Arthur Penhaligon was slated to die of an asthma attack at school.
But he was saved by a magical key shaped like a clock's minute hand.
Sort of saved, at least. Because now he's being hunted by a mysterious man called Mister Monday, who will do anything to get the key back - including releasing a deadly plague into Arthur's world. Arthur is forced to flee into Mister Monday's realm, the magical world of the House. Under the guidance of a dubiously well-intentioned series of paragraphs called the Will, Arthur will have to solve the mystery of the key if he wants to save his world - or save himself...
I loved this book. It was incredibly unique, new, and exciting. I loved pretty much everything about this book and I'm already dying to read the next one in the series.
Now that I think about it, the basic outline's been done before. Kid granted powers by mysterious object, must save the world, etc. But honestly Nix did such a great job with it that I didn't even notice. The plot was exciting and interesting and extremely enjoyable.
Arthur was amazing. First of all, as the Will tells him point-blank, he was chosen randomly to be the hero. He wasn't The Foretold One or The Chosen One or whatever, he just happened to by dying at a convenient point in time. That's a nice change from a lot of cheesy YA novels where the hero is Super Special and Prophesied and whatever. Second, Arthur's asthmatic. I was amazed at how much that single aspect of him brought him to life for me. He's not magically Better at Everything than most people in the story; in fact, he's slow and gets out of breath easily and things like that. Finally, although Arthur gets fabulous powers from his key, he uses them exactly as you'd expect a kid his age to. For example, confronted with an enemy, he doesn't give elaborate speeches or displays of skill. He goes, "Freeze! Double freeze!"
So basically Arthur was the anti-cliche hero of the year.
Oh, and I loved the Will. I loved how it was just a little morally ambiguous - after all, in the end it's only out to see that its instructions are fulfilled, and it doesn't care too much who gets hurt in the process. I thought it was funny and interesting and a great new idea for a character.
The rest of the cast were only so-so for me, but I was so in love with Arthur and the Will that I didn't really care.
This is my first Nix book, but it's definitely not going to be my last.
End Result: five stars. An excellent book. Read it.