The Alchymist’s Cat | Chapter 13

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Thy realm will last for hundreds of years and thy powers shall extend over the whole earth and finally beyond.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Chapter 13 of any Robin Jarvis book is always alight with drama and tragedy, and this is no exception. We get the reveal of Will’s stolen inheritance, Spittle’s (regrettable) recovery from the plague, and finally, Jupiter’s change of heart with regards to his master.

As usual the cassette version I had of this book was abridged, so I unfortunately missed a lot of the finer details of Spittle’s machinations and Will’s subsequent decisions. On reread, I was impressed by Will’s refusal to sink to Spittle’s level. For almost the entire story so far our young hero has endured awful suffering at his captor’s hand, and now we discover that he is not just Will’s abductor but also his only remaining relative.

In this capacity, Spittle takes up his other archetypal role as ‘evil uncle’ and, as we see from his plague-induced ravings, he has been playing that part with aplomb from the beginning. Will has every right to let him die at this point, and the fact that he doesn’t is a turning point and important moment of growth for a character who has spent a lot of his own story reacting to the decisions of others.

When I finally got to read this book in its complete form, I appreciated the tense atmosphere of the scene where Will and Jupiter work to create the elixir of life. There they are in that grody little room, toiling into the early hours to save an evil old wretch who doesn’t really deserve saving. In different ways, both of these characters have had to make the choice to be good, and to see them work together toward a noble goal makes what happens afterwards that much worse.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter is gripping enough on the visceral level, what with people coming back from the dead, wincing violence against our young hero and the ghoulish finale with the cupboard.

But there are also some nice touches – it finally dawned on me this time that there is a clever parallel between the Samuel / Daniel Godwin relationship and the Leech / Jupiter relationship. (All of which has great mythic echoes – whether intentional on Mr Jarvis’ part or not – with the story of Cain and Abel.)

The only thing that I was curious about was at what stage in the game did Spittle / Samuel get hold of all the gold? Early in the piece, he was always lamenting that he couldn’t afford nice food and clothes. So it’s possible that he didn’t yet have any money at this stage. And then I’m assuming, by the time he had sold the Godwin farm and then come into the wealth he always wanted, by this stage, he was obsessed with a) avoiding the Black Plague, b) trying to create the Philosopher’s Stone and c) creating the Elixir of Life.

Which of course, takes us to one of the oldest tales of all time: someone craves power and riches, but the more power and riches that person gets, the less satisfied they are.

Anyway, one more chapter left to go till the much-awaited reveal of how Jupiter became the terror of Deptford …

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3 thoughts on “The Alchymist’s Cat | Chapter 13

  1. A lot of ghoulish goings-on this chapter! The reveal at the end, of poor Dab’s fate, is always so chilling, and Jupiter’s reaction is so heartbreaking. Also, every darn time I reread this book I completely forget Spittle is Will’s uncle, so it always takes me by surprise!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The depths of his black heart indeed… *shudder* It really doesn’t get much more horrible than what Spittle did to poor, sweet, innocent Dab. What a dreadful picture you get in your mind, too. I’ve wondered what, other than plain cruelty, would motivate Spittle to do such a thing to her. Perhaps it was her tortoiseshell coat that sparked such morbid curiosity. Murder for dissection – there are shades of the Burke and Hare case from Edinburgh several hundred years later, though of course their victims were people.

    As stomach-churning as it is, that scene was very well done. The suspense just kept mounting as Magnus urged Jupiter forward, opening the dark cupboard. First he sees what became of poor Helidorus; a hint of the even greater horror that is to be illuminated by the glow of the candles.

    Spittle being Samuel Godwin really is a brilliant plot twist. It’s something that seems so obvious once you learn of it, but somehow you don’t see it coming (or at least I didn’t on my first read). I also picked up on the parallels between the Godwin brothers and the cat brothers fairly recently. It’s a testament to how great these books are that over a decade after I read them for the first time, there are still new things that pop out at me!

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  3. I absolutely did not expect Dab’s pickled corpse when I first read this, and can still remember the visceral horror I felt upon experiencing that scene for the first time. Poor creature, she barely even got to go outside for more than five minutes!

    Liked by 1 person

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