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 ?

19 comments:

David said...

Lady Friday was a great book, in my opinion. Very exciting, and, just like all the other Keys to the Kingdom books, incredibly imaginative. I agree, Michele, I like the fifth part of the will. I keep thinking that Dame Primus isn't entirely on Arthur's side, that she has intentions of her own... Actually, it's fairly obvious. One would hope that with the dragon, 'Temperance' she will be... well, tempered. Suzy Turquoise Blue is also a great character, I love in this book when Arthur summons all the Keys, and Suzy says, "I bet Dame Primus is going to be really miffed though."

Saturday's note also got me thinking a lot. If Saturday saw right through Friday's scheme, or chose to ignore it, then why all the indications that Saturday's forces were down on the bottom shelf? Why were the Artful Loungers even there, or Saturday's Dusk? Were they simply looking for the note? I can't see why, it didn't have too terribly much information in it. But, perhaps. Did Saturday lie, and go after the Key anyway in a hope to decieve the deciever? Perhaps. I honestly have no idea, it's quite a puzzle. In any case, I cannot WAIT for Superior Saturday to come out!

Michele said...

Hi David - thanks for your thoughtful comments - and for being the first to comment !

I don't think Dame Primus is entirely on Arthur's side - but then I guess that's not entirely surprising. She wants the other parts of the Will found and since Arthur's been half-resisting her (understandably, I feel), she's been a bit cagey with him. There's also the fact that he's a mortal 12 year old and she's a centuries old immortal Denizen, which is bound to give her a different perspective on things. But it's interesting that Garth Nix has made her a fairly unsympathetic character - there aren't too many unsympathetic female characters in children's fiction these days.

I also love Suzy Blue - I really should have mentioned her - she's a really mischievous and irrepressible character who's a joy to know...

Don't forget, re. the note, that it's only a fragment of a letter, not the wohle thing - it's interesting, though that you thought it was from Saturday (given it's only signed with an S). I assumed it was from Lord Sunday - the tone of the note is very uninterested, which Sunday appears to be, whereas Saturday is very, very interested.

Sheila said...

I also thought that the note was from Sunday, and my first reaction was that David had misunderstood. It never even occurred to me that it might be from Saturday, as it does seem more in character for Sunday. However, I wonder why the note was signed with only the ambiguous 'S'. Was that intentional or incidental? Nix doesn't seem to me like a writer who would do something like that unintentionally.

It also occurs to me on thinking about it, that we've never actually seen Saturday, have we? We've seen Saturdays minions, and Dusk in particular, but do we know for a fact that they are acting on Saturday's orders? Is it possible that the note was from Saturday to Saturday's Dusk? I really need to reread these books because the details slip my mind.

On the other hand, going back through the book, I notice that the order that Pirkin showed Arthur was "By order of Lady Saturday, Superior Sorcerer of the Upper House, with tacit approval of Lord Sunday." Tacit approval does sound like a euphemism for doesn't care.

I actually don't think that Lady Friday is darker than the other books. I think that all of them have been fairly dark. In Mister Monday, for example, the scene with the Old One is pretty dark and his fate is pretty gruesome.

As I mentioned in my own review, I also liked that Arthur is taking responsibility and becoming a good leader. I like that his growing ability as a leader is reflected in how others react to him, from the paper pushers to the Winged Servants of the Night and Friday's Dawn. With a few exceptions, most of the denizens he meets seem to instinctively respect him and recognize him as a natural leader, something that we never would have anticipated in the first book!

I also really liked Ugham. I like the way that he chooses to literally interpret his orders. The nithlings have been portrayed as pretty mindless entities, and it would be easy to assume that the new nithlings are similar. But Ugham has a lot of ... dare I say humanity? He also becomes quite a heroic figure in the way he chooses to obey the order at the climax. Perhaps he didn't have a choice about obeying the Piper, but in the way he did it, he sure went out in a blaze of glory!

Michele said...

You could be right Sheila, about the writer of the letter - or we could all be wrong ! Guess we'll just have to wait until next year to find out (either that or someone has to grab Garth, tie him to a chair and make him tell !)

