Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Verily ‘tis I; the purblind one, the dew-hopper, the furze cat, the stag of the stubble, he with the leathery horns, the legs of the four winds – the moon-sent angel.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: There’s a lot to absorb in this chapter, but I think many of us might’ve remembered the last page or so better than the rest of it. Come on, admit it, we all sighed a soppy sigh when Ysabelle and Vesper finally smooched. They’ve had such development and growth – both as individuals and together – over the course of the story, that by the time they decide they’re in star-crossed, house-plagued love with each other it seems like the most natural of progressions. (‘At long last!’ exclaims every reader ever.)
With that out of the way, we can wind back a little and consider the Ancient. If the chapters leading up to the meeting with him were a riff on the most over-used motifs of talking animal fantasy, the scene with the moon-sent angel is a deeply elegant and quite moving Robin Jarvis original. It has basis in myth, and most certainly involves sacrifice on the part of all those who are brought in audience. We also get swathes of Deptford universe lore, and more is brought to light regarding the bats and their beliefs. The illustration for this chapter is also very striking; something about the great hare’s staring, silver eyes draws and holds the attention until we, too, feel like puny creatures brought be.
His meeting with the Ancient could almost be pinpointed as Vesper’s coming-of-age moment. Ysabelle does not have such cause to be spiritually moved as the Ancient is not sacred to her people, and Fenny has a different and less immediate destiny. For Vesper, however, meeting the Ancient is his version of Ysabelle’s heart-to-heart with the Green in Chapter 7, and he is quite within his rights to be weeping into his wings. We do not yet know how he will go about his alarmingly grand task of uniting the forces of the Lady and the Green, but we only have a few chapters left, and we’re all along for the ride.
Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, that theme I was talking about in the last chapter is developed even more as the Ancient sees that Vesper has truly learned to see past lies. ‘Both sides canst thou see and the truth is but a glimmer away.’ Such a magnificent chapter, because it shows Vesper and Ysabelle as now being equally brave and ready to do great things.
Which does, of course, means that they’re perfect for each other, right? But no scene of romance is going to last too long in a Jarvis book before being interrupted by something not quite right. In this case, an increasingly sinister guy with puppets. Really, aside from Geppetto, would you trust a puppeteer? Eurgh … (And not the end of creepy puppets in the Jarvis world, but we’ll get to that in due time.)