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A fantasy series of seven books by Garth Nix, consisting of Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday, and Lord Sunday.At the epicentre of the universe is The House, a non-afterlife Celestial Bureaucracy created by The Architect to be responsible for recording everything that happens in the rest of the universe, the Secondary Realms. After the disappearance of The Architect, the seven most powerful denizens of The House decide not to appoint a mortal from the Secondary Realms as the Rightful Heir in accordance with The Will she had left behind, but instead to break and imprison The Will in seven parts and keep the power of the titular Keys To The Kingdom for themselves. Ten thousand years later, Part One of The Will escapes its imprisonment and is partially successful at tricking one of the trustees into handing over part of his Key to a mortal Rightful Heir, Arthur Penhaligon. Initially reluctant, Arthur is charged with defeating each of the trustees and claiming their Keys. However, he also discovers difficulty not only with the House and its residents, but also with the fact that he may or may not be coming home...It has awiki.
This series provides examples of:
Adults Are Useless: The main heroes are children and the Denizens of the house are either too stupid or stubborn (or corrupt, or bureaucratic, or evil) to change anything. The Piper's Children are also shown to be much more helpful to Arthur than most Denizens. On the other hand, pretty much all the adult humans in the story are shown to be competent or even Reasonable Authority Figures.
Alternate History: Arthur's world is almost the same as ours, except it was the scene of a devastating plague that prompted the government to take the hard line on any epidemic.
However, it may not apply. Arthur's hi-tech cast in Drowned Wednesday, and the fleetingly mentioned electronic paper are two examples of future technology, meaning that the plague could be a future event, and the story is set Twenty Minutes into the Future.
When Leaf thinks about people walking on the moon, she recalls Chinese astronauts.
Apocalypse How: Class Z. If the House is consumed by Nothing, Earth and the rest of the Secondary Realms will be gone as well.
Specifically, if the Incomparable Gardens are destroyed. First thing in, last thing out.
Applied Phlebotinum: Nothing, the stuff from which everything is made and everything will eventually return. It can do a small variety of things, mostly destroy anything if given enough time and form strange "Nithlings" if combined with normal matter.
Authority Equals Asskicking: The way the House's hierarchy works. Each Denizen has a number representing how close they are to being full authority. Superior Saturday is number one - more powerful entities exist, but they're not Denizens.
There's not really any reason to say Saturday is the highest because those higher than her aren't Denizens; Arthur isn't a Denizen, but still has a position in precedence. Indeed, near the start of Sir Thursday, Arthur's precedence within the House is explicitly given as six. One can speculate as to who the five above him are; Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday are the obvious candidates for four of them. Who the other one is remains a mystery, though it could perhaps be the Architect.
Automaton Horses: The Not-Horses used by the Glorious Army of The Architect are a literal example. They have a tough, metallic skin, run for much longer than a normal horse, and can go without sleep for a week. They do need to be cleaned with a wire brush so that they don't rust though.
Badass Normal: Leaf qualifies as this, especially by the last book. Poor girl barely even knew Arthur and still got dragged into his adventures. She survives being kidnapped and shanghaied into serving on a ship, she goes up against Lady Friday to rescue her aunt, and she befriends Daisy and returns to the House to try and help Arthur. She even manages to take a nuclear attack on her hometown in stride, rescuing and caring for all the old folks Friday's been stealing memories from.
Batman Gambit: See Who Wants to Live Forever?, below. If Arthur realized at any point what was going on, there is no way he would have gone through with it and the Architect's plan would have been ruined then. However, she's able to be enough of a Manipulative Bastard that he's not able to figure out the truth in time.
Despite the fact that it looked like Lord Sunday had plenty of time to tell Arthur when he was trying to convince Arthur to give him the Keys. In fact, telling him the truth could possibly have convinced him. Yet he didn't do it. After all, Sunday's sin is pride....
Bigger on the Inside: Practically every building in The House is bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Big Bad: The pirate Feverfew is this in Drowned Wednesday, and the title character of each other book in the series is the big bad of that book. In addition, Superior Saturday is responsible for bad things that happen in multiple books.
Big Good: Dame Primus. However, as Arthur suspects, she's actually not acting in his best interests at all.
The Mariner is one of the most powerful beings ever, being son of the Architect, and helps out Arthur. However, he keeps reiterating he's trying to be neutral.
