The Crystal Prison | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Beware the maker of dolls. Repent ye or the vengeance of the Green shall smite ye down.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now our heroes arrive in Fennywolde proper and begin to settle in, but it’s a bumpy ride. First of all there’s the unprecedented acceptance of Madame Akkikuyu by the country mice, and Audrey’s well-intentioned but ultimately ridiculous performance over the healing potion. I love the way that scene is written; the mice’s derision and Audrey’s mortification are so pronounced I could feel myself cringe in sympathy. That said, their behaviour toward her seems crushingly unfair. After all, she was only trying to protect Young Whortle and Sammy, and had no way of knowing that Akkikuyu would make a usable tonic. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m on Audrey’s side there.

Out comes the bucolic description again when we come to the Hall of Corn, probably one of my favourite settings in any of Mr Jarvis’ books. One can positively hear the soft rustle of the ears and feel the heat of the midsummer sun, and I absolutely adore the varied and fascinating cast of fieldmice we are introduced to.

For a brief scene or two, we can almost allow ourselves to believe that Fennywolde is indeed what it appears – a haven of peace and serenity peopled with sturdy, friendly country folk. Of course, that is not the case at all, as we see during the scene with Audrey’s corn dolly. That alarming sequence perfectly illustrates the clash of country superstition and puritanical doctrine which will become one of this book’s major themes. With Akkikuyu as our tolerated ‘wise woman’, Audrey as our suspect newcomer, Alison as our smug village darling, and Isaac Nettle as our sermonising witch-hunter, our story moves into its Arthur-Miller-esque second act.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I promise not to go into the subject of harsh religious figures again, except to say that Isaac Nettle is in spectacular form in this chapter.

What I will say is, it’s fascinating how Alison Sedge is turning into the anti-Audrey of the piece. While it would be easy to just write her off as being the ‘mean girl’, you get the feeling that under different circumstances, Alison and Audrey might have been much more similar. They’re both self-confident, attractive to the boy mice – and smart. But Audrey lost her father and almost got killed by a giant fire-breathing cat. Whereas Alison got told she was beautiful and let it go to her head.

It’s also why I feel sorry for Audrey in this chapter looking at the fuss everyone makes about Madame Akkikuyu. While there is a part of her that probably wants to see Akkikuyu make a recovery, it would be very hard not to remember that it was this rat that dragged her in front of Jupiter’s dark portal in the first place. I speak from experience when I say that standing up against wrong is hard. But far more difficult than that is forgiveness for people who don’t understand what you went through.

It would also be wrong of me not to mention (especially for the newbies) that you might want to go back and have a read of the bat chapter in The Dark Portal, because you might remember that it had something to say about Audrey making dolls … Gasp … is this some clever Jarvis foreshadowing starting to pay off in the second book?

Finally, how great is the Hall of Corn? Again, it just has that sense of openness and space that we don’t get in the London locations. As a setting, I love it and find it relaxing to read about.

So it’s almost a pity that we’re halfway through the book – which for those of you familiar with Mr Jarvis will know – means that the book is about to pummel us relentlessly for the remainder. Buckle up, people. This is going to be intense.

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9 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 7

  1. Wooooo! Go Twit! Cream that big bully! Yeah, he towers over you but better to die a hero’s death than live a coward’s life! Ahem…I mean…fighting is wrong. Don’t do that, kids.

    This was such a great chapter for the chirpy field-mouse whose sweetness we’ve been taking for granted ever since we met him during The Dark Portal. Remember how The Grille’s magic was not strong enough to make Twit burn with rage even though it easily succeeded with Arthur? What it took for him to finally lose his cool and start shouting was the sight of Isaac Nettle shoving Audrey to the ground! And I’m here to tell you all that I approve with all my heart! What makes Twit standing up to Isaac such a great moment for me is that nobody else would even dream of it. As the Mouse Brass maker of Fennywolde, Isaac can get away with his bullying ways due to the tremendous respect he commands from the local mice. As far as they are concerned, the tirades of this prominent figure are much the same as a hurricane. Something they can only respond to by ducking for cover and waiting for it to pass. But not Twit who bares his teeth and warns this storm of bigotry never to lay a paw on Audrey ever again. This is one of Twit’s finest moments and I bow down to him for it. Anyone who dares to stand up to a bully is a-okay in my book. Audrey so lucky. Everyone should have a Twit to call their own.

