The Whitby Witches | Chapter 5


‘Just how you are involved I am not certain,’ Nelda told him excitedly. ‘But for an instant back then I saw the moonkelp and …and you were holding it, human child!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  At the start of this chapter we meet two of the most interesting and memorable secondary characters in any fantasy trilogy; Tarr Shrimp, Nelda’s grandfather, and Hesper, her aunt. Gosh, I want Hesper to be my aunt. The Whitby Witches gets so grim at times that the comfort she provides in her very presence is desperately needed. Look at her on the side of the Whitby Witches box set, what a lovely old dear!

Of course, this is Robin Jarvis, and Hesper has woes of her own to contend with. Like Gwen Brown before her, she is a maternal figure but also a distinct and rounded person apart from her charges, and I would go so far as to call her the aufwader counterpart to Miss Boston. Both ladies are responsible for the care of emotionally vulnerable young wards, and both do not always live up to the standards that those wards expect of them, but they both make every effort to give their best, and we love them for it.

Here we also get to delve deeper into aufwader mythology and tradition. I love that Nelda straight-up has a prophetic vision and Ben and Hesper just accept it as fact. Is Nelda prone to this sort of thing? Is prophecy and foresight given to all aufwaders as to the bats of the Deptford Mice Trilogy, or only to specific members of the tribe? Was future-telling another of the gifts all but confiscated by the Lords of the Deep and Dark, or are they granters of visions for their own cruel ends?

Considering my claim of kinship with the aufwaders in the previous post, you may be thinking that that mysterious triad are my Robiny call to faith, but I must disappoint on that count. My allegiance will remain undeclared for a while yet. Frankly, I’m rather pleased not to be beholden to the Lords of the Deep, for what a petty and vindictive trio they seem. The mother’s curse is still one of the most sadistic, gruesome torments ever inflicted on any of Mr Jarvis’ characters, and we haven’t even truly touched upon it yet.


Matt’s Thoughts: Aufwader has said quite a bit about her namesakes, so I won’t add to that. Except to say that all the Whitby Witches mythology is coming back to me. There’s just something so rich about it, even after all these years. But I will jump in and say that I enjoyed the interlude in the Museum.

a) Because it’s actually a real museum, which makes it so much cooler. For instance, you can go and see the Hand of Glory. (Gross, right? You can totally understand why Robin Jarvis and the town of Whitby get on so well!) I totally want to visit there.

b) While it sounds like a breezy interlude in between the aufwaders and their centuries of heartbreak and despair, it’s actually carefully setting out all the plot elements that will become important later on. Very, very clever stuff, Mr Jarvis.


4 thoughts on “The Whitby Witches | Chapter 5

  1. ‘The mother’s curse is still one of the most sadistic, gruesome torments ever inflicted on any of Mr Jarvis’ characters, and we haven’t even truly touched upon it yet.’

    Nope, we STILL have to get into that fully in the next book, which in my opinion is what makes the first instalment frustrating to look back on in this way – I mean, there’s a clear reason why the American publishers chose to release this one (and doll it up in an utterly unfitting artstyle – its not BAD on its own right, but for a Jarvis thing? Nah) and then mysteriously gave up on the next instalments. The other two have a right hang-up with a lot of themes that I’m surprised were ignored here at the time, but the U.S. branch definitely cottoned on to it.

    Matt: Oh please, you think the Hand of Glory is something yucky? Surgeons Hall Museum in Edinburgh has not only William Burke’s death mask, but also a book reportedly made out of the tanned skin of his corpse! Gotta love the Hobbers I mean doctors of old Edinburgh …(and that’s not getting into the rest of Edinburgh’s nasty history!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was aware that Book One had been published in the USA. But before reading your comment, it somehow never dawned on me that there were no American editions of the sequels. And my memories of what’s coming strongly suggest that you’re right about the reason why Chronicle Books shied away from bringing the remainder of the saga to America. Good catch.


  2. I’m looking forward to reading Books 2 and 3 again in light of these sorts of comments. It’s been a few years since I’ve read them and I’m rusty on the details (especially Book 2). I remember they were more intense (which happens in all Jarvis trilogies) and I vaguely remember the finale of 3.

    But clearly people are seeing some big jumps in tone. Looking forward to the discussions!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The tour of the museum was great, especially when Alice was having so much fun telling the children about the Hand Of Glory in lovingly morbid detail and only reined her enthusiasm in when she realised that the in-depth lecture was grossing Jennet out. She means well, there’s no denying that, but the Whitby Witch has a lot to learn about how to behave around this particular foster child. Although she has much in common with Ben, I’m intrigued by the relationship she has with Jennet who wants nothing to do with magic or the macabre.

    The uneasy truce between Alice and Jennet rings so true. It would feel like a cop-out for Jennet to shrug and pretend that their clash over the spirits and scones session never happened. Her grudging agreement to give the old lady a second chance feels much truer to the cynical child she’s become since her parents died and she was forced to shoulder the responsibility of looking after Ben all by herself.


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