Bittersweet Ending: Sure, Arthur is God AND gets to be a normal boy at the same time, and Suzy gets a bit of happiness, but that doesn't change the fact that sooner or later normal Arthur is going to realize he's not mortal, and in the meantime, there's the death of all but about FIVE denizens AND Arthur's mother to worry about (though the House will probably be reconstructed quickly).
Arthur What would have happened to me if I had died? Will: You'd be dead. What do you mean? Arthur: I mean...Where am I now? Is there some sort of life after death? If the Architect created everything... Will: There is no afterlife that I know of. There is Nothing, from which all things once came. There is the House, which is constant. There are the Secondary Realms, which are ephemeral. When you are gone from the Secondary Realms that's it, though some say everything returns to Nothing in the end.
Chained to a Rock: The Old One, a Prometheus-like character (or maybe the real deal) is chained to a clock, from which wooden puppets appear every twelve hours to remove his eyes, which grow back painfully over the next few hours. Reinforcing the Prometheus similarities is that it used to be his liver that was taken before his eyes. (May or may not have been by a vulture).
Arthur gets chained to a smaller version of the Old One's clock in Lord Sunday
The Chosen One: Arthur, the Rightful Heir. Arguably deconstructed, since he was chosen because he was about to die, and Monday would promptly get the key back.
Co-Dragons: Each Morrow Day has or had 3 specific 'superior denizens' which count as their second in command (Noon, Dawn, and Dusk). Grim Tuesday took his three denizens, melded them into one and then separated that into seven, calling them Grotesques and giving them each different names. It's unknown what time they can be on Earth.
On a side note, the Will is revealed to have done this to the Trustees, and it's implied they weren't half as bad as they were during the series. Monday's Dusk is the only one who truly seems to be aware of this, though. There's a fairly blatant hint in Sir Thursday, where the titular Trustee's eyes are shown to be yellow. Then the Fourth Part of the Will turns out to be a snake.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sir Thursday, in a particularly nasty variation; he beats his subordinates when he gets angry and once killed two Piper's Children in a fit of rage.
Eldritch Abomination: Nithlings are a byproduct of proto-creation-stuff being let into the House. Have varying intelligence, all of them very, very, ugly. Except for the New Nithlings. They just look like ordinary humans with a tentacle or two.
"End of the World" Special: At the end of the series, Arthur becomes the successor to the Architect and is given the opportunity to replace the universe that was just destroyed. Instead of starting from scratch, he just recreates the old universe.
Even Evil Has Standards: In the seventh book, after the Piper tries to manipulate Arthur into giving up the Keys one last time, Lord Sunday tells him, in short, to shut up and deal with it.
Evil Is Sterile: It is mentioned that only The Architect, The Old One, or humans can create anything original. The Denizens can only copy things they've seen. This becomes important later.
Evil Twin: The Skinless Boy, a mute clone of Arthur created by Saturday to blackmail him into giving up the Keys. Has a nasty Mind Control ability.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Compleat Atlas of the House and its Immediate Environs is a pretty literal name from the start, but by the end of the series, the extent to which it is literally "Compleat" is turned Up to Eleven.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Elements of Christian theology, Ancient Greek myth, and European folklore are all present in the House. The protagonist actually meets the Pied Piper, the Ancient Mariner, and a towering old man who is suspiciously similar to Prometheus.
Foreshadowing: In Sir Thursday, Dame Primus says that she suspects that the Trustees "have been influenced or induced to behave as they do, with the ultimate aim being the complete and utter destruction of the House - and with it, the entirety of creation." It is the Will that's influencing them for that exact purpose! Even more dramatically, if you pay attention to the precise wording and punctuation in Dame Primus's letter in Drowned Wednesday, you may notice that she explicitly names herself as the Architect.
Despite all the pieces of the Will being male, Dame Primus is female. Because the Architect is female.
The name "The Will of the Architect" ends up meaning something different than first thought. While it seems to be a will as in testament, it ends up proving to be more along the lines of "the Architect's will be done".
Genre Savvy: Arthur spends most of the series making friends with various Denizens. He does the same in the Gardens in Lord Sunday, and his new friend leads him outside. Straight into a trap. Turns out the gardening boy is actually Lord Sunday in disguise.
When Arthur barters information from the Raised Rats they agree on a three questions three answers each type of agreement. Arthur, however, is quick to ask for clarification whether there is a 'trick' to it, such as asking that question counts, or whether it's only significant questions. It's the latter.
