Warning: Contains Spoilers!
His whiskers quivered as magical forces channeled through his small body and his golden eyes blazed with force.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: If the last chapter echoed the ritual on Blackheath in The Dark Portal, this one recalls the bat’s prophecy from the same book. Magnus Zachaire’s mutterings into Leech’s ear are quite as doom-laden and foreboding as the riddles of Orfeo and Eldritch. Between Spittle’s boot, the flying, enchanted embers, the dire pronouncement that Jupiter will one day be named Lord of All, and Imelza’s sudden need to be sure that Dab will play peacemaker between her brothers when their mother is gone, things do not look too sunny for Leech.
The scene with the flying embers, while we’re at it, put the fear of god (or Jupiter!) into me as a child. I had a somewhat irrational dread of fire, and the idea of burning hot coals that don’t just zoom right at you but do so with intent was terrifying. If we didn’t feel sorry for Leech when he was born the runt or when Spittle kicked him back and forth across the attic, we certainly do when we learn that not even his own brother is kind to him.
Matt’s Thoughts: The characterisations in this chapter are really interesting. One thing I didn’t remember from earlier times reading the book was the concept of Zachaire’s regret. (Maybe I was too young to appreciate what it might be like looking back on your life and regretting your choices.) But the idea that there is a certain agony for Zachaire’s spirit, being called back to life, and that it’s based around his regrets – it’s a really clever idea. And of course it contrasts instantly with Spittle, who is so focused on getting the Philosopher’s Stone that he is oblivious to making the same choices.
But, of course, the real highlight – and this I do remember from the first time reading it – is that this book starts to make us ask a question: what could have happened to turn Jupiter super-evil? He’s self-confident, yes. Starting to grow in power, yes. But like young Anakin Skywalker, we sense that he could do something good with his life if he wanted.
So because, in one sense, we know where this story will lead – but in many others, have no idea how it will get there – Mr Jarvis has expertly set up a sense of mounting dread. We’re not sure where a crisis will come from – we have Leech’s jealousy, Imelza’s concern for what might happen when she’s not around, so a few things are hinted at – but there’s enough potential here for something to go wrong and set off a nasty chain of events for young Jupiter …