No, we've not seen Saturday yet...

I also liked Uggham, and I quite agree with you about how well characterised he was - I'd like to see more of the NewNiths.

And yes, Arthur's earning respect - which he clearly deserves since defeating the Trustees isn't an easy task - AND he's done it without killing any of them, despite the expectations of others around him...

David said...

Yes, now that I think about it, I took it for granted it was from Saturday. Now the plot thickens, the note is even more puzzling then before!

It's very true that Sunday does seem very detatched, but that is part of the reason my instict was that it was from Saturday- I think that Garth Nix will keep Sunday's personality and nearly everything about a surprise until his title book. Then again, we have heard from Sunday before, way way back at the very beginning of Grim Tuesday, when the... messenger brings the signed note to Grim Tuesday. My memory is bad though and I don't have the book- was Sunday one of the ones who gave approval?

In any case, it very well could be from either of them. Or, as you said, it could be a total shocker. "S" might stand for... Suzy Turquoise Blue! Or possibly... Skinless Boy! Honestly, it could stand for nearly anybody. But it's more likely that it's Sunday or Saturday. ;)

Also, I did forget to comment about Ugham. Throughout the book, the NewNiths shifted in my mind. It seems that they do not slavishly obey the Piper, nor does his pipe control them. From what Ugham said, It makes it seem that the NewNiths are creatures of honor, and as Ugham said, see themselves as being under an everlasting debt to the Piper for creating them. But perhaps, if some honorable loophole could be found, or they could be forced into a greater debt to one of the good characters... Then, would they be free?

Another thing I neglected to mention: The Mariner. I have the strangest feeling Arthur will use up his final 'Genie in the Medallion' and will thus be left alone in his epic clash with Lord Sunday. It also seems that both the Piper and the Mariner have... I'm not sure, Lesser Keys? The Mariner has his electro-spear, and the Piper has his... pipe. Both seem to act like keys, for example, the Piper could make the Improbable Stair with his pipe. Were these given them by the architect? If so, would Lord Sunday then have one of these AND his key? Many mysteries. In any case, Saturday should be the best book in the series yet, whenever it comes out!

Michele said...

Nice theory David, but I doubt the note is from anyone other than either Saturday or Sunday...

I've just looked at Grim Tuesday and there's no indication about who the letter is from, it just mentions that the first part of the Will has escaped and found itself a Rightful Heir. (I assumed you were referring to the letter that's mentioned in the first chapter, which Tuesday is holding in his hand when he gets off his train?)

I suspect you're right to think that the Mariner's Harpoon and the Piper's Pipe are both objects of power, though whether they're a form of Key, or just devices, isn't clear or obvious - I suspect the latter, however...

I hope Superior Saturday isn't the best book of all the series ! Just the best so far...

Sheila said...

I think the note had to be from Saturday or Sunday, because the sealing wax on the note was the rainbow wax used by all the Trustees. But there's another strange thing: the seal itself isn't visible, just the traces of wax, so that's another thing that leaves the sender of the note ambiguous. It does seem strange that Nix would include *two* things that make the sender ambiguous. You are clearly meant to assume that the note is from Sunday, but if so, why the ambiguity?

Interesting points that you make about Ugham, David. It raises the issue of whether a being owes a debt of obedience to his or her creator.

David said...

Yes, I agree, I hope SUNDAY will be the best. That's why I said "The best yet". ;)

And that's not the letter I was speaking of, sorry if I was unclear. It was a movement that had been signed by three of the trustees, and the other three had not approved. Grim Tuesday thought that the movement was lost, but the messenger reminded him it still needed Tuesday himself's signature. Forget what the movement was for, though... Ah well. Wonder what the trustees know that makes them keep getting killed. I also wonder why Mister Monday, after he was made good, wouldn't spill the beans instantly. Perhaps it wasn't a secret, but some power? No idea.

Michele said...

I don't think any being should owe a debt of any kind to its creator - that's a really horrible thought. The being may feel gratitude for their creation but there should be no compulsion to feel that gratitude.