A God Am I: A side effect of using sorcery, not just for mortals, but having it on call seems to affect the thinking of many senior Denizens as well.
The water in Lady Friday tries to drown you if you aren't protected.
Saturday's rain drain would've killed Arthur if he wasn't a Denizen.
And if you want to get technical, the rain was Part Six of the Will. And the Will was created to destroy all Creation.
Hippie Parents: Leaf's parents, who are not only huge on environmentalism, but also gave their children some interesting names and keep only wooden utensils and jewellery in the house. It's implied that this runs in the family somewhat, from what Leaf says of her grandmother.
Honour Before Reason: Arthur battles with this after Dartbristle is killed trying to fulfil a task. Despite working for The Piper, Arthur is encouraged by the Will to finish his last act. However, he decides to do it, and accept the concenquences later because it's what he feels is right. Turns out it allows The Piper to get into the Upper House. Not great.
Despite being the highest in authority of the Dusks, meaning increasing snobbishness, Sunday's Dusk 'The Reaper' takes time out of his kidnapping of leaf to help 'a comrade' who is in trouble when in the door. It's the Lieutenant Keeper, and despite the Reaper saying Sunday could make him whole, he dies and passes on his sword and duty to Leaf scuppering his plan. The Reaper laments on what a mistake this was and just leaves to report his failure.
Leaf goes through a more minor one in Lord Sunday, when she becomes the Doorkeeper for a while.
Injury Bookend: In Grim Tuesday, Arthur broke his leg and used his residual power from the First Key to heal it, but the bones set all wrong and Dame Primus had to re-break it so he could get it properly attended to back on Earth, with a nice little nano-enhanced cast
Insectoid Aliens: In Lord Sunday, Arthur accidentally visits a planet of these using the Improbable Stair.
Invisible to Normals: Some of the things from the House are this, such as the Fetchers who come to Arthur's school in the first book. Though Leaf can sometimes see such things, apparently her grandmother was a witch or something.
Kill 'em All: Happens to everything in every universe. The people in the Secondary Realms come back to life. Most of the Denizens and Newniths in the House do not. Neither does Emily.
Large And In Charge: Almost a physical law in the House. The more power or authority you have, the taller you are (it's suggested they do this to intimidate the lower peons); the holders of the Keys are seven to nine feet high. Being demoted shrinks you. Denizens like heights apparently.
Lord Sunday, last of the Trustees and the most powerful, is ten feet tall.
Arthur becomes twelve feet when he becomes the New Architect.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Averted in that washing between the ears removes all memories rather than just the personal identity.
Line-of-Sight Name: Arthur, to prevent being noticed, thinks of being soldier "Ray Green" in Sir Thursday from seeing the sun's rays and the forest nearby.
Losing Your Head: Denizens can also survive decapitation, if they get their head reattached to the rest of their body soon enough. If their body is not available, they can regrew it from simply a head.
Magic Mirror: The Fifth Key, which allows the wielder to travel, or send someone, to any place as long as 1. The person has been there before and 2. It has a reflective surface.
Magic Music: The Piper's pipes can force Piper's Children or Raised Rats to obey the Piper's commands.
Matryoshka Object: In Grim Tuesday, Suzy hides a satchel inside one, with the twist that it's in reverse with the innermost doll being the largest.
Meaningful Name: Piper's Children have their original first name followed by a set of words related to their job (Suzy and Arthur's two fake names involved ink coloring, while Fred presumably handles adding golden initials and numbers.
Suzy's last name (mentioned once in Mister Monday) is Dyer, which fits the color stuff that most Piper's Children have going on.
Grim's Grotesques are named for the Yan tan tethera sheep counting system, though the individual spellings come from differing regional variants of the system, and in fact both Sethera and Azer mean "six" (Azar, however, does mean seven).
Mêlée à Trois: Although it begins with just Arthur VS the Morrow Days, by the final two books it's now Superior Saturday VS Lord Sunday VS The Piper VS Lord Arthur, culminating in one final showdown in Lord Sunday. When Arthur gets Saturday's key, she is enslaved by the Piper leaving only the three sides. The Mariner, who counts as a side by himself, is neutral in all this, but eventually comes over to Arthur's side.
Middle Child Syndrome: Implied with Friday's Dawn, who disapproves of his mistress' practice of experiencing and has never been allowed into her secret fortress in the Secondary Realms, unlike her Noon and Dusk.
