The Oaken Throne | Chapter 2

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Awake, awake,’ they sang. ‘Thy sleep is ended!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  There are two kinds of Robin Jarvis fan: those who look forward to Aldertide, and those who look forward to Wendel. I’m not quite sure how, but that stoat jester has wormed his way into the hearts of almost every fan of this book I have ever met, and I can hear you all yelling about him in the comments already. Personally I find him unimpressive, morally questionable, and generally a bit dodgy, but I admit I am in that second category by default if not by choice, as happy little critters singing and dancing in the sunshine has never been my kind of party.

That said, there’s a lot to appreciate about Aldertide. The name alone is graceful, and the concept of the alder maids quite charming. I love that sweet little song they sing to awaken the venerable trees from their slumber, and I’ll be the first to declare Ysabelle the most precious thing on the Green’s good earth. The medieval-maiden hairdo! The tufty ears! Adorable.

The contrast between the joyful squirrelly celebrations and the blood-soaked horror of the bat’s attack is shockingly stark. We have already witnessed the heart of the battle at Greenreach last chapter, but here it becomes personal, as Ninnia and Cyllinus fear for their daughter and discover what dread destiny she has caught in her small paws. With the realm of the Starwife in ruins, the best day of Ysabelle’s life has quickly become the worst.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, we haven’t seen a chapter like this for a while. The feeling of community that we get from these squirrels at Coll Regalis reminds me of the feel of Fennywolde and Deptford (back before they got into serious trouble). Of course, as with all things nice and communal, it’s not long before things get disrupted.

I feel somewhat sad that the bold peregrine who I so admired from the first chapter gets dispatched in this chapter without us ever finding out his name. But it doesn’t matter – whoever he is, he’s got the job done, and Ysabelle’s story has begun.

One thing that was striking about this chapter and the last (ignoring stoats with jester caps for the moment, which is also somewhat hilarious) is that it’s a completely different type of bat than we’ve seen in past Jarvis books. We think of the bats in Deptford as being a bit enigmatic, but ultimately brave and good for a fight when you need them. (Perhaps a bit like Yoda?)

But this stuff with screechmasks and razor-tipped claws is another level of bloodthirsty altogether and a little bit unsettling. However, thinking about it some more, couldn’t we say the same about much of humanity? We can give the illusion of being peace-loving at different periods of time, but the violence of our past (both recent and distant) always reminds us that we can be pretty savage sometimes as well.

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2 thoughts on “The Oaken Throne | Chapter 2

  1. I would have to say Ysabelle is the Deptford character I love the most (though Audrey comes very close). I’ve always identified with and related to her, though at the same time I certainly wouldn’t want to be in her shoes! The trauma that poor maiden goes through is unbelievable. When we are introduced to her, we see her symbolically take her first step toward adulthood as an alder maid. Then within the space of a few hours, she is forced to take a flying leap into total maturity!

    This chapter is a prime example of mood whiplash. At first you witness a joyous celebration with plenty of comedic moments. Then the bats appear and the silver acorn falls into Ysabelle’s paws, resulting in the grim tidings that Greenreach has been destroyed. It’s easy to imagine the utter terror Ninnia feels; the Starwife is all-powerful, the queen above all squirrel queens. If she has been killed and her land brought to ruin, humble Coll Regalis stands no chance.

    Reading the book years ago, I always assumed that the peregrine flew over Coll Regalis by a happy (or perhaps not so happy) coincidence, although on a path that was subtly controlled by fate. However, now it seems clear to me that the Starwife, in all her vast wisdom, intended to send her acorn to the realm second in importance to Greenreach. When she tells the peregrine “Let no other claim it!”, rather than simply commanding him to never surrender it to anyone as I had thought, she could very well have been saying “Let no other than its intended recipient (Ysabelle) claim it!” Even if the bats had not caught up with and killed the peregrine, I believe the silver acorn would still have been delivered to Coll Regalis.

    It’s a bit curious that neither Ysabelle nor her father seem to understand the significance of the silver acorn. Surely as squirrel royals they must have some knowledge of the Starwife’s signature pendant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The bats going from semi-wise seers to vicious warriors (bats with gruesome armour will always be a great image by the way) could also be one of many ways this book is being such a vicious parody of Redwall, with how the ‘heroic’ species go from being sappy jolly fuzzballs feasting and making bad jokes to lat-out berserkers in, oh, a day usually. But unlike Jacques’ simplistic, almost sadistic kind of moralism, Jarvis at least allows more nuance, and theres grey areas, and also more realistic too

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