The Final Reckoning | Illustration Nominations

Aufwader’s Pick:

hunted
‘Hunted’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I have a faint memory of this illustration being on the inside cover for the cassette of this book, but my tape of The Final Reckoning is being lent out to a friend at the moment, so I’ll get back to you all on that. Anyway, what an image! Those empty-eyed, ice-spear-wielding spectres are enough to give anybody the heebie-jeebies. No wonder the mice turned and fled!

battle-on-board
‘Battle on Board’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

There’s a lot to appreciate about this. It’s a fantastically cinematic action sequence, it’s got depth and movement and bats falling to their deaths and ghostly claws reaching and Thomas cutting a swathe through the foe. I love Oswald up in the corner there, chucking bits of the Book of Hrethel and dodging ice spears.

Matt’s Pick:

 

duel-in-the-storm
‘Duel in the Storm’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I mean – just look at this illustration! Piccadilly, looking more savage than you’ll ever see him and Morgan, looking more vulnerable than you’ll ever see him. The details are just awesome: the snow angling down, the knife poised over Morgan’s throat, which Piccadilly has bared by pushing Morgan’s head back, the famous anti-cat charm that did away with Jupiter the first time.

final-reckoning
‘The Final Reckoning’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

We kind of know that Jupiter is a lot larger than a regular cat this time around, but it really hits home when you see this picture of his immense gullet and the tiny silhouette of Audrey standing in front of him. There’s only one word for this one: Apocalyptic. I can still dream that maybe one day we’ll all have beautiful cloth-bound editions of these books complete with illustrations to take us back to our childhoods.

 

 

Advertisements

Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | The Final Reckoning

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance all those who have fallen to the fatal stroke of Mr Jarvis’ pen. Hero, villain, or neither, we honour their sacrifice for the greater myth of the story.

The deceased of The Final Reckoning are as follows:

MR KEMPE  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 5 – The Final Reckoning | Prologue) The first victim of the the undead spectre of Jupiter, Mr Kempe travels no more. He is settled at last in the Green, and will be missed by all who knew him.

PIERS  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning Chapter 4) Slain with twenty-two of his fellow Greenwich squirrels during the sacking of the Starwife’s chambers by the Unbeest, Piers was a loyal and devoted aide to the Handmaiden of Orion until the end. Speed to the Green.

THE MICE OF HOLEBORN: AGNES TRUMPER, CHARLIE COPPIT, ‘ENRY (THANE OF THE CITY), NED FIDGIT, FLO, EDNA, AND MANY UNNAMED  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning |  Chapter 8) May the Green bless and keep the innocent denizens of Holeborn, who were massacred by Morgan’s rat horde.  May they be forever remembered in our prayers to the Spirit of Life and Hope.

SMIFF  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) Born under the House of Mabb, this unlucky wretch was slain by his own brethren and was made to answer to the Lord of the Pit in the name of Bauchan. He now endures in the barren wastes of the Lady of Nightmare.

KELLY  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) Kelly met the same fate as his comrade, Smiff. However, as he was born in the House of Hobb, Kelly remained in the thrall of the Lord of the Pit after he and Smiff had conveyed Bauchan’s report. He has become acquainted with Skinner and Smiler, and the three of them are quite content as minor demons of the Unlit Regions.

THE RAT HORDE OF OLD STUMPY [INCLUDING: VINNY THE STANDARD BEARER]  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 3 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) These bloodthirsty raiders and killers suffered the agony of enslavement to the Unbeest before they were permitted to return to the Three. Never having been rats of Deptford, they were not entirely lost to Jupiter, and thus they are welcomed before the Unholy Thrones.

MARTY  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8) Another innocent who fell victim to the claws of Morgan’s horde, this poor mouse was peeled before he could warn the Holeborners of the rats’ impending attack. He was mourned by Piccadilly in Chapter 10, and is mercifully gone to the Green.

MORGAN [OF CORNWALL]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10) Lieutenant and left claw of the Lord of All, he was unintentionally flung from his master’s altar and drowned during Jupiter’s defeat in The Dark Portal, but that was not the end for this wily old sinner. Surviving the Unbeest’s transmutation of his rat horde and the vengeance of his nemesis, Piccadilly, Morgan realised at the last that the Unbeest would not favour him forever. After a lifetime of suffering, he took his own life, freeing himself from the thrall of Jupiter and fulfilling the curse laid upon him in his youth.

PICCADILLY [OF HOLEBORN]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10) This flawed but valiant city orphan was the first victim of the wraiths of the Unbeest. Cut down before his time, he will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him, but especially by the new Starwife (née, Audrey Scuttle) who cherishes his memory to this day.

