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Myth & Sacrifice

The Great Grand Robin Jarvis (Re)Read

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 11

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘In my raven youth they called me … Audrey.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: As if we had not learnt enough Harsh Lessons last chapter, ‘The Midwinter Death’ brings us another, namely, that mentor figures are not as infallible as they may initially seem. Sometimes one must count on one’s own wits and resourcefulness to pull through, and so it is with Thomas and Arthur here.

The effects of Thomas’ injury make for deeply uncomfortable reading. The sturdy mariner mouse whom our young heroes had come to trust, respect, and rely upon quite literally shatters before their eyes, involuntarily revealing the dark and guilt-gnawed heart he has been hiding for decades. Despite the Starwife’s callous manner, we recall that she knew Thomas before the Deptford Mice knew her, and in our heart of hearts we recognise that she will not abandon the midshipmouse in his time of dire need.

As we all hoped, the Starwife does indeed come to Thomas’ aid, but in doing so, dooms herself, bringing home the Harsh Lesson of this chapter. I feel like this is quite a unique aspect in fantasy, middle-grade or otherwise. In the usual course of things, the wise and seemingly-immortal mentor figure would gracefully fade and die only after the hero had proved to be a worthy successor for them, or after the main conflict had been resolved completely.

This is Robin Jarvis, however, and even the mightiest of oaks shall fall. The Starwife is exhausted in her very bones; she has done all she can, but ultimately, she can do no more. We must respect her for continually giving her all in even the most desperate of circumstances until she has no more to give.

The scene where she is visited by Barker in the falling snow is, I feel, one of the most poignant in this entire trilogy. The Handmaiden of Orion, revered queen upon the Oaken Throne, finally comes face to face with Bauchan the Ever-artful, third branch of the suppurating, blood-fed tree that is the Raith Sidhe. And yet, there is no great confrontation. No grand battle commences, no spells of might and ruin are exchanged. What do these ancient and terrible beings of power do instead? Grimace at each other over Jupiter’s Unbeestly head, and mutually give up.

It really jolts a body. Up until this point, our heroes may not have had a lot to hope for, but at least they had the Starwife. Now not even she can hold back the encroaching night, and even the agent of the Unholy Three flees before the prospect of Jupiter All-powerful. For the Deptford Mice, and for the world, the future looks as bleak as midwinter.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Another deep mythological chapter. In a way – at least if you’ve never read any of the other books – much of the mythology is unknown. Who is Hagol, whose midwinter death has stricken Thomas? Bauchan turns out to be a real character, not just an imaginary god. Well, how many other gods are there for other creatures? How does the cosmology of the spirit-life work in the Deptford universe? Is there a significance to the name Audrey that echoes through history?

But in a way, these are questions for the nerds. (Which we all are over here at Myth & Sacrifice!)

What’s far more striking about this chapter for me is that moment that often occurs in the third volume of a Jarvis novel – the cutting off of all options. If you follow the thread for this book, we thought the Book of Hrethel might defeat Jupiter. It was blank. Then we thought the mousebrass would defeat Jupiter. It failed. Then we hoped it might be the Starwife or something.

But the Starwife is now dead and Bauchan has declared that the Raith Sidhe have given up hope.

Like, what the heck else is there that we can try?

Jarvis is a master at doing this as his stories draw to a close – where the darkness is so thick and the way so unknown, no one can know how it’s all going to end.

I find this to be such a contrast to most other young people’s stories, where the heroes are so heroic, and the ending so telegraphed, that you can tell where it’s going from a mile away and how it’s going to end. Not so here.

Three more chapters to go till we’re all done!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘My name is Piccadilly,’ he shouted proudly, ‘and by the power of the Green Mouse I banish you forever!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth in a moment, but first, I feel I must point out the opening scene of this chapter in which Audrey is caught preening herself. For our heroine, this small sequence is the beginning of the end of her coming-of-age.

Gwen is understanding about Audrey’s desire to make peace with Piccadilly (for which my love for that little mousemum reaches new heights) but she also makes a very percipient point that, I’m sure, resonates with many of us. Audrey can do nothing to change her situation. She is married to Twit for good or ill until the grass grows green over them both, but instead of drowning in despair and feeling sorry for herself, she should try to accept that which she has no control over and find what harmony she can within herself.

