by Garth Nix
New York: Scholastic, 2003.
Arthur Penhaligon is just a normal kid, until the day he has an asthma attack during a school run, and two mysterious men pop out to give him a key and a book. Then Arthur starts seeing a huge house that's never been there before, and dog-like men that want his key start chasing him. But he doesn't even know what the key is for, or what he's supposed to do.
I wanted to reread the Keys to the Kingdom series so that I can remember the story before I read Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday now that the series is complete. Having listened to the audiobook read by Allan Corduner the first time, it was interesting comparing what stood out to me then versus my experience reading now. I remembered Arthur as a reluctant hero, and while that's still true, his character is much stronger than I remembered in doing what he has to do and making decisions about his life. The setting seems to be our world just a little in the future, after a pandemic of some sort, in which Arthur's birth parents died. Now twelve, he's asthmatic and should have died before the Will with a mind of its own chose him as the Rightful Heir. The House and the world created by the Architect out of Nothing make for an inventive fantasy world, and I found I'd forgotten a lot of the clever details like "washing between the ears," and that there was more symbolism than I noticed the first time through. I look forward to revisiting the rest of the series, but I remembered the audiobooks so fondly that I may go back to that format for the rest.