THE STARWIFE [NÉE: AUDREY]  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 11) After uncounted centuries of devoted service to the Green and to her people, the Handmaiden of Orion, last of the black squirrels, perished in accordance with her own wishes at the claw of the Midwinter Death. Orion shines for her.

OSWALD CHITTER [POSTHUMOUSLY: ‘THE MIGHTY’]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13) This young hero sacrificed his life to bring ruin to the Unbeest, and although his attempt was in vain, Oswald shall forever be remembered as one of the bravest mice who ever lived. Too young to wear a brass in life, he was posthumously awarded the Sign of Bravery and Courage by the Green himself, and his parents cherish it as a treasured memorial.

HATHKIN  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13 – The Final Reckoning Chapter 14) This valiant moon rider’s renown is equal to the honoured companions of Oswald, Orfeo and Eldritch. Hathkin it was who saved Audrey from death in the cold upon the Day of Deliverance, and aided her in her last struggle to face the Unbeest at the height of his power. Though he gave his life in the attempt, Hathkin’s name will be sung by all his kind upon the anniversary of that terrible day, and his place is set high in the sight of the Heavenly Lady.

ALGY COLTFOOT  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14) A brave victim of the battle with the wraiths of the Unbeest aboard the Cutty Sark, this simple but stalwart mouse will be mourned by all who knew him. May the Green receive his spirit.

MASTER OLDNOSE  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14) Mousebrass maker and tutor of the Skirtings, Master Oldnose was another who perished during the battle of the Cutty Sark. Honourable and upstanding to the end, he died protecting his fellow mice, and he will be fondly remembered by the whole community.

JUPITER  [SELF-TITLED ‘LORD OF ALL’]  In life, also referred to as the God of the Rats, the Prince of the Dying, the Lord of the Rotting Darkness, etcetera. In death, spoken of as the Unbeest. Self-titled ‘Lord of Death’, ‘Genius of the Black Winter’, etcetera.  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 –The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14)  Vanquished threefold by water deep, fire blazing, and the power of the Green wielded by Audrey Scuttle on the Day of Deliverance, the Unbeest’s outcast spirit shall be forever tormented by the flames of life. By the will of the Green he is condemned to an eternity of suffering in the bleak void. May his terrible legacy fade with time.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

dm3

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I come to call down my destiny – and it is tall and dangerous!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: We have come this far. We have had burnings and betrayals. We have faced the Midwinter Death and soared high through lightning to glory undying. Now the unknown path awaits. Now does Audrey face her greatest trial.

If I had to choose one chapter to set to music, to write a script for, to bring to life on the stage or in film, or even animate to nightmarish effect for the trauma and amazement of the young viewers of a children’s television channel, it would be this. We are about to have a final reckoning with The Final Reckoning, and it is monumental.

From the outset, things look bleak. The Book of Hrethel has failed; even the ancient wisdom of the bats, who have seen their fair share of strife in their time, has proved to be no more than a vain hope quickly vanquished. As the world darkens for the last time, Audrey embraces her destiny and makes her tall and dangerous stand.

Following Hathkin’s sacrifice and the loss of the last scrap of support our heroine had, there’s that long, bitter, unrelenting climb over the Observatory dome. I’ve been to Greenwich, I’ve seen that dome. For a human, that climb would be barely-achievable with proper ropes in good weather. For a fairy-light mouse in a howling snowstorm with the surface of the dome cracking and quaking beneath her, it’s nothing short of supernatural. To this day, I maintain that the Green came to Audrey’s aid in those crucial minutes, just as, I surmise, the divinity of the Heavenly Lady came to Oswald during his final charge.

Then there’s the shade of Piccadilly. Boy oh boy, Robin, way to rip out our hearts and chuck them across the room! As with poor Dilly-O’s demise, it’s the little details that get me; the ‘gouts of black blood’ matting down his hair; the empty eyes where once a mischievous warmth burned; the gleaming, rat-like fangs, harking back to how near he came in life to becoming one of those murdering wretches.

Look me in the eye, Readers all, and tell me you didn’t shed real tears when Audrey at last brings her beloved back, if not to life, then at least to the light. Then, as if all that were not enough, her father has to appear too and join in the misery. At this point we are almost wishing that Jupiter would just hurry up and do Audrey in – at least then she could be with her loved ones again and this excruciating ordeal of a finale would be over!

It is over though, and quickly. Unlike Matt, I do not find the toss-a-plant-and-save-the-world reveal all that anticlimactic, because if you really think about it, there was no real way it could have worked.