Harmony seems rather distant, however, in the face of Audrey’s final meeting with Piccadilly. Ow! I tell you what, OW! If you’re wondering what that ripping noise is it’s the sound of my heart being shredded into tiny pieces. I bet I wasn’t the only one yelling ‘JUST TELL HIM!’ out loud during this part. Nor, I surmise, was I the only one groaning in frustration when Thomas and Arthur appeared at precisely the wrong moment to drag Piccadilly to his doom. And Barker! Shame upon ye, shame and fie!

On to the weeping and gnashing of teeth, then. I admit I’ve been putting it off. Honestly though, for an epic showdown between two main characters you could not wish for a more dramatic setting. The mice fleeing for their lives; the vicious wraiths of the Unbeest shrieking in fury; fire blazing and snowstorm whirling and Piccadilly, oh Piccadilly, consumed with bitterness and the lust for vengeance, turning back at the last minute to avenge or so perish in the attempt.

If the finale of The Crystal Prison was like an opera, Piccadilly and Morgan’s ‘Duel in the Storm’ is like a painting. White, for the blizzard. Black, for the grappling silhouettes of the fated nemeses, locked in their final, dreadful reckoning. Gold for the flash of Audrey’s brass, silver for Piccadilly’s trusty knife. Red, for the dying flames and the bright wounds and the twitching claws of an old, tired rat who saw no other way out.

An ending for Jupiter’s left claw, and an end to hope with the sudden and merciless murder of our young hero. The detail that hurts me the most is that he died with his little face ‘turned heavenward.’ Green keep you, Dilly-O. You will be missed.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: In almost every Jarvis book there seems to be one chapter that sears its way onto my brain. And there’s possibly even a statistical consensus amongst many of us fans what The Chapter is in each book. (Maybe?)

So if the Blackheath Ritual was the shocker from The Dark Portal, and the Audrey/Twit Wedding was the one from The Crystal Prison, then this would be a strong candidate for That Chapter in The Final Reckoning.

There was simultaneously no preparation and every preparation for this happening. In one sense, we would expect – in almost any other book aimed at young readers – that young Piccadilly would have his death-defying encounter with Jupiter and get rescued / escape at the last minute. (Especially since he’d survived that extraordinarily powerful Semi-Final Round with Morgan.) But, no. A few strokes of the old Jarvis pen – or did you break our hearts on some accursed old Mac or PC, Robin? – and Everyone’s (Arguably) Favourite Character is obliterated.

And then we realise that it’s all been set up. The awkward romance between Audrey that went nowhere, the last conversation that she’ll always regret, his deep scepticism about the Green Mouse that transforms itself into faith at the last minute, his move from vengeance to grace and forgiveness. All of it rushes back and reminds us that, for all of us, we never do know when our number is up. Or if not ours, those whom we love.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The icicles broke from the ceiling, raining bitter death on the rats below.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I was worried for a moment there – Smiff and Kelly really did look as if they might succeed in their plotting and ‘do for’ Morgan as he did for Black Ratchet. But no Robiny second-in-command goes down that easily, and Old Stumpy lives to snarl another day.

I actually didn’t realise until several years after I read this trilogy for the first time that the Deptford Power Station in this book is not, in fact, the same structure as the edifice we see from Greenwich Hill. Greenwich Power Station really does resemble a malevolent, crouching cat, and at first I wondered why Mr Jarvis chose not to house Jupiter there, it being a mere shuffle from the Observatory Dome of Doom. Apparently, however, the deceased power station at Deptford was even more grotesquely feline, and heck, perhaps Jupiter is just comfortable in the area. He’s been holed up in the sewers there for long enough, certainly.

So, Morgan and his lads arrive at Jupiter’s lair. Smiff and Kelly try to gut their leader and fail gorily all over the bank of the Thames. Morgs leads his army into glory and subjugation, only for his beloved Lord to turn all cold (sorry) and ruin his perfectly decent rat horde. Finally, Barker and Piccadilly arrive in their pudding-bowl boat and Barker invokes Hobb and HOLD ON JUST A MOMENT.