    Now if only I could say the same for a certain mouse maid who has been a very bad girl! You know who you are, Alison Sedge! Shame on you! You’ll never team up with Audrey to overthrow Isaac and become the joint queens of Fennywolde if you insist on succumbing to petty jealousy like this!

    I’m with you on taking Audrey’s side with regard to the potion Akkikuyu so riskily brews for the youngsters who narrowly escaped the claws of Mahoot. It is tempting to chuckle when Akkikuyu takes a swig of it and Audrey holds her breath fearfully only for the rat to say that it needs more seasoning but coooome oooon! Akkikuyu is stricken with amnesia so severe that she can’t remember what happened a couple of weeks ago! Why should any sane mouse have faith that she can remember the difference between a healing potion and a poison? The impression you get of these field-mice is that they basically aren’t great believers in stopping to think things through and that would be deeply troubling even if the chapter didn’t end on the ominous note it does.

    Moments like when you recognize the correlation between the bats’ maddeningly cryptic advice and Audrey’s innocent decision to spend her morning making a corn dolly that will forever make Visitors In The Attic one of my favorite chapters in any book I’ve ever read. I’m telling you, when I read that chapter again, it was like looking at a spider’s web and realizing just how much effort goes into the weaving of those glistening silken strands.

    The Hall Of Corn is so incredible that I’m sorry but you’ll have to find it within yourselves to forgive me while I clap my hands to my cheeks and squeak with delight! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I can’t help thinking about the tree-house village of The Ewoks from Return Of The Jedi! Tree-house villages are never not the most breathtakingly awesome place you could possibly live! There should be a law that says so and anyone who disagrees is banished from The Hall until their temper cools! Overall, the sheer difference between Audrey’s way of life and Twit’s is so broad that it feels as though they are from two different worlds. Since the town mice keep their paws firmly on the ground, they’re deeply shocked to think of a mouse climbing up a corn stalk. And of course Arthur immediately wants to give this amazing trick a try for himself. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to climb a corn-stalk faster than the blink of an eye?

    I always enjoy this chapter. Despite the more harrowing events that take place here, it’s fun as Audrey and the other town mice roam their new surroundings and meet the mice of the fields. We heard so much about Twit’s parents in Book One and now we get to meet Elijah and Gladwin for ourselves. Figures of local legend though they may be, they always seemed pretty down-to-Earth to me. We also meet Old Todmore, the storyteller, who would seem like a cool old guy if he had not made Twit the punch-line of the story he told about how Mr Scuttle met the mouse maid who would become Mrs Scuttle. Sorry but I just can’t get past that moment of casual cruelty. Left an impression on me, you know? And then we have Jolly Jenkin, Young Whortle’s posse and their girl counterparts who we’ll have so much to say about once we’re further down the road…

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  2. So apparently I’ve missed half the book while I’ve been moving house. (Also, I read both the Crystal Prison AND The Final Reckoning before packing them up into a box which I now can’t locate in my messy new digs. So if I accidentally talk about book events out of turn, I can’t be held responsible 😳😳😳)
    I have always thought of the Crystal Prison as “the nice Jarvis book” – I’m a sucker for any story set in the English countryside, cause it always seems like such a nice, homely, relaxing atmosphere. To be honest, I’m surprised we’ve got this far into the book and the nastiest thing that’s happened so far is Isaac Nettle’s confrontation with Audrey. Positively mild!!! (As a side note, though, if all THREE books in the trilogy were at the same level of darkness/intensity, it’d probably leave the reader permanently scarred. This book then, is like that all-important 10-second rest between Tabata intervals at the gym. You need the downtime to survive the next onslaught. 😂😂😂😂)
    I concur that Twit standing up to Nettle is absolutely his finest moment. Twit really comes into his own in this book, and most of all in this chapter right here. He is a kind and sunny-tempered mouse, but by no means is he weak-willed.

