The Final Reckoning | Chapter 4

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘From acorn to oak,’ she intoned gravely, ‘but even the mightiest of oaks shall fall.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter affects me deeply every time I read it. First of all, there’s the breathtakingly elegant sequence in which Thomas dreams of his past. Then there’s the drama of a ‘murder in the park’ which quickly descends into despair when we learn that this is not some kind of thrilling who-dun-it intrigue, but a real and lasting tragedy that has reduced the Starwife (the Starwife!) to a shambling wreck. Then there’s the squirrel funeral, and I have a mushy story about that so brace yourselves.

When I was younger, quite a lot of what I read and absorbed in Mr Jarvis’ books made its way into the plethora of notebooks I collected for fun. (Did any of you guys do this as kids? I know I wasn’t looking to record ideas for future novels or anything as onerous as that, I just liked collecting pretty journals and filling them with wobbly drawings, bits of diary, and the occasional Digimon sticker).

In any case, young me heard the funereal oration which the Starwife gives, consigning her deceased subject’s spirits to the Green, and was so taken with it that I wrote it down, rewinding the cassette over and over to get it all. (In the abridged version I had, the prayer was spoken by Thomas. In hindsight, this suggests a connection between the midshipmouse and his neighbours the squirrels that is not in the original).

A few months later, my mum and I were clearing out my room, and she happened upon the Starwife’s prayer on a stray piece of paper. Since I hadn’t bothered to label it with the book title or anything, she thought I’d written a poem. She told me it was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever read, and when I explained what it was from, she promised to read the Deptford Mice Trilogy as soon as she could. Thank you, Mr Jarvis, for touching my family’s heart with your writing as you have touched mine.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: A couple of quick comments on this chapter:

  • Great to have the midshipmouse back in action, but there’s not much time for enjoyment when something this tragic happens to all the squirrels.
  • I was fascinated by the details of the squirrel funeral. I almost take it for granted that Jarvis has not only given different personalities to his animal characters, but whole different sets of rituals and beliefs about life, death and religion.
  • Also notice that the Starwife refers to ‘the Green’ as well. Presumably, the same Green as the Green Mouse, but what form does that deity take for the squirrels?
  • There is, also, of course, a great deal of foreshadowing for The Deptford Histories books in the form of Triton’s dream and the Starwife’s mention of an ‘uprising’. However, my memory is rusty on the old Histories books, so even I can’t remember how it all goes … clearly, I need this re-read as much as anybody!
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7 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 4

  1. Oh Aufwader…that is such a sweet story. I was grinning like a fool as I read it. What a cool mother you have. My own mum could never understand why I loved The Deptford Mice to the point of obsession as a child. She took one look at the cover of The Crystal Prison, made the most distasteful face you can possibly imagine, and would forever call them ‘those awful mouse books’. I’m glad that your mum recognized how wonderful these stories are and how much they meant to you.

    Behold the wondrous foreshadowing that we are greeted by as Chapter Four begins! Gaze upon it and marvel! I read The Final Reckoning way back during the early nineties. It was the year 2010 when I revisited the briny nightmare of Thomas Triton for the umteemth time and my mouth fell open. Finally I realized just who that sinister figure who loomed over him in his dream actually was. I was so breath-taken that I took a moment to reflect upon it in awe. So many years and I never realized that this very early appearance of a very important character had been staring me in the face all along. We’ll need to wait until The Deptford Histories before I’m free to gush all over this but for now, allow me to say oh my gosh!

    Thomas awakens from his uneasy sleep only to discover that the true nightmare has been waiting for him in the waking world. A squirrel has come scurrying all the way from Greenwich to tell the midshipmouse that the Starwife has summoned him once again. It seems that there has been a murder. A murder in the park. Which is actually quite a mild title for this chapter, I must say. I think it deserves to be called Chapter Four – BY THE BEARD OF THE GREEN MOUSE! THERE ARE DEAD BODIES SCATTERED ALL OVER THE PLACE AND THE MOST POWERFUL ITEM IN EXISTENCE IS IN THE SPECTRAL CLAWS OF JUPITER! GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!

    But that’s just me. Oh my gosh, the author was not kidding when he said that he wanted The Final Reckoning to be a non-stop roller-coaster ride of a grand finale. That was what he set out to make Book Three and that is what he has most certainly accomplished. Since Jupiter was forced to spend an entire Summer performing the world’s creepiest ventriloquist act in order to return from beyond the grave, he is so clearly enjoying the freedom he has regained through such unspeakably foul means.