We all knew there was something dubious about Mr Lumps-On-Me-‘Ead, but the little scene with the bodies of Smiff and Kelly proves beyond doubt that there is devilment at work. What is this grizzled old wretch doing, calling upon the Father of Wrath and making hocus-pocus signs in the air? Furthermore, if he is indeed nefarious, why is he being so chummy toward Piccadilly? The plot thickens, Readers all.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  While I could say a bit about the ironic tragedy of Piccadilly and Audrey meeting up again – with Picc not knowing that Audrey is married – or the increasingly sinister Barker, I thought I might throw in the last of my happy snaps from my trip to Greenwich.

When I was up at the Observatory last April, I saw a sign pointing out historical buildings to look at. One of these, which is clearly visible from Observatory Hill, is an old power station. (Though I understand this is not the same one as in the book, which was a now non-existent power station at Deptford.)

As soon as I had a look, The Final Reckoning popped into my head. Because , as Aufwader pointed out – look at that building there – does that not look just like an evil cat’s face?

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Up Next Reminder | The Whitby Witches

Hey everyone,

This is a courtesy reminder that you will want to track down a copy of The Whitby Witches which we’ll be reading in April.

But before we put in our version recommendations, I just wanted to give you a quick warning about what is coming up in May. When Aufwader and I sat down to work out in what order to tackle the Jarvis canon, we decided to go in order of publication, to get a feel for how his writing style grew over time.

It also allows us the opportunity to replicate the experience (at least a little bit) of what it was like for Jarvis readers to discover the quirky sequence of publication that some of these books took. For instance, after the Deptford Mice, the next book to appear was The Whitby Witches, which appeared as a single edition with no indication on the cover or the inside title page that it was anything other than a stand-alone.

But then, not too long after that, his next book was an exciting return to the world of the Deptford Mice with The Alchymist’s Cat, which proudly declared that it was Book 1 of The Deptford Histories. However, just when you thought that the return to Deptford was going to be a thing to look forward to, the next book after that was A Warlock in Whitby, which declared itself to be Book 2 of The Whitby Witches.

Yes, that’s right. Robin Jarvis – or his publishers? – had decided to bring out two trilogies at once, alternating books. As someone who bought the original books, I can only say IT WAS AWESOME. To this day, I love mixing up series and alternating one book in a series with another.

Apologies for those of you that can’t stand that sort of thing and will be driven crazy by it. Where that all leads is just to give you a heads-up that if you happen to see some mega-deal on the Deptford Histories and you don’t own then, this might be a good idea to snaffle them as well.

With regard to versions, if you’re after the original illustrations, here are the two versions of choice:

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The original Hodder Wayland version from 1995.

 

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The Hodder Silver edition from 2001.

But if you want to hold off a bit longer – or you’re like us and enjoy collecting – you can currently pre-order a brand spanking new version with cover art that ties in to the current Witching Legacy series. (However, for various reasons, this doesn’t feature the original interior illustrations.) This new version is classed as an Egmont Modern Classic and will also feature … wait for it … NEW BONUS CONTENT.

We’re definitely adding this one to our collection …

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Cover by Rohan Eason, 2017.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

He had come to the edge of despair and stared into the devastating eyes of madness – just one blissful plunge and he would be gone forever, lost in the comforting maze of lunacy, never to return to the harsh, cruel world where his body suffered.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter really pulls no punches. There is such a sense of dread in the opening pages – we hope that Marty returned to Holeborn in time to warn the community, but, deep down, we get the creeping feeling that he did not.

The appearance of Barker brings hope, until the grisly truth is drawn from him. The round-about way this is written is really quite painful to read; Piccadilly growing more and more desperate, grasping at straws, and Barker insisting that he ‘wouldn’t touch mousey meat’, moaning that he can still hear the cries of the Holeborners as they are cut down. It’s horrendous, but then, that’s the idea.

Piccadilly’s despairing walk through his former home is just as bad, and by the time it’s over his rage and loathing for Morgan and the rat army reads like the most natural reaction in the world. We’ve already seen that Piccadilly is not one to curl up and cry if he can be doing instead, and here we see that side of him taken to its extreme. The Holeborn massacre has opened up a new and darker path for him, one from which he may not easily turn away.

