Okay. Custom dictates that when noding a book in a series of books, especially if the book is the last one in the series (as this one is), that one should probably ensure that the other books in the series have already been noded so that readers know what the heck is going on.
WELL TOO DAMN BAD.
This book hurt me in ways I hadn't been hurt by a book before. I'm crazy and mad and I've got internet access and a spot of webspace to pour my rantings into, and by God am I going to use it. Unmarked spoilers. I'd tell you to read the book, but only because I hope it makes you as mad as it made me and we could froth at eachother. This probably won't make any sense to anyone who hasn't read the books.
Buckle in, motherfuckers, it's going to get loud.
This is the final book in the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This book is divided between Suzy, Arthur, and Leaf as far as POVs-per-chapter go, but since all the stuff that pisses me off is in Arthur's section, that's the one I'm going to be focusing on.
The previous book ended with Arthur falling down from the Incomparable Gardens (where Lord Sunday lives) after getting Saturday's Key. He falls down the Improbable Stair and into a random alien planet back out here in the Secondary Realms He manages to get back to the House via the Fifth Key. Using the fifth key has finalized Arthur's transformation from scrawny human kid to tall, statuesque, Greek-god-looking Denizen, something that had been slowly creeping over him throughout the series and that he had, until sometime in the previous book, been trying to fight by not using the power of the keys.
So he goes to the House. . . only it's not the House: it's his house. His mom is in the living room, looking kinda brainwashed and utterly unconcerned that her son is now seven feet tall, unnaturally good looking, and a decade or so older. She cannot actually see him at all: she's trapped in a time loop.
Why this is a fucking stupid thing will be delved into in a moment. Hang with me here.
Arthur goes outside and finds he is in the House. He's in the Incomparable Gardens, where Sunday has dropped off his house. He ruins into a piper's kid who claims to be a gardener but who surprise is actually Lord Sunday shape-shifted (he can do that now?) and Arthur gets kidnapped and tied to a giant clock reminiscent of the one Prometheus- AKA the Old One- was tied to in the first book. Sunday gives Arthur an ultimatum: hand over the keys and stop this business of trying to take over the house, or he'll get his eyes torn out everyday. Sunday leaves Arthur to think it over, like every good Bond villain, and Arthur brings the stuffed elephant to life.
Okay, for those of you who haven't read the books and are still reading this "review" to- I don't know. Kill time- the stuffed elephant has been an item of significance since the third book. In the Border Sea where all the stuff people have lost over the years pop up (socks, keys, treasured childhood memories- you know), after one of the darker moments in the series when Wednesday has died, Arthur found the elephant, which had been his favorite childhood toy. Since then, it (along with the Mariner's Coin and the Atlas) has been one of the objects that keeps turning up around him, and that he tries to keep with him, usually tied to his belt or in his bag (when he has a bag. This kid gets tossed around a lot.)
So now, four books later, the elephant who is basically the representative of Arthur's human existence and childhood innocence comes to life. It's a great moment. That elephant had been building up to something for the past four books, and so this was just a really good payoff to everyone who'd been paying attention to the series.
Arthur tells the elephant to go off and find some way to rescue him. The elephant goes off, and a few minutes later we hear a blood curdling. . . trumpet. . . and sudden silence.
THEY KILLED THE FUCKING ELEPHANT. The last part of the Will is a tree that kills people when they touch it. Four books of buildup that this elephant was going to do something and his only purpose was to be puppydog levels of cute and loyal for a total of two pages, and then fucking die, a fitting metaphor for any longtime reader's soul as they read this scene.
Stuff happens. Arthur sneaks around until he finds the rest of the plot. Leaf and Suzy show up with Fred and the last of Arthur's army and Dame Primus. The Piper and his army of Newniths show up and the Mariner shows up and they're brothers of Lord Sunday and have a reunion and the Piper was a ghost all along (or something) and all the lower levels of the House have been destroyed. All that's left is the Garden. Arthur and Sunday fight. Arthur wins, of course, and releases the elephant-killing-Will, who reunites with Dame Primus and the Architect- who is God(ess)- is released and-
Everything is destroyed.
Everyone dies in this book. I'm not even exaggerating a little. And I don't mean Les Miserables level of death. I don't mean Hamlet levels of death. I mean literally every sentient being in all of the multiverse, save for Arthur, dies.
Okay, confession time.
I started reading these books when I was a sophomore in highschool. Yeah, fifteen was probably too old for the series, but the first book, Mister Monday was in the library and had a cool cover, and I had fond memories of reading Nix's The Seventh Tower series in middleschool, so there you go. I loved the book so much, I pestered the librarian to order the others that had been written (I think they were up to Drowned Wednesday) and I was the first to read them when they came in, and bugged all my friends to read them as well. The librarian ordered Sir Thursday on his own when I didn't know it was coming out and surprised me with it. Same with Lady Friday. I didn't get a chance to read Superior Saturday until a few years later, and I only read Lord Sunday a few weeks ago. I had the kindle version since 2011, but I didn't want the series to end, so I actually put off reading it. This is the first book series in my life where I did not immediately and tearfully devour the last book, and I have to say my past self must've been fucking physic because this is shit.
First it hits you with the main characters. Fred Initial Numbers Gold is dead. All the Piper's kids- if they weren't dead from the last chapter, then they're dead now. Gone. Scamandros, the upper house sorcerer? Dead. Monday's Dusk (who became Arthur's Monday's Noon), reoccurring cool dude who basically is the reason Arthur survived the first few books? Dead. Wednesday's Dawn, who had a super sad relationship with Wednesday and was still super loyal even after Wednesday turned into a giant hungry whale and ate her Noon and Dusk? Gone. In fact, all the Dawns, Noons, and Dusks are dead.