    I get the feeling that the massacre in Greenwich was for two purposes. Firstly, to capture the powerful Starglass for some as yet unknown purpose. We’ll worry about that later. Secondly, to send the creatures of this world a message they could not possibly ignore or misinterpret. Like all evil overlords, Jupiter loves striking pure terror into the hearts of his enemies, and he does so by marching straight into the domain of the closest thing Deptford has to a High Queen and laying waste to her kingdom, all without even trying. He’s back, he means business, and there’s not a damn thing the Deptford Mice can do to oppose him.

    What say we review the situation so far? The mice of the Skirtings are faced with slowly starving to death since their food supply is gone. An army of bloodthirsty rats is marching on an unsuspecting Holeborn and Piccadilly may or may not be the first casualty of the carnage ahead. And now one of the only people who could have stood in Jupiter’s path was just soundly curb-stomped by the demonic cat, who then snatched away the source of her power and slew many of her people purely for the fun of it. We’re not even halfway through the story and already things are looking incredibly bleak for our heroes. The apocalypse seems to be drawing closer as each chapter we read raises the stakes. Jupiter is powerful beyond belief and growing ever stronger.

    I’m so madly in love with the Starwife as a character. Like Gwen Brown, it took years for me to fully grasp how awesome she truly is. Now that I do, oh wow. When we first met the Starwife, she was seated proudly upon her throne and delighted in playing mind-games with the mice purely for the sake of demonstrating her power over them. Now, the seat of her power lies in ruins, and she is so clearly shaken by the tapestry of death and destruction which has unfolded around her. But as she faces what can only be her darkest hour, the glint of steel has not vanished from her milky eyes. Indeed, it has never gleamed more forcefully. She feels the age creeping through her bones and the sorrow weighing upon her heart more heavily than any anchor. But she is still the Starwife and with the Oaken Throne comes responsibilities that cannot and will not be shirked while breath remains in her ancient body. She’s not beaten yet. Jupiter got the drop on her tonight but now the time has come for her to sharpen her wits and begin planning the world’s counter-strike against the Unbeest. Much like Audrey, this old squirrel is a fantastic example of a strong woman character. Like an oak tree, she may be battered by the storm, but she will stand tall and endure the worst it can do to her. Badass personified. As long as we still have the old battleaxe, despair will never intrude upon my heart.

    The death toll is growing at a horrifyingly steady pace. Kempe was the first to fall in these dark days. Then the only rat who was wise enough to see Morgan’s madness for what it is and courageous enough speak out against it. Now it is Piers, the Starwife’s most loyal retainer, who lies dead with his chest pierced by a spear of bitter ice. Although we knew this young squirrel for so short a time, Thomas Triton can see how devastated the squirrel queen is by his murder. Do you remember how Piers dared to speak up, criticising his liege for staying awake for such late hours that it effected her health? As she gazes with unmasked sorrow upon the lifeless husk of the only squirrel who genuinely cared about her as a person and not purely as the Starwife, I’m sure that she does. I like to believe that Piers was bringing her a warm drink he made for her himself when Jupiter blasted the hole through the roof. That it was the Starwife who was the intended target for the ice spear. That he stepped in its deadly path, protecting the squirrel queen with his very life. Ummm…I’m sorry, I think there’s something in my eye. Just gimme a second to… take care of…that…

    If there is such a thing as a sight of sorrowful beauty, the squirrel funeral is it. You could describe it as a pagan ritual, but there is nothing savage about this final farewell to a true friend. The poem recited so solemnly by the Starwife always did have the power to make throat tighten and when Thomas looks at her and sees something unimaginably beautiful shining from within her withered body with the glory of a star, I wonder where my breath has gone because it’s no longer flowing through me. As with Twit flying across the night-bound city and the fieldmice standing before the Mouse In The Green, the Starwife saying goodbye to Piers is one of those moments which has always sprung to my mind whenever I think of The Deptford Mice. And it always will.

    Having tarried long enough to pay her last respects and pack her subjects off to where they shan’t get in the way, the Starwife turns to face Thomas and reveals the purpose for his presence in this fallen kingdom. As Piers was always swift to remind her, earthly concerns are every bit as important as whatever she may glimpse among the Heavens. The time has come for her to leave the seclusion of the Oaken Throne and seek her purpose among the common folk. The final reckoning is near at hand, and the handmaiden of Orion will have a part to play in it.