Let's hope Garth reveals all regarding the identity of the mystery writer of the letter or we're going to be terribly frustrated !

David, I'll try to check Grim Tuesday later and see what the letter said and how it was signed.

Sheila said...

Just another comment about the note at the end of Lady Friday. Why does it say, "It will make little difference in the end?" What does 'S' know that we don't?

Michele said...

Probably an awful lot... And I'm so bad at not knowing what it is I don't know...

(Sorry, being silly now - too tired !)

Little Willow said...

I have been enjoying the series from the start. In fact, I feel that each book has been better than the one that preceeded it - except for Lady Friday. This is not to say that LF was poor, but I just didn't feel as though it raised the bar yet again. I wanted more explanation/exploration and more insight into Lady Friday's background and intentions.

Michele said...

I must admit that Lady Friday is a bit more of a cipher than any of the other Trustees were - which is a shame...

Catherine said...

What I liked:
1) the Paper Pushers and the whole idea of the canal moving type through textually charged water. Made me think of how cool that could be in a library for sorting, shelving, pulling holds -- many possibilities!
2) time relatedness: days of the week, minutes of the hour in the circles of the place where Lady Friday keeps the sleepers, etc.
3) the imaginative names and titles of the characters many of which are also time related.
4) another new author and series to be enjoyed.

What I didn't like: Would have liked it more had I read books 1-4 first. Felt like I would have appreciated it more having the background of the previous books. Lots of things seemed confusing and it was difficult to determine if I would have known more having read them. I could have read your comments (or elsewhere about the other books) but I'm the type who doesn't want anything to spoil the story so I try not to even look at the book jacket until finishing the last page. Of course now I do want to read the whole series so perhaps this is not a negative.

Michele said...

Catherine, I'm glad that you enjoyed the book despite not having read the earlier ones - and yes, it really does help to have read the other four first. I actually found I need to re-read the previous books before starting a new one. I didn't re-read the first two before reading Drowned Wednesday and I actually felt quite lost at one point...

I hope you get hold of the others and enjoy them !

I also liked the Paper Pushers - the very name made me grin, given how bureaucratic so many of the Denizens of the House are !

George said...

Really interesting theories...My thoguhts are that we know that the seven deadly sins are intertwined with the story; Monday is Sloth, Wednesday is gluttony, Thursday is Anger, but then we're left with a slight confusion, I feel. Would Tuesday represent Envy or Greed? I feel that it is more likely to be envy, and Friday is Greed. What do you think?
We are thus left with Lust and Pride. It is easy to say that Sunday could be pride but then think of Saturday and her just-below-sunday situation.
This leaves Sunday and maybe a connection with the note. What does lust have to do with "it will make little difference in the end"?
sorry to sound wierd, I'm not but it was playing on my mind so do you think you could shed any light?

I loved Suzy in this one, she really is a great creation by Nix. Also thought that Feorin and Milka were very amusing, Nix is so random and imaginative.

Thanks
George
P.s. have meet Mr Nix, he's great!

Michele said...

Grim Tuesday was greed - he was endangering the House and everything else in his greed for more Nothing to use to make things - and he was always taking ideas from the Secondary Realms...

Friday was greed - her appetite for "experiencing" humans grew and grew...

But I think we're just going to have wait and see with regard to Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday.

I'm jealous you've met Garth Nix !!

Anonymous said...

The Parts of the Will seem to have a very extreme version of their coresponding virtues. Part One-fortitude, Part Two- prudence, Part Three- faith, Part Four- Justice and Part Five Temperence. Personally, I think the last part will have the virtue love/charity simply because the Will has been putting down "love" since Arthur didn't execute Monday. This leaves hope for Part Six. Kind of strange... hope vs envy

Trevor said...

realy i don't get how all the other books besides wendsday have all led up to something bigger, do you think that either sunday or saturday will have more insight on dr. Scamandros or the mysterious 3rd trustee oh and the note obviously sunday, garth was probably trying to give a tiny bit of insight on a mysterious trustee