Warning: Contains Spoilers!
London had cast her spell with great success, never was there a more willing victim to her charms.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Matt mentions that this chapter is a mirror of the first pages of The Whitby Witches, but I noticed as I was reading through that it’s also a rather clever little book-end for the Deptford Histories as a whole.
Our young hero and his travelling companion wind up on a questionable errand in a confusing and forbidding city. Thinking to find someone whom they have travelled a long way to meet, they enter a seedy dive, whereupon they become targets for sundry evil-doers with dark secrets connected to the main story-line.
In the third book of the Histories, an almost identical scene preludes the finale, but here it is our opener, setting up our secondary villains Jessel and Carver (what fantastically rat-like names!) and delivering Will into the clutches of the loathsome Doctor Spittle.
The scene in the Sickle Moon is one of my favourites in the Histories, and Peggy Blister has got to be one of my favourite minor characters. What I love about her is that she could so easily have been a bit two-dimensional; just another ‘tavern wench’ to provide mildly uncomfortable comic relief. Instead, she leaps off the page as boldly as our protagonists, make-up flaking, rotten teeth clacking, queen of all she surveys (even if all she surveys happens to be the dingy environs of a down-at-heel public house). She is rather gloriously unpleasant, and despite her lies about Will I cannot help but like her for the larger-than-life caricature that she is.
Matt’s Thoughts: Oh, the bleakness of this thing! It’s like a mirror image of the opening of The Whitby Witches. In that book, our young heroes – also orphans like Will – head to a new town, not knowing what to expect. To their surprise, they find love, friendship and a town that is special.
The exact opposite happens here. The city of London – cast in all its ominous 17th century shadow – rises up to swallow Will. Instead of community, the one person he has in the world is violently dispatched and a young boy is on his own in a rather nasty city.
The only ray of light in the whole thing is that John Balker, before he exits the stage, finally seems to make peace with the past. (I’m starting to wonder if it’s a bad sign to make peace with your inner demons in a Jarvis book! It seems to shorten your life-span.)
So we’re left reeling from the shock of what happens to John, only to have the arrival of the mysterious Dr Spittle. (More on him later.)
In the meantime, do Jack and Jessel not remind you a lot of the rats? Opportunistic, out for themselves and no worries about using violence.
It’s going to be a grim 14 chapters. (And I’m loving it.)