It’s just me rooting for Mr Jarvis’ villains as I do, but the scene where Jupiter beguiles Morgan back into his service touches me in my dastardly little heart. Old Stumpy and Old Mogs were a team, and seeing them ‘get back together’ is like finding out that one’s favourite doom metal band are coming back for a reunion tour. By himself, Morgan was passable, but with Jupiter he becomes great; the left claw of a power strong enough and cruel enough to carry out villainies vaster than Morgan’s tiny rat brain could ever comprehend. I sob for Piccadilly with the rest of you, but I can’t help but grin in bloodthirsty joy when Morgan leads the hordes to Deptford in a sloosh of freezing, scummy river water.

We also get a much closer look at Barker. ‘If only the mousey boy would go away somewhere, he could finish what he had been sent to do’, the wily old codger thinks to himself. Sent? By whom, and to what purpose? Then there’s the scene where he hides Piccadilly from the rat horde as they pass by on the rampage.

Personally, I do not at all buy the explanation that the rats were simply too busy making fun of Barker to notice that he was awkwardly and suspiciously perched against the tunnel wall. The tunnels are not that wide, and the rats are all different heights; someone was bound to clap eyes on a protruding elbow or toe of Piccadilly’s before long. No, summat’s up, as Thomas would say. Tread carefully, Piccadilly – there is more to ol’ barmy Barker than he would have you believe.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I must have blanked this chapter out somehow when I was younger – either that, or I was a lot less desensitised back then. Maybe it’s getting older and realising that, actually, massacres do occur in real life? Is it because I’m a parent of three now, and more aware of what would disturb my kids?

Whatever the reason, all I can say is that the unspeakable grimness of this chapter really struck me this time. As well as the brutality of the rats, Piccadilly is caught between madness and hatred. Barker saves him from the madness – only to hand him over to the hatred. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced it – to be wronged so badly that the hatred courses through you in a physical way – but it is a miserable path to follow.

Revenge might be entertaining in a Tarantino film, but in real life, harbouring the desire for vengeance costs, and we see that in poor Piccadilly. Hang in there, my grey friend!

And Barker – the comic/pathetic rat character – suddenly turning out to be something more? A brilliant touch, even if nothing more were to be explained.

When we were reading The Crystal Prison, I was commenting that the story takes a while before you realise who the bad guy is and what’s going on. But here in The Final Reckoning, it’s been relentless from the first chapter. Well, that’s sometimes what it takes to defeat evil. Stay strong, Deptford Mice!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The constellations were quenched, snuffed out by the tremendous powers of both Jupiter and the age-old Starglass and all who witnessed it fell to their knees and prayed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I had to admire Arthur’s stoicism in this chapter. Look at him, shimmying up that freezing fence, paws bleeding, probably getting skelfs all over, just so the Starwife and the rest of the mouse community can get an idea of how the dread Unbeest intends to bring about the world’s end. Then, he invites himself to wade through malevolent magical mist and stand under Jupiter’s chin with Thomas as if he does this sort of thing twice-weekly at six!

He may not be forged by the Green for a destiny tall and dangerous like Audrey, blessed with shining innocence like Twit, or chosen by the bats like Oswald, but Arthur’s stalwart willingness to help out in any way he’s able should not be disregarded. I’ve always enjoyed faithful friends and sidekicks in fantasy – those who don’t necessarily have any special magical gifts or precious artefacts bestowed upon them, but without whom the heroes would likely not succeed in their endeavours. A toast to the Arthur Browns of the world, says I.

With Arthur and Thomas, we experience the cataclysmic second half of this chapter. At this point we’re about a hundred pages shy of the trilogy finale, and there are a few final reckonings in store, for good or ill. This is where the Deptford Mice Trilogy really shines as a single, beautifully woven story. Jupiter was frightening in The Dark Portal, and The Crystal Prison demonstrated his staying-power as an antagonist even when we as readers believed that he was gone for good, but in The Final Reckoning it’s go big or go home for the deathless Lord of Winter, and if big means absolute world-domination, then so be it.

(As a final note, I researched the incantation which Jupiter recites from the Observatory dome and the fell-sounding names he invokes, but the only conclusion I could come to was that they must be Mr Jarvis’ own creations. As always, if he or anybody else can shed any light on the matter, do not hesitate to do so.)