Audrey never had any great plan, only her instincts and the odd turns that came over her and made her all commanding. I think it’s incredibly poignant that the final reckoning between our heroine and our archvillain involves not a magical sword or a mystical talisman, but a crumpled snowdrop sprout; ‘the herald of spring and symbol of death.’ Audrey was never expecting anything to come of her last, desperate action, yet her tall and dangerous destiny decreed that something must, and it set at naught the designs of the Lord of All.

To me, the epilogue is perfect. If everything had been sunshine and rainbows, it would have felt false and forced after all that had been lost to get there.  As things stand, the Deptford Mice will certainly live ever after (if not happily) and for that we must be thankful.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Because it’s not a British finale until evil is vanquished and everyone else is left traumatised for years to come …

Perhaps a bit harsh, but I still remember the mixed emotions at hitting the end of this chapter. Jupiter is defeated, it’s all over, but yet half the characters are gone, the Chitter parents are in mourning and Audrey is essentially called to be the Deptford Mice equivalent of a Mother Superior in a convent somewhere.

It’s both triumphant and bleak at the same time.

What can I say? It’s an extraordinary finale and I’m in awe of the whole achievement of this trilogy.

The first time I read it, I will admit, I did think the burning flower that takes out Jupiter was a bit of a cop-out. Normally, the villain is taken out by something we understand and see coming from a mile away. (Think the chink in Smaug’s hide and Bard’s bow and arrow.) Whereas, there’s not a lot of foreshadowing that something as simple as a flower could take out something as mighty as Jupiter.

But then, that’s how this world of the Mice works, isn’t it? The Mice and the Squirrels both venerate the Green, the life-giving power of spring overcoming winter. That moment when the days of winter start to warm up and we realise there will be warm days returning. The power of life. And thus Jupiter is cast into Robin Jarvis’ version of Hell – eternal flames, but eternal flames of life and growth.

And I think I know my readership enough here to know that plenty of people will be echoing this sentiment – but let me say it, anyway – Audrey: what a magnificent climax to her story arc. In many ways, it was her stubborn nature that caused so much trouble in The Dark Portal (how many trips got instigated through the Grill because of that girl?). Her stubbornness was partly to blame for the non-starter romance between her and Piccadilly.

But when it came down to finding a character with the sheer backbone and nerve to stare down Jupiter and curse his name, there could be no more fitting character than Audrey to take him out. Extraordinary.

Which is also a word I’d use to sum up the last poignant moment with Piccadilly. Brilliantly handled and Mr Jarvis throws in Albert Brown as well – thus tying us thematically all the way back to The Dark Portal and giving us a solid bit of emotion before the finale. Story-telling perfection.

Anyway, as we finish up this book – with The Whitby Witches coming up next on the horizon! – were there any final thoughts that you wanted to share upon finishing the series? I know a few of you have been patiently holding out on a few theories along the way!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13

 

dm3

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The albino was no longer afraid. This was his destiny and he accepted it courageously.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The moment you read this chapter title, you just know things are going to get epic. I envy new readers here because this is one hell of a penultimate sequence. However, beneath the desperate and saga-worthy fight between the House mice, the bats, and the undead wraiths of Jupiter, there is glory of a deeper and more personal kind.

Let’s start with Thomas taking charge on the Cutty Sark. Honestly, bless this mouse. Barely an hour ago he was on his deathbed, freezing horribly from the inside out, and yet he bounces right back as the House mice’s natural leader; posting those who can fight at their stations on deck, giving orders with grim stoicism. Mr Triton knows that the wraiths of the Unbeest are on their way and that none of the mice (himself included) are likely to live to witness the apocalyptic final act Jupiter has planned for that evening, yet he chooses to set an example by putting a brave face on things, and the mice find the strength to go on as a result.

Bless Mrs Chitter, too, while we’re at it. As always, nothing is ever arbitrary in Mr Jarvis’ work, and that gossiping mousewife is no exception. Here we see the gentle and weary core beneath her seemingly-vapid outer shell, and we feel for her as we feel for Gwen, at the end. They are both grieving mothers, and Mrs Chitter has grief aplenty for the fact that she almost lost Oswald once already.

Finally and most painfully, bless Oswald. The Unbeest has grown mythological in his might; he hauls the stars screaming from the sky and commands the very sun to bow down before him, yet still there is one who would seek to do him harm.

When you get right down to it, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Oswald and the bats finally defeat the Tyrant of the Cold. What matters is that sickly, gawky, put-up Oswald; laughing-stock of the Skirtings, disappointment to his parents, albino runt, had the courage to try. In the claws of Orfeo and Eldritch he is calm and determined right up to the end, but do you suppose that perhaps a part of him was constantly surprised by his own daring? Maybe, as Jupiter shrieked in agony and Oswald plunged to his death, he thought, dimly, ‘Oh heavens, will they all be calling me something great and grand now? Oswald Never-knew-he-had it-in-‘im? Oswald the Thin-of-belly-but-stout-of-heart? Oswald the Brave? Oswald the …Mighty? Yes, I do believe I like the sound of that.’

