Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The constellations were quenched, snuffed out by the tremendous powers of both Jupiter and the age-old Starglass and all who witnessed it fell to their knees and prayed.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I had to admire Arthur’s stoicism in this chapter. Look at him, shimmying up that freezing fence, paws bleeding, probably getting skelfs all over, just so the Starwife and the rest of the mouse community can get an idea of how the dread Unbeest intends to bring about the world’s end. Then, he invites himself to wade through malevolent magical mist and stand under Jupiter’s chin with Thomas as if he does this sort of thing twice-weekly at six!
He may not be forged by the Green for a destiny tall and dangerous like Audrey, blessed with shining innocence like Twit, or chosen by the bats like Oswald, but Arthur’s stalwart willingness to help out in any way he’s able should not be disregarded. I’ve always enjoyed faithful friends and sidekicks in fantasy – those who don’t necessarily have any special magical gifts or precious artefacts bestowed upon them, but without whom the heroes would likely not succeed in their endeavours. A toast to the Arthur Browns of the world, says I.
With Arthur and Thomas, we experience the cataclysmic second half of this chapter. At this point we’re about a hundred pages shy of the trilogy finale, and there are a few final reckonings in store, for good or ill. This is where the Deptford Mice Trilogy really shines as a single, beautifully woven story. Jupiter was frightening in The Dark Portal, and The Crystal Prison demonstrated his staying-power as an antagonist even when we as readers believed that he was gone for good, but in The Final Reckoning it’s go big or go home for the deathless Lord of Winter, and if big means absolute world-domination, then so be it.
(As a final note, I researched the incantation which Jupiter recites from the Observatory dome and the fell-sounding names he invokes, but the only conclusion I could come to was that they must be Mr Jarvis’ own creations. As always, if he or anybody else can shed any light on the matter, do not hesitate to do so.)
Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I could write an essay on this one chapter alone, because there is so much mythology and history thrown into this chapter. And that’s in a chapter that moves at a rapid clip and deepens the peril of the main characters. That’s what I love about these books – they are, first and foremost, gripping adventure stories, but you can stop and look at the layers on the way through and there’s plenty of stuff to dig into. My shortlist:
- Black squirrels! I had to read up a bit on black squirrels, because I was wondering how rare they were. You can check the Wikipedia page on that one, but it seems that they’re around, but much less common than the greys, making it a perfect idea that they’re part of a ‘noble race’ of squirrels. (Or perhaps, looking at it from our modern viewpoint, was part of the problem that the black squirrels considered themselves better than other squirrels?)
- First picture of Jupiter! While we saw his silhouette at the end of Chapter 14 of The Dark Portal, this was the first time we’ve seen a front-on illustration of him in the entire trilogy. Pretty horrific! (Apologies to anyone with no illustrations.)
- Servants of the dark void! I’m assuming this is similar to the hellish guardians of the Dead that Jupiter escaped from at the end of The Crystal Prison. It appears that he’s taunting them, because they can’t escape their fate of death, whereas he has not only done that – he’s about to doom everyone else as well.
- Curse languages! Help me out here – I’m looking to you, Aufwader! – is the incantation of Jupiter in a real language? E.g. some sort of Gaelic / old English?
- Holding the heavens once more! Now this was a fascinating throwaway – Jupiter tells the Starglass to hold the heavens once more. So all the stars used to be in the Starglass? Was it used as part of the Creation of the world in some way? Was the Starwife the ongoing custodian, perhaps, of the singularity at the centre of the Big Bang? The original point of nothing from which all things sprang? I don’t really need to know the details – the hint of the idea is brilliant enough.
- What about the humans? I love that line, which I’ve chosen for the chapter quote that all who witnessed the stars disappearing fell to their knees and prayed. Presumably, this means that humans – who, up until now, are probably relatively unaware that a bunch of mice in an abandoned house in Deptford saved them all from dying of the Black Plague – for the first time, see the power of Jupiter. This is a bit of fan fiction I would be interested in: what do the humans make of this level of cataclysm?
Anyway, no time for thinking about the answers, we’re at the end of Chapter 7. We are halfway. We are committed. On to the Final Reckoning!