Mobile Maze: The Great Maze, the section of the House used to train the Glorious Army of the Architect. It is a one thousand by one thousand grid of one mile by one mile tiles which randomly switch their positions every day.
Mobile Shrubbery: An illusory one is used by Arthur in the Incomparable Gardens, reasoning that a walking shrub won't look out of place.
The Multiverse: One interpretation of the Secondary Realms and the way the Improbable Stair works; instead of going back or forward in time, the various Landings lead to different versions of history or different worlds entirely.
Nice to the Waiter: Arthur is polite to everyone, including those below him. This is such a rare occurence in the House that the telephone operators go out of their way to help him, including defying Saturday herself, because he thinks of saying please, and even recognise him just because he is so polite to them.
No Hugging, No Kissing: Quite surprising, considering the genre of the series, and the fact that Arthur's two companions are both girls around his age (in Suzy's case, at least physically and emotionally). Romance is not discussed at any point, and none of the characters even think about it. Kind of disappointing, actually.
Only a Flesh Wound: Denizens can survive most wounds that should kill - one jarring example in particular is in Drowned Wednesday, where Ichabod gets a large splinter right through the stomach... and promptly complains about how that was his best shirt. Priorities. One denizen ends up being decapitated, in so much as his body gets dissolved by Nothing leaving only his head, and has to spend time regrowing his body. They're resilient alright.
Punch Clock Villain: The New Nithlings are really nice chaps who only serve the Piper because they owe him.
Really 700 Years Old: The Piper's Children appear the same as when they were first brought to The House, mostly between the ages of nine and thirteen. They have lived in the House for more than ten thousand years, but due to Year Inside, Hour Outside were taken from Earth about seven hundred years ago. They still act like children, though.
Retcon: Both when a Spirit-Eater was being described in the Atlas, and when the incident with the Gray Spot was mentioned in the last book, they said it was mute, yet Leaf heard it apologizing when it was 'accidentally' bumping into everyone to spread it's influence.
Seven Deadly Sins: Since the breaking of The Will, each of the trustees has been afflicted by one of the seven deadly sins. In order of Monday to Sunday, they represent Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, Lust, Envy, and Pride.
Shockwave Clap: Dame Primus does this with the Second Key in Sir Thursday.
Subverted, hilariously, when Arthur tries it in-canon.
Ichabod: The ship is still mostly the counting house, albeit long-transformed and changed. This room is of the counting house, so it will always be connected somehow. If the passageway falls off, some other way will open. Arthur: Through the wardrobe maybe. Ichabod: I doubt that, young mortal. That is where I keep the Captain's clothes. It is not a thoroughfare of any kind. Arthur: Sorry. I was only...(trails off) (Awkward silence.)
The irony is that one of the pathways IS through the wardrobe...
Arthur spends much of the third book in his dressing-gown.
Shrouded in Myth: Arthur himself. By the third book, Japheth has been assigned to writing fictionalized versions of his already fairly impressive accomplishments that portray him as seven-foot tall, and looking something akin to a Greek God. Needless to say, people often tend to be somewhat disappointed on meeting him in person.
Of course, he actually does end up looking like this when he becomes the New Architect.
The Will is turned into a Frog-Bear; Suzy into an assassin.
The Smart Guy: Dr. Scamandros, the only Upper House-trained sorcerer outside the Upper House (until Giac in Lord Sunday), and who often helps Arthur with magic and exposition after this introduction in Drowned Wednesday.
Too Dumb to Live: Many of the Denizens, much to Arthur's frustration. Lower-ranked Denizens in particular seem to find it all but impossible to do anything that they weren't specifically designed for. Many of the former-bureaucrat crew of the sailing ship Moth had very little idea of what they were doing, despite having crewed the ship for several thousand years.
Indeed, the reason the Piper created his Children in the first place is that they could actually learn. What's more, he's since created a bunch of New Nithlings with that ability - so much so that they would rather spend their time learning new crafts than being Evil Minions.
The Will, because each represents a classical virtue related to the keyholder's sin, but untempered by the presence of other virtues. Specifically:
The First Part of the Will, which leads Arthur into a trap. (Diligence, opposing Sloth, but without patience) The flip-side of this is that the virtue's overabundance of motivation and dearth of sense is also why it escaped while the others had to be rescued.
