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.