Arthur Penhaligon has spent a significant amount of time in the hospital being treated for asthma. On the first day of school after his most recent visit, he suffers a severe asthma attack in PE. When he’s certain that he’s dying, he imagines that the strange Mister Monday and his servant save his life by giving him a magical Key shaped like the minute hand of a clock.
When Arthur wakes up in the hospital later, he discovers that it wasn’t a hallucination. He still has the Key– and Mister Monday, who was tricked into giving the Key up, will do anything to get it back. If Arthur wants to survive, he’ll have to go to the House at the center of the universe to defeat Mister Monday, earn the Key, and take his place as the Rightful Heir.
The Keys of the Kingdom series is written around the interesting concept of a House at the center of the Universe that controls every aspect of the Universe, and the somewhat wacky adventures that take place there. Add to that the Great Architect, who created the Universe; the Trustees, children of the Architect who are each in charge of one of the seven areas within the House; and one reluctant, asthmatic hero, and you have a fantastic story waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, some of the details in Mister Monday don’t live up to the appeal of the idea. The characters are rather flat, the spell incantations are rather boring, and the spells themselves are rather nonsensical. This make Mister Monday a somewhat boring read at times. However, the series does get better as time goes by– by Sir Thursday the characters are more fleshed out, and it is fun to see their evolution from flat to interesting. Still, the most value the book was to me was that it set up the storyline for future installments.