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.