Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Here in Whitebi the dark one had indeed made its home.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: On to our next Chapter Of Nameless Dread, and my goodness, what a set-piece. I recalled this one very vividly from the cassette tape of this book (read by Dame Siân Phillips) and it exceeded expectations on reread. Being more aware of the contrivances of film and television now than I was as a young reader, I found myself imagining the terrible scenes with Ben and Nathaniel through a grainy 1980s lens, and the notion of this book as a cult film or TV series from that era really came alive for me. I could practically hear the whining synth score and see the flaring light effects, and if that talking head was not written with animatronics in mind I’ll eat my Whitby Witches box-set.
Here we also see Nathaniel showing his true colours for the first time. Thus far he has been rather intimidating and rather skeevy, but now we glimpse his intent and begin to understand what motivated him to come to Whitby in the first place.
Reading the scene in the crypt again, I was pleased to discover that there was more to the stone head’s exposition than I recalled from the audiobook, and I may have cheered a little bit when I read of the aufwaders going to war. (Going to war! With the Lords of the Deep and Dark! Would you credit it!) For me the whole thing had echoes of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, especially the mention of the unnamed evil being cast down in chains.
As a final note, I think Ben is great in this chapter. This is the first time in a while where he has proactively made a decision to embroil himself in a Whitby mystery, and it shows how much he has grown since arriving there only a few short months ago. I really like that little detail of him going out into the deep dark of night in his pyjamas with a coat on top; he may not know it, but he’s treading in the slippered footsteps of every young hero of classic children’s fantasy, and he ought be be proud of what he achieves by eavesdropping on our villain’s nefarious plans.
Matt’s Thoughts: Who else is rubbing their hands together gleefully at this brilliant mythological chapter? It has all the elements that fantasy fans love. We’ve got some sinister Evil Thing that could be unleashed, held in place only by the mysterious guardians of Whitby. And Nathaniel Crozier, determined to destroy the guardians and unleash whatever it is upon the world.
The talking stone head reminded me a little of the opening magical sequence in the church in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. (Has anyone else on here read that? It’s a little erratic in storytelling impetus, but it has some fantastic British mythological ideas.) I’m also still loving that I can’t remember many details of this book at all, so how this is all going to be resolved, I have no idea.
Finally, as I threatened to do – a Mr Roper special – some classical sea music (either by a British composer or inspired by Britain). This piece is a little obscure, but no less awesome and, yes, it’s inspired by Cornwall, which is not at all near Whitby. But it’s coastal and it’s awesome. It’s Tintagel by Arnold Bax.