Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Hear me, you rats, have yer never ‘ad the blood craze? Have yer eyeballs never burned with hate for everything save yerselves?’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Why is it that the chapters where Morgan features heavily have ended up being my favourites so far? He isn’t quite as close to my heart as certain other despicable ne’er-do-wells I could mention, but he’s a big rat in a small race, and he knows what he’s about. If Jupiter showcased occult ritual as a Robiny villainous trademark in The Dark Portal, then Morgan demonstrates another here: the rousing speech of evil.
I get all gleeful over this. Enter the rats; more hideous, shifty-eyed fang-lickers than Smiff has seen in his entire life, all crowded in, all suspicious. They’ve been told that their options are turn up or die, and, obviously, most of them want to see another smoggy London morning. Enter Piccadilly and Marty; frightened but intrepid, observing from afar. Finally, enter Morgan; here to bring a little of that bad old Deptford bloodlust to the lilly-livered cringers this side of the Thames. The scene is set for a sermon of slaughter, and Old Stumpy does not disappoint.
Completely by accident, Matt chose my absolute favourite section of Morgan’s speech for this post’s quote, but I love all of it. Mr Jarvis’ villains always steal the show, and in sheer theatrical nefariousness, Morgan has few rivals. The imagery he conjures up is enough – the rats arising in might to begin a new era of carnage and cruelty, rivers of blood in the mouse halls – but when a well-meaning dissenter is ripped to shreds and devoured by his own brethren, things get real.
I compared the Deptford sewer rats favourably to the villains of Redwall when we were rereading The Dark Portal, and now I reiterate on that subject. Imagine Morgan’s speech in the mouth of any other befurred baddie from a middle-grade series. How much more threatening would their brutal hordes be? How much more terrifying their iniquitous plans? Get on Old Stumpy’s level, everybody, or go home!
Matt’s Thoughts: No time for any sort of set up or niceties here. The grimness is here to stay, as we go to a gathering of Old Stumpy and his group of rats. In some ways, it’s awesome – Morgan was arguably the greatest of the rat villains from The Dark Portal. So to see him and Piccadilly back in the same story, knowing that there is a score to settle from the past – that’s just brilliant.
However, it’s sort of the opposite of the mouse gathering from the previous chapter. It’s a meeting driven by hatred and a desire to dominate the mouse world. Grim stuff.
One other great thing about this is that we have no idea how Morgan came to such a position of influence. I’m sure there’s a back story: he dragged himself out of a drain pipe somewhere, bumped into five rats and killed four of them, and the rest of them started to show him a fearful respect. We’re not told exactly.
(Unless we’re told in a later chapter? I’ve got memories of certain parts of this book, but not others, so if we’re told in a later chapter, I’ll look like an idiot, won’t I? Actually, you know what – I’m going to hold onto my back story until Mr Jarvis gives me a new one. *End of inner monologue.*)
(*Start of new one* This is only going to get worse in Deathscent and the Wyrd Museum books because I bought them years ago and never actually got around to reading them … so my posts are going to be even more speculative and incorrect in a few months! *End of new inner monologue.*)
But enough of that – I haven’t had a moment to say I always quite liked the character of Barker here. The rats could be in danger of being a bit one-note (just sadistic and evil all the time) so having the odd rat that is not the same – like Madame Akkikuyu in the last few books – is always good. Barker fits that bill here – you wonder, if he wasn’t quite ‘barking mad’, as they call it, what would he be like? Would he be just as evil as the others? Or, like Akkikuyu before him, has madness brought out a lost ‘innocent’ side that might have otherwise been suppressed? (And, yes, for those who are jumping up and down – I do remember Barker’s back story. But we’ll talk about that when it appears.)
On to Chapter 4!