rightful Heir of the Keys to Kingdom the first Creation of the female Architect, must find a way of claiming the fifth Key from Lady Friday. She sends Arthur, the Piper (one of the Architect's sons) and Superior Saturday (the female Trustee of the Architect's Will who appears to be the prime mover against Arthur), a message saying that she has abdicated her role and left her Key, a mirror-like device, in her Scriptorium in the Middle House, for which ever one of the three of them can find it and claim it first. Arthur then has to get himself to the Scriptorium to claim the Key, but he decides instead to find the fifth Part of the Will, reasoning that it will be likely to help him to free itself. All seven parts of the Will of the Architect are embodied in animal forms and each one represents one of the seven Heavenly Virtues, just as each Trustee embodies one of the seven Deadly Sins. Since each part of the Will is imprisoned somewhere by one of the Trustees, Arthur believes that freeing the fifth part of the Will should make him more likely to succeed in laying claim to the fifth Key.
Like the fourth book (Sir Thursday), Lady Friday is a rather darker book than were the first three (Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday and Drowned Wednesday). And not only is Arthur in danger. His friend from the Secondary Realms (as Earth and other planets outside the great House are known), Leaf, has been captured by Lady Friday, as has Leaf's Aunt Mango. She must try to remain alive and active so that she can rescue her Aunt from Lady Friday, who uses her Key to "taste" mortal experiences (she withdraws the memories of older people using the power of the Key and drinks the memories to give her experience of human emotions). Unfortunately having one's experiences drained leaves a mortal in a vegetative state from which there is no recovery (making it akin to Alzheimer's Disease).
Things I like about this book:
1 - Arthur's insistence to Dame Primus (who is a Denizen comprising the first four parts of the Will) that he loves his adopted family and that he doesn't want to be a fully-fledged immortal Denizen himself. Dame Primus is scornful of Arthur's expression of love - interestingly, since that is supposed to be the most important human emotion.
2 - The fact that Arthur is no longer refusing his role as the Heir - despite his desire not to become a Denizen. He retains the fourth of the Keys, following his encounter with Sir Thursday, and he isn't afraid to use it when necessary, even though he knows that its uses takes away his mortality. (An interesting philosophical comment on power and humanity.)
3 - The fact that Arthur is turning into a capable leader and that he isn't allowing Dame Primus to boss him around any longer. Since he is the Rightful Heir, she should only advise Arthur, not try to manipulate him (as she clearly does in the first two books). He starts thinking for himself and making his own decisions.
4 - I was fascinated by the Winged Servants of the Night and the role they play in the story, especially with regard to the fifth part of the Will. I like the way Nix leads the reader to believe that the fifth part of the Will is a terrifying dragon-like creature that eats people (well the Winged Servants at any rate), when in fact, it merely eats their clothes, and then the Servants stumble off in horrified embarrassment to find places elsewhere in the House (except for One Who Survived the Darkness).
So what do you think of the series and of this book in particular ? What worked for you, what didn't ? Did anyone read this book without having read the previous four titles in the series ?