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I could write an essay on this one chapter alone, because there is so much mythology and history thrown into this chapter. And that’s in a chapter that moves at a rapid clip and deepens the peril of the main characters. That’s what I love about these books – they are, first and foremost, gripping adventure stories, but you can stop and look at the layers on the way through and there’s plenty of stuff to dig into. My shortlist:

  • Black squirrels! I had to read up a bit on black squirrels, because I was wondering how rare they were. You can check the Wikipedia page on that one, but it seems that they’re around, but much less common than the greys, making it a perfect idea that they’re part of a ‘noble race’ of squirrels. (Or perhaps, looking at it from our modern viewpoint, was part of the problem that the black squirrels considered themselves better than other squirrels?)
  • First picture of Jupiter! While we saw his silhouette at the end of Chapter 14 of The Dark Portal, this was the first time we’ve seen a front-on illustration of him in the entire trilogy. Pretty horrific! (Apologies to anyone with no illustrations.)
  • Servants of the dark void! I’m assuming this is similar to the hellish guardians of the Dead that Jupiter escaped from at the end of The Crystal Prison. It appears that he’s taunting them, because they can’t escape their fate of death, whereas he has not only done that – he’s about to doom everyone else as well.
  • Curse languages! Help me out here – I’m looking to you, Aufwader! – is the incantation of Jupiter in a real language? E.g. some sort of Gaelic / old English?
  • Holding the heavens once more! Now this was a fascinating throwaway – Jupiter tells the Starglass to hold the heavens once more. So all the stars used to be in the Starglass? Was it used as part of the Creation of the world in some way? Was the Starwife the ongoing custodian, perhaps, of the singularity at the centre of the Big Bang? The original point of nothing from which all things sprang? I don’t really need to know the details – the hint of the idea is brilliant enough.
  • What about the humans? I love that line, which I’ve chosen for the chapter quote that all who witnessed the stars disappearing fell to their knees and prayed. Presumably, this means that humans – who, up until now, are probably relatively unaware that a bunch of mice in an abandoned house in Deptford saved them all from dying of the Black Plague – for the first time, see the power of Jupiter. This is a bit of fan fiction I would be interested in: what do the humans make of this level of cataclysm?

Anyway, no time for thinking about the answers, we’re at the end of Chapter 7. We are halfway. We are committed. On to the Final Reckoning!

Just Released: The Devil’s Paintbox

 

And for those of you who haven’t already bought it yet, Mr Jarvis’ latest book, The Devil’s Paintbox, just came out. This is the second in his Witching Legacy series, set in modern-day Whitby.

I’m halfway through and enjoying it. Aufwader finished in January and is still quivering in a corner somewhere. (Her sentiments to me were ‘that hell book absolutely traumatised me’, which left me very curious as to what fiendish terrors lay in wait!)

Did I mention it’s beautifully illustrated as well? Get right on to it, people!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 6

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‘Death is the grand master of all – no-one escapes him.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter introduces us to bat society in London, and quite an introduction it is too. What a rich and interesting culture they have! As a lover of fictional linguistics, I really appreciate the part which describes the bats ‘talking to each other in their secret tongue which, to the albino, sounded like a mixed-up jumble of high pitched squeaks’. This lets us know that the bats in the world of Robin Jarvis do, in fact, make the same sounds as real bats, which in turn implies both that when the mice are speaking to each other, we as humans would hear only squeaks (which is actually pretty hilarious if you think about it) and that all creatures in this strange Robiny world have their own individual languages and dialects.

When I started Silvering Sea, I thought about language in the Deptford books a bit more. I’ll go into this in detail when we get to the Histories, but for now I’ll say that I somehow decided that the tongue of mice, rats, and other rodents should be called ‘murinaese’, after the Latin term for their species as a group. I figured out that this language might be derivative of the tongue of the mustelidae in the way that, say, our modern English is related to Old English, and that both of those languages are separate, but related to, the ‘common’ language that all the characters of differing species must share in order to communicate in the story.

That the bats have a closed-off language that is completely unintelligible to other creatures is a clever mix of fantasy and the realities of nature, as well as being very telling about bat culture as a whole. On rereading, I noticed that the gathering of the bats at St Paul’s is described as a meeting of guilds, and a memory surfaced of getting lost in the area around the Cathedral, visiting the Clockmaker’s Museum, and finding out about the Great Twelve Livery Companies of London.  Could the bats have a similar ancient and respected institution? The titles of the elders (Keeper of the Hidden Ways, Lord of the Twilight, oh my!) certainly indicate that these moon-riders are steeped in time-honoured tradition and high wisdom.