And then it dawns on you the list goes on.
Japeth, who first pops up in Grim Tuesday, helps Arthur, is given a cushy job in Drowned Wednesday as basically press secretary and has been pushing out propaganda saying how totally awesome and strong and heroic Arthur is (to the point where it's a plot point that nobody believes this scrawny kid in front of them is really the Lord Arthur) and is shown in Sir Thursday at Dame Primus's big meeting in the beginning? He's dead. Sunscorch and the scavengers who helped out in Drowned Wednesday? Dead. All the Denizens Arthur encountered in Sir Thursday's army when he was a recruit are dead. Elibazeth the gilder from the middle house (who I remember because her name was neat). The fucking NAMELESS YET OMNIPRESENT TELEPHONE OPERATOR who was SO impressed with Arthur because he actually said PLEASE and THANK you and was last heard fighting off someone trying to take over the phones- if she wasn't dead before, she certainly is now.
Every character is dead. Every fucking moment of building up sympathy, or backstory, or empathy for any of these characters- even minor characters- was wasted.
It should probably say something about Nix's writing that I'm so mad about this. Most of these are minor characters, after all. Maybe they were major supporting characters in one or two books, but they weren't important to the series-long plot as a whole. Minor characters die all the time in stories, right? But these deaths were so pointless. One fell swoop and several books worth of people are dead. I won't even say it's because we spent so much time with these characters -although many of them were multibook. Even the ones you never see again- okay wait. Here's what I mean.
In the very first book, in the beginning, when Arthur is first set loose in the House, there was a Denizen who was doing inspections and found Arthur and Suzy hiding in a closet. Suzy bribes them with the "frog" in her throat, which is one of the moments in the series that really hits home in establishing the otherworldly and distinctly inhuman nature of the Denizens, as they trade illnesses like fashion accessories (since they have the affectations, but none of the discomfort.) He gets possessed by the Will, points Suzy and Arthur in the direction of the plot, and sends them to move the story forward.
It's been seven or eight years since I read that, but I still remember that character. We never see him again in the books, but until book seven, he was probably walking around somewhere doing paper-pusher things and now he's dead.
It's like, the ending knew it would be killing off all the characters present within its own story, but it didn't realize it would be killing off all the characters from the other stories as well. It feels like bad writing. If it was unintentional (as it genuinely feels to me, but others may have different opinions on it, and heck I can't read the author's mind), then okay, bad writing. But if it was intentional then it was a slap in the face to any reader who'd ever invested time giving a damn about the people in these books. Either it was bad writing or asshole writing.
So. Back to the story- oh, because that's not the ending. You'd think that killing everyone who could be killed would be enough, but it's not.
The Architect says that she wants to basically commit suicide because she's been around since the beginning of all things, and finds existence a little tiring. She melts into the Nothing and Arthur becomes the new God, and while he does have the Atlas-
Okay, the Atlas is this magic book that knows everything. Again, I'm, not exaggerating. It will only open for the person who is (or is the heir of) the Architect. It's been around since the first book and it is never explained. Really, I was expecting the Architect to be locked in the Atlas the entire time, so actually this thing is a major plot hole.
So he still has the Atlas and- hey! He can reboot the universe. . . . from the exact moment before the last bit of the House was destroyed. Meaning he can bring back the Secondary Worlds (hooray, Earth is safe. I don't care. This series has revolved around the House- that's where everyone we care about is) but the house is still trashed. Basically only the handful of people in the room with Arthur when the universe asploded are alive. His mother- who had been in the part of the gardens that was destroyed- is still dead.
Did that need to happen?
She had no bearing, none whatsoever, on the plot. I gave you her entire role in a few sentences. She got a few sentences in the book, too.. It wasn't as though Sunday was intentionally luring Arthur to the Gardens with his mom: Arthur had no idea where the fuck he was going. He just wanted alien spider things to stop shooting lasers at him. It was complete coincidence that he went to the gardens. It wasn't as blackmail: Arthur basically gift wrapped himself and mailed himself to Sunday's front door. From a character point of view, it's totally understandable that Sunday would want Arthur's mom as a bargaining chip; he had no idea Arthur would be stupid enough to show up again. But from a writing point of view, she had no reason to be there. She accomplished nothing but death. She literally sat on a sofa staring into space, doing fucking nothing.
She could have been cut. She could have spent the book back home with the rest of Arthur's family- his brothers and father and sister- and nothing would have changed.
The secondary Realms are restored, but before Arthur presses the "start" button, he creates a little human version of himself to send back home, since he cannot leave the House, lest the universe go kablooie again. The little human version thinks that he is Arthur, with all of Arthur's memories, and that the God-Arthur is just the power of the Architect manifested as a sentient entity. God-Arthur lets him think that, and doesn't tell him that he's basically a Nithling (a creature made out of the Nothing that surrounds the universe) and therefore will not die unless God-Arthur does some editing. He sends Arthur and Leaf back to Earth.
The book and series end with God-Arthur and Suzy in Elysium (the last portion of the Garden and the universe reboot point), talking about how Arthur will bring back Scamandros and Fred (who were in the room with them when the universe done blowed up and so can be brought back without a hitch) in a second, so they can help Arthur make new Denizens.
Because fuck the old ones, right?
Because fuck building up almost a decade's worth of love for the fucking setting. Fuck actually caring about characters. Fuck adequate story payoff and catharsis. Fuck this ending and fuck this book, it was a crappy finish to a good series.