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!