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    • You actually read both Crystal Prison and Final Reckoning while you were packing up to move? You aren’t just a speed-reader! You’re THE speed-reader! Johnny Five doesn’t have anything on you!

      The Crystal Prison really is a change of pace compared with The Dark Portal, huh? At this point in Book One, Audrey was in the clawed clutches of the rat pack and Twit was enjoying a midnight flight across Deptford. At the halfway point of Book Two, you’re still unsure as to what the story is going to be about. Has the genre shifted from a battle between good and evil to a drama that takes places in the countryside? The Crystal Prison keeps you guessing every step of the way…

      Twit was along for the ride in Book One but here he steps into the spotlight. It makes sense since he’s come home and is surrounded by the mice who have treated him as a joke his entire life. Gives him the ideal chance to show everyone exactly what he’s made of. He faced off against an evil God, for God’s sake! No way he’s going to let the local Green Mouse basher push his friends around right under his snout!

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  3. So Audrey meets some other girls at last! And gets along with them pretty well! (Is it me, or is Lily giving off some sapphic vibes here? Eyes lingering on Audrey, huh? GIRL…) (That being said, Alison also gives off similar vibes, though with an extra dose of denial. I’ve discussed this often elsewhere, so I won’t linger on it here… but still. GIRLS…)

    Anyway, this chapter always frightened me. Isaac Nettle is frightening because he believes wholeheartedly that he is in the right, even when he’s shoving young girls about. He is completely unpredictable. And yes, as most of you have pointed out, Twit’s reaction to Isaac’s treatment of Audrey is indeed downright admirable!

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  4. My mind just went blank. Oh my gosh. I’m burning to say what just popped into my head right here and right now but I can’t. The time just isn’t right. For the moment, let me settle for saying I plan to remind you of these remark when we reach a certain point in the story…

    Always remember that nothing brings out the worst in people quite like the unwavering belief that they are in the right. We need only look into the history of mankind to see the evidence of this. Moments like when Isaac dares venture to lay his paw upon Audrey make me wonder what would have happened had Piccadilly come along on the journey to Fennywolde…

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    • If this is to do with Lily Clover and/or Alison being undeniably sapphic, I am all ears when the time comes, haha.

      That is an interesting thought about Piccadilly! I like to think he’d have stood up for her too, though whether or not she’d have taken kindly to it I’m not sure!

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      • You might be surprised in a couple of chapters when the time is ripe for me to speak my mind. It’s quite possible that what I’m thinking may have dawned on you as well. But shall see. By the way, I will certainly agree that the eyes of Alison take their sweet time soaking in the radiant sight that is the pretty town-mouse. Grudging admiration for the unwelcome rival who has trespassed in the domain of the country Goddess or could it be just the hint of a closely-guarded appreciation for what she sees? I’ll put it this way, there are plenty of boy field-mice hanging around but Ms Sedge can hardly claim to meet someone so witty and pretty every day. Can we fault her for stopping to take a closer look and trade some snark before walking haughtily away?

        Ha! You could be right in suggesting that Audrey may not have appreciated Piccadilly for swooping in to protect her from the ogre like a gallant knight! I can imagine her picking herself up and smoothing her skirt as she tells him frostily that she had the situation QUITE under control, thank you very much! And then she turns and walks away with her tail in the air, leaving the grey mouse to stand utterly flabbergasted, wondering if he must wait until the night of the full moon before this girl will come close to making sense to him!

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