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’m not sure I have a lot to say except that Oswald was my favourite and I’ll be over in the corner having a sniffle and observing a minute of silence. Such a great showdown, but Mr Jarvis, did we need to lose Oswald as well? Surely, anyone but Oswald?

Sigh. ‘This was his destiny and he accepted it courageously.’

Also, one of those random musical moments, when I was reading this on the train, this track started from the awesome Max Richter remix of The Four Seasons, which (once you get past the first minute, which is sort of a slow intro) seemed to fit Oswald’s last charge quite appropriately:

See you all for the Grand Finale, people!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 12

dm3

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

A familiar voice called to her from the depths of her despair as she closed her eyes and surrendered, lost in the freezing waste of Deptford.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Our heroine’s tall and dangerous destiny is all but upon her, and how she has grown over the course of the story! Whoever remembers the wistful, self-centred, obstinate creature of the Great Spring Celebration would not recognise the forthright and determined Audrey who graces this chapter. See how she berates the very mice she previously hid from behind a haze of anxiety and dismay. ‘Are we rats?’ she asks, ‘to leave the dead scattered around?’ Thankfuy, the House mice have the decency to listen to her, proving that they, at least, are not yet members of the untame breed.

A moment of quiet dignity, then holy-moly-me-oh-my here come the deathless wraiths of the Unbeest and there’s no time to hang about. Those grisly horrors made a strong impression upon us the first time around, but here, in the confined environs of the Skirtings, they are many times more alarming. I love how the mice do not even think of standing their ground or engaging in acts of foolish courage; even Thomas sees that it’s time to high-tail it (excuse me) out of there. Mighty and terrible indeed is Jupiter, and mighty his fell horde.

The scene with Thomas trying to get the mice through the Grill was not one that I recalled, and even amidst the danger and doom of the situation I could not help but crack a grim smile at the bossy Landings mousewife. Sadly, even in emergency situations, there may be someone who is selfish and uncooperative, to the detriment of others, and this miniature Harsh Lesson is illustrated brilliantly here. Even at the grand finale, these mice display very human faults and failings, and each becomes a rounded character in their own right as a result. Bravo, Mr Jarvis!

Finally, and perhaps most horrendously, we have Audrey’s confrontation with the wraiths. Yikes, yikes, and thrice yikes. I had completely forgotten that poor Mr Kempe is brought back to give an encore as a spectral fiend from the brumal abyss! What a nightmarish figure he cuts as a shade, his packs brimming not with fine lace and ribbons but with grinning skulls. I’m vaguely put-out that there is no illustration of Kempe in this harrowing state, but perhaps we’re better off without one – the imagery the text conjures up is enough!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter just makes me even more sad that there is no animated Deptford Mice Trilogy series. This chapter is all action. We just get past the funeral of the Starwife and then – BAM – there are freaking zombie rats POUNDING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR WITH DOOM-LADEN ICE SPEARS.

What’s not to like?

I should also add that I’ve been listening to a lot of music by Jóhann Jóhannsson lately, who writes perfect atmospheric wintry music in almost all his music. (He is Icelandic, after all!) In particular, I quite like this track from his soundtrack for the movie Prisoners, which – if you disassociate it from the movie for a moment – seems to fit perfectly with the icy misery that is currently Deptford. (That said, Prisoners is a brilliant film that also deals with emotional trauma, missing children and revenge vs justice as well, so maybe it’s not too far from the world of the mice in some ways.)

How terrifying is this chapter, though? The rats have perfect horror movie jump-scare timing in this chapter, if you can imagine how it plays out.

First of all, they are – somewhat improbably – at the front door of the house. Can you imagine someone walking past and not noticing this? (Or – possibly a question for Mr Jarvis – was Deptford in the early 90s the kind of place that could have a team of rats gnawing down a door and no one would notice?)

But then, when Audrey comes out of the cellar – the rats are not there. We don’t know where they are. But when she comes back in from the garden, lo and behold, they are now down in the cellar. Were they hiding in the Skirtings, where they watched her go past, then went down into the cellar to wait for her to come back?

It doesn’t really matter – the overall effect is that no matter where Audrey goes, some terrifying zombie creature is going to jump out of nowhere. This is going to terrify my son when he gets old enough to hear this…

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 11

dm3

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

dm3

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.