 
Matt’s Thoughts: I think this would have to be my favourite chapter in the whole book. First off, it’s Oswald doing something heroic, which just always rouses me up. Secondly, I love the whole setting. St. Paul’s Cathedral is never mentioned by name, but Mr Jarvis only has to say ‘dome’ and everyone who knows even the slightest bit about London’s architecture knows which building he’s talking about.

Which is as good an excuse as any to throw in another couple of my holiday snaps:

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Maybe Londoners take this for granted, but that is an amazing piece of architecture.

On my last day in London I went to see the choral evensong at St. Paul’s, which was quite an experience. So reading the descriptions in The Final Reckoning of the vast space, the statues, the arches, even the amount of dead people that the English like to leave buried above-ground in their cathedrals – it was much more real to me this time. Also of interest was the nod to the Great Fire of London – again, without Robin having to name the event at all. London mythology becomes mixed up with Jarvis mythology and the two work perfectly because they’re both super-British.

And not just London history. Natural history as well. When Orfeo passes his ‘sight’ to Oswald, it’s a nice combo of normal biology (that bats can see in the dark) and magic – the sight is tied in with their mystical foreseeing powers.

Then we have the end of the chapter. Any other kids’ book where the hero goes off on a trek to find the ‘magic item’ that will defeat the bad guy, the magic item usually turns out to be useful. But we have one big empty book haunting us at the end … which only means things are going to get worse.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 5

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘In life he was called Jupiter – now he is a phantom, an Unbeest more powerful than anything this troubled world has ever known.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now I don’t know about you, Readers all, but to me this chapter just feels cold. ‘The morning was chill and dismal’ tells us everything we need to know about morale in the Skirtings, and far from improving when the Starwife arrives, things continue their long, icy, inexorable, slide downhill.

In this chapter, we really get a sense of the scale of the house in which the Deptford Mice live. The wide open space of the Hall no longer seems freeing and convivial, but open and exposed. The Midwinter Death enfolds the mice in its freezing cloak, and their collective fear seems to compress them together as much as the need for warmth does. The building of the beacon fire feels endless and interminable, and when that painstaking task is finally complete, the mice almost miss the whole point of the exercise. Thank the Green for Oswald, who was just curious and hopeful enough to remain on the roof!

I had a rummage around the internet for any source on the origins of the title ‘Unbeest’ by which the Starwife refers to Jupiter. Sadly, as with certain names in The Crystal Prison, I did not find anything exact, but I did discover the Old Scots ‘vnbest’, of which ‘Unbeest’ may be a fantasy variant. Personally, I love the idea of the Starwife knowing a myriad of ancient and forgotten languages, and occasionally making reference to archaic terms for things when, in her old age, she can no longer dredge up the energy to recall the word currently used.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’m not sure where the word ‘Unbeest’ came from, but it’s awesomely simple and unsettling at the same time, wouldn’t you say?

You know everything is mixed up, when the Starwife ends up in Deptford with the mice. I somehow feel that this is the equivalent of the Queen having to leave Buckingham Palace and crash at somebody’s place in a less glamorous area of London. It feels wrong, but highlights how serious the situation is. But it also shifts the Starwife into a subtly more sympathetic light as well.

Previously, she was a bit like Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. Provides help to the heroes, but somewhat distant herself. But now we’re getting a glimpse of her – I was going to say ‘that is more human‘, which obviously she isn’t. But as a sympathetic character with a past of her own.

And obviously a past that involves an ongoing animosity with bats. Even if you haven’t read The Oaken Throne in the Deptford Histories, which delves into all this, you can sort of imagine the bats and squirrels as two proud countries that need to form an alliance to defeat a common enemy, but would normally hate each other. (Without thinking, I was going to say proud European countries but that opens a can of worms now, doesn’t it?)

But then, in the midst of all the gloom and doom, how much of a little spark of joy do we get from having Oswald be the one that gets picked by the bats? We’ve known he is a legendary character from Book 1, even if he spent most of Book 2 being sick. And now he gets a chance to prove his courage again. Bring it on, I say.

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