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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From the depths of the dark glass he saw the night sky – only the stars shone a hundred times brighter.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Owing to the piecemeal stocking practices of my local library, The Crystal Prison was the first of Mr Jarvis’ books which I had the pleasure of reading in unabridged, fully illustrated (and slightly grubby) paperback form. I can remember being about nine, lying in a state of fuzzled poorliness on our old blue sofa one wet weekday, whizzing through chapter after chapter at a rate of noughts. I was amazed and startled by the illustrations, and by the idea that the world of the Deptford Mice was much deeper, grander, and more frightening than it had seemed in the abridged audiobook of The Dark Portal.

This chapter makes a great impression upon me now as then. First of all, my heart aches for poor beleaguered Madame Akkikuyu. The little aside that she often lies awake at night in tears as her memory continuously betrays her actually made me shed a tiny tear on rereading, and, as with Oswald’s illness, the portrayal of her traumatised state is distressingly realistic. Despite that she delivered Audrey to Jupiter rather than defying Morgan in The Dark Portal’s finale, we cannot help but sympathise with her dream of ‘sleeping in summer light’, and hope against hope that things work out well for her.

The final scene in the Starwife’s chamber is so amazingly cinematic I could almost see it play out before me shot-by-shot like a film. Something I love about it is that it echoes Twit’s journey through the stars in Chapter 7 of The Dark Portal, hinting again that he is in some way marked for a destiny taller and more dangerous than his mousebrass would suggest. Further more, we finally discover the depths of the Starwife’s manipulation, but, as with Madame Akkikuyu, she is not all she seems.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Totally enjoying reading this again after so long. There’s a richness to the little touches. First off, there’s an expansion on the idea from the final chapter of The Dark Portal, where Madame Akkikuyu wants to flee away and Audrey shows her compassion. And, interestingly enough, that comes back again in the person of the Starwife. Audrey is horrified at the idea of going away with Akkikuyu and says to the Starwife, why is she so important? She’s just a rat. ‘And does that make a difference child?’ the Starwife replies. The Starwife is harsh, but she has more compassion than some of the mice.

It’s this cruel but kind approach of the Starwife that really signals one of the interesting things about this second book: we move from simple black and white to shades of grey. After so many 100% evil villains in the first book, The Crystal Prison mixes things up: Akkikuyu, in her state of insanity, yearns for good. The Starwife seeks to do good but with a cold, cruel approach. And when the book shifts location (as a result of the brilliant plot device of Audrey’s bargain), we’ll be introduced to a whole crew of new characters, all with their own shades of morality as well.

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