Warning: Contains spoilers!
‘Old soldiers never die Jake, they simply fade away.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter shows us that what we thought we knew about Jupiter and his faithful followers is not actually the full story. So far, the fearsome Lord of All has been the worst thing that could happen to our heroes. Like Chapter 7, part of this chapter’s function is to expand the world of the Deptford Mice, but this time our eyes are opened in a different and more frightening direction. Like Audrey, we awake from the nightmare of Jupiter into a reality which is far worse – the hidden, blood-soaked shrine of the Mighty Three.
Now that the fearsome Raith Sidhe have been introduced, I feel I would be remiss not to mention one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of the Robin Jarvis readership. By now you will have gathered that belief plays a pivotal role in his work, and, as our new readers will discover, this is true not only for the Deptford Mice Trilogy, but for every series.
This has lead to a peculiar phenomenon that I’ve seen only in a very few other author’s readerships. It has no official name and has only been tangentially addressed by Mr Jarvis himself, but the fact remains that, regardless of their real-life beliefs, anyone who will admit to being a Robin Jarvis fan will also admit that they have a special fondness for one or other of his fictional deities.
I have more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for when we’re further into the (Re)Read. For now, let’s focus on The Dark Portal, and open things up to the floor. Dear Readers, are you noble Green Mousers, wondering what your brass would be, awed by the Spirit of Spring? Are you captivated by the fiery gaze of Jupiter, Prince of Nightmare? Or do older, darker powers whisper your name from the depths? (As a quick aside, if you align with a Robiny cult or mythology which has not yet been introduced, please feel free to drop hints, but refrain from mentioning them or their deeds explicitly).
Matt’s Thoughts: What could have been just a chapter of more rat unpleasantness turns fascinating with the introduction of the three rat gods: Bauchan, Mabb and Lord Hobb. I’d love to know what Jarvis’ inspirations were for this, but it does make the rats more similar to ancient Vikings or other characters known for paganism, bloodshed and human sacrifice.
For those who are reading through it for the first time, it might just read like one more unpleasant moment in arguably the most violent chapter in the whole book. (To this day, I still remember the scene where Fletch gets his head snapped off … it was such a visceral thing. I don’t think I’d read something that graphic in a book for younger readers since the time I read King Solomon’s Mines, which also featured a somewhat gruesome decapitation of the main villain.)
But what fans of the series really love is that Jarvis has here set up some amazing mythology, with plenty of fascinating questions: Are the three gods real beings like Jupiter, that might turn up some time? If Jupiter wasn’t always god of the rats, where did he come from and how did he take over? All of which we shall leave concealed behind the veil of the no spoilers policy, but it’s a great set-up.
Finally, I love the way Audrey – despite all the evil she has seen – still has some sympathy for Jake in the end. It adds to the impact of his demise but also serves to delineate the fundamentally kind hearts of the mice vs. the self-interest of the rats.