The Second Part of the Will, which holds a contest to decide who will use the Key to stop Nothing from consuming the universe. (Charity, opposing greed, but without temperance/prudence, wants everyone to have a fair shot)
The Third Part of the Will, which wants to waste time while its worshipers sing hymns (temperance, opposing gluttony but without diligence).
The Fourth Part of the Will, which spits acid into the face of the general of a much larger army during a ceasefire. (Judgement, opposed to unthinking wrath, but lacking patience) the fact that Judgement is used rather than the more traditional counter-virtue of Patience is plot-significant.
The Fifth Part of the Will, which spends more time eating armor than helping Arthur. (Chastity, opposing lust but lacking... anything sensible)
The Sixth Part of the Will, which gave Arthur orders he didn't have time to follow. (Kindness, opposing envy but lacking the sense of priorities the other virtues grant)
And the Seventh, which escapes by virtue of not being onscreen enough to cause problems. However, given that it is Humility (opposed to Pride) the fact that it's the virtue that Dame Primus has been working without for the entire book is significant.
It should be noted that Dame Primus, the composite of the parts of the Will, is much better about this; at one point she refuses to split into more than two parts with two Keys each because any less would be an invitation for attack.
Traumatic Haircut: Subverted, Leaf has to have her hair cut off after the military is tricked into nuking her hometown. The military personnel expect her to protest but she surprises them by agreeing to it instantly just to get it over with, by this time she's got much bigger things to worry about. The members of the army rescue team she talks to admit that they found the decontamination process to be pretty awful.
Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Arthur's full title at the end of the series is "Lord Arthur Penhaligon, Rightful Heir to the House, the Keys of the Kingdom and the Architect, Master of the Lower House, Lord of the Far Reaches, Duke of the Border Sea, Overlord of the Great Maze, Commander in Chief of the Glorious Army of the Architect, Master of the Middle House, Ruler of the Upper House, Lord of the Incomparable Gardens, the House and the Secondary Realms" as well as being the New Architect. Call him "Art".
Vampire Invitation: the Fetchers, although apparently you don't have to own/live in the building to invite them in.
The Virus: The Skinless Boy invades the mind of anyone he touches using a parasitic mold, turning them into his servants.
Virtue/Vice Codification: Each part of The Will represents one of seven virtues, most likely intended as opposites to the Seven Deadly Sins, but differing from the classical Seven Heavenly Virtues. They also refer to the Heavenly virtues themselves in a twisted way that hints at the source of the trouble. In order of Monday to Sunday (classical counterpart in parentheses), they represent Fortitude(Diligence), Prudence (Charity), Faith(Chastity), Justice(—), Temperance (Moderation), Charity(Kindness), and Hope(Humility).
As noted in Too Dumb to Live example above, this is almost as much of a source of problems in the house as the vices, and the deviations from the seven heavenly virtues (most notably the substitution of Judgement for Patience as an opposing virtue to Wrath, but also the use of looser protestant virtues in general rather than their classical counterparts as primary identifiers) are actually clues for the alert reader that something is not quite right with the Will.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Architect eventually got bored of living and decided she wanted to return to Nothing. But the Old One, who was a part of her, had to be destroyed to in order for her to be dissolved, and his chains can only be broken if all of Creation is undone as well. Thus she started playing Xanatos Speed Chess and created a Batman Gambit; see below and above. Also Arthur, although in his case his complaint was that the sorcery involved would leave him unable to return home without causing sickness and potentially killing his home town. It's implied this got better, though he is still immortal.
Xanatos Speed Chess: The Architect made the Will to get the Trustees to carry out her plan to destroy all of Creation, but they refused and broke the Will. However, the Architect then twisted their natures, corrupting each with one of the Seven Deadly Sins, causing them to destroy the House anyway. Then she recruited Arthur to finish the Will and, even though he resisted every step of the way, she managed to manipulate him into completing the Will regardless. Note that this "Speed Chess" took thousands of relative years.
X Must Not Win: Funnily enough, Arthur's side could be considered as X since the other main combatants know if he succeeds the House will be destroyed.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: The House seems to move a lot faster than the Secondary Realms. Suzy was taken from the time of the black plague but mentions having been in the house for thousands of years. Arthur's to and fro through the door is explained later as the House adjusting time accordingly so that the person returns to the same time as they left. Sorcery can make the door glitch though, and Scamandros mentions having left for a few months and come back to find only 5 minutes have passed.