    The Starwife has an appointment with the mice of the Skirtings. And for once, it is she who will go to them.

    This chapter and the next couple are among some of the most memorable in the books in my opinion. We finally delve into the deeper mythos of The Deptford Mice which is hinted at by Thomas Triton’s nightmare and the Starwife mentioning a time in the distant past when so many lives were lost. The Handmaiden of Orion also mentions that Jupiter has become something which exists outside the laws of nature, an intriguing point which I’ll come back to in another few chapters.

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  2. Matt, I noticed the use of the word “uprising” as well, and I have some theories on that, which tie into the Audrey Theory I’ve hinted at during the last book! I’ll get around to posting that after the Mouselets, because I need to gather all the info I can to make it coherent.

    Anyway. This book moves a lot faster than the Crystal Prison, plunging our faves straight into mayhem chapter by chapter. I’d like to note how vastly different each book’s tone is. The Dark Portal has a sort of claustrophobic feel to it. There is no escape! Whereas the Crystal Prison is the opposite; it is open, wild, frightening in a wholly different way. The Final Reckoning is all of this at once. There’s a bunch of different perils, big and small. There’s so much going on, yet it never feels overly chaotic!

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    • It sounds as though your theory is pretty epic! I can’t wait until we finally get to hear it!

      I feel something similar to what you’re describing. The way I’d put it is that each book feels like a different type of horror movie. With The Dark Portal, you have all the panic and terror of being trapped underground while bloodthirsty monster are waiting for you to fall into their claws. The Crystal Prison is more of a psychological horror since much of the story is spent watching the Fennywolders slowly but surely go from being the most friendly and welcoming neighbors you could ever meet to a paranoid lynch mob who want you dead. As for The Final Reckoning, well…for the time being, I must hold off on saying which type of horror movie I would classify it has. Patience, all shall be revealed in due time.

      For now though, I will say The Final Reckoning does indeed have a grand feel to it. Some of the characters were sidelined in Book Two but here, with the exception of Twit, everyone is present and has an important role to play in the final conflict between the burning flame of justice and the steadily advancing tide of supreme evil. Throughout the entire trilogy, all the pieces of the puzzle have been falling into place and now we get to discover just what the big picture reveals. Every danger and challenge the Deptford Mice ever faced has been leading up to this book where their fates will finally be decided. Kinda exciting, don’t you think?

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      • Well put! That’s exactly how each book feels 🙂

        (And my theory is actually pretty silly, but I’m enjoying putting it together nonetheless!)

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  3. I know I should feel bad for all those squirrels…..but the only thing I ever think when I read this chapter is, “Oh no!!!! The star glass is gone?!?!?! Everyone is doomed.”
    I do appreciate though the detail that has gone into the squirrel world, which is most eloquently displayed here through the entire funeral sequence. (I think this is why I have always classed The Deptford Mice as a fantasy trilogy in my head – the detail and the layers of world-building in here are right up there with the best fantasy novels I have read) 🤔

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    • It was so easy to write the squirrels off as comic-relief in Book Two but now that we see the desolation Jupiter has brought down on them, the memory of laughing at their nervousness feels like something that happened in another lifetime. The situation gets dire so quickly in Book Three, huh? You get a genuine feeling that this time, the bad guys are going to win. Things are going from bad to worse at every corner for our mousy heroes while their enemies grow more and more powerful.

      A lot of work went into crafting the world of The Deptford Mice and it shows so very clearly. There are so many races, each with their own beliefs and abilities which make them feel special and unique. You also get hints that this world has a history of its own, which I cannot wait to explore more deeply.

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  4. Here we have another fascinating glimpse into the traditions of the squirrels, and I am always eager to learn about those. Of course we cannot hear what the song of the maidens sounds like, but it is described so well that I can almost imagine it in my head, a choir of high voices raised in sorrow. I made a point of memorising the Starwife’s speech as it is so beautiful.

    I felt so badly for poor dutiful Piers, loyal to the end. I found it very touching when the Starwife showed how much she truly appreciated him, insisting that he be placed in the middle of the pyre as in her words he was worth all the rest of her subjects combined.

    I too took note of the word “uprising” and wondered what it was referring to. One of the things I like about Robin as an author is that he never puts anything in his text without a good reason – at least that is how it’s always proved to be. My guess was that maybe it had something to do with the battle that took place during this Starwife’s youth, mentioned later on. That could have involved an uprising of some sort.

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