The Oaken Throne | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From the steaming earth – to the terror of all – the god of the rats, the Lord of the Raith Sidhe, slowly emerged.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Well, he’s been very patient with us, and now it’s finally time for the Lord Hobb, Father of Wrath and Mightiest of the Raith Sidhe, to take centre stage. I can suggest no more apt soundtrack to accompany that cataclysmic event than Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. To me, it is the definitive ‘Lord Hobb, Arise Now From The Pit’ piece, and I feel that the original, rather than Rimsky-Korsakov’s later version, captures the moment in all its true devilish glory.

I have to say that for all she doesn’t survive it, Morwenna really is on top form during this finale. Last chapter we had her own rather theatrical reveal as High Priestess of Mabb (is it just me or did anybody else laugh when she dramatically whipped off her tiara?) and right up until she is crisped to a cinder by Hobb’s fiery breath, she really villains her heart out. It’s incredibly fun to read, and a fitting final performance for a truly diabolical Handmaiden of Darkness.

Like with Morgawrus, I had actually forgotten that Hobb does a fair bit of talking, IN UPPERCASE, NO LESS, during his brief time on the surface. What I found very interesting about his exchange with Ysabelle is that it mirrors Audrey’s confrontation with Jupiter in The Final Reckoning.

Our heroine is tiny, our arch-villain is enormous, and yet her small voice, possibly combined with the glow of Starwifeship, intimidates him. Both baddies gloat, and both call their nemeses ‘witch’ before being vanquished in a storm of sparks. Neither the Unbeest nor the Lord of the Pit actually die, but in Jupiter’s case there was no question of his returning to the living plane, whereas Hobb can only be contained as long as his prison remains whole. As we will discover when we read The Deptford Mice Almanack next year, that detail, like the acorn itself, will turn out to be more than it seems.

During the last chapters of The Final Reckoning I may have mentioned wailing and gnashing of teeth, but that was nothing, nothing, compared to the garment-rending, hair-tearing, chorus-of-professional-mourners-employing anguish which resulted from this epilogue. To this day, The Oaken Throne gets ‘I am still traumatised by Vesper’s death’ more than it gets any other response, and frankly I think we are all justified, for never was a story of more woe, than this of Ysabelle and her Vespertilio.

Matt’s Thoughts: I think Aufwader has said almost everything I could possibly say about this chapter. The only thing I would add is that the other Jupiter / Lord Hobb similarity is the little moment where Ysabelle calls Hobb the ‘father of lies’, which is another old King James Version description of Satan that Mr Jarvis cleverly throws in for those who are watching.

Also, I would add that I was one of those readers who got a little bit of satisfaction when I read about Fenny looking for a meadow and Griselda heading off for the Deep Ford and knowing where all that will lead.

And, of course, the Shakespearean tragedy of the epilogue is so true. It’s the fact that the Vesper’s death was unnecessary and avoidable that makes it all so bad. Like, couldn’t Ysabelle have thought about it a little faster, couldn’t Othello have had a chat with Desdemona, couldn’t the Montagues and Capulets have done some conflict resolution work a bit earlier in the piece? And the answer always, is a resounding and fatalistic NO. (In Hobb capitals.)

Anyway, there we have it: The Oaken Throne. I feel like using the word ‘pastiche’ about this one, because are so many nods to other familiar stories: WWII air raids, Tolkienesque quests, the Bard himself. But at the same time, it has all the unique darkness and drive of the other Jarvis novels as well.

And what’s especially amazing is that while all this medieval squirrel and bat action was taking place, there was another final Whitby book brewing as well, which we’ll jump into next month! See you then.

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6 thoughts on “The Oaken Throne | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

  1. I must say, I never could understand how Vesper rescued Ysabelle from the toad chamber beneath the oak. He says he heard her cries, but you have to remember that not only was she deep beneath the ground in a secret place (presumably far out of earshot), but there was a noisy battle going on where he was, full of screams, the clashing of sword against gauntlet, and the explosions of fire eggs. Then in the nick of time he manages to gain entry to the oak, traverse long-forgotten passageways that Morwenna herself (who knew them better than anyone) would often lose her way in, and rescue Ysabelle. As much as I love this book, that part always struck me as unbelievable – a deus ex machina. I’m glad of course that she was saved, but realistically, Ysabelle should have been toad chow. 😛

    I’ve noticed as well that Ysabelle’s confrontation with Hobb mirrors that of Audrey and Jupiter. By the way, it’s interesting to note that in the original hardcover and paperback editions, Hobb’s dialogue is not only in UPPERCASE, but also BOLD! A fitting way to describe in writing a voice so terrible that it causes his own followers to slay themselves so they won’t have to hear it anymore! The reaction of the Hobbers to seeing their god is interesting; it’s like they got more than they ever bargained for – he’s too evil even for them.

    Ysabelle’s rejection of Vesper is so horrible, and the despair the reader feels is quite similar to that felt when Audrey inadvertently insults Piccadilly in “The Crystal Prison”. In both cases, it’s oddly as if some greater power is influencing them, controlling what they say – getting the love interest out of the way, severing ties so they can ascend to the Starwifeship with nothing holding them back. You want to scream at Ysabelle, to grab her and shake her in the hopes of returning her to her senses. (On a happier note, my very own Fir Realm gets a mention in this scene, as Ysabelle describes the grand music they’re playing for her inauguration. :D) But she has made her choice, leaving Vesper alone, heartbroken… and vulnerable.

    By this time, the reader has been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that since Wendel is dead and Hobb has been defeated, that Vesper’s curse can safely be forgotten. But no… Wendel has returned in spectral form to finish what he started. But where are the ringing bells? As it turns out, it’s not actual bells but the rustling of bluebell flowers. All that time, Vesper was frightened of the former when it was the latter that would be heard at the time of his death.

    When Ysabelle sees the error of her ways and returns to run away with Vesper, it’s too late. The scene where she gradually changes her mind about being the Starwife is especially sad because we know Vesper is already dead, but she still holds the hope that they’ll have a reconciliation. The book ends with the scene of Ysabelle weeping over Vesper’s body, but from “The Deptford Mice Almanack” we are given an idea of what happened afterward. Faced with no other choice, Ysabelle took up the Starwifeship and reigned for nearly three hundred years.

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  2. I must be very callous, cos I honestly struggle to find much sympathy for Vesper (okay I do, but I like being callous) – when I had just went through all manner of supernatural cultist horror, I probably wouldnt put my guard down for maybe, oh I dunno, the rest of my life, let alone the first few weeks, Especially when its receiving drinks from mysterious figures in cloaks. Actually I wouldnt do that even if I hadnt went through any supernatural happenings…

    So yeah Vesper, I know its sad but really – sorry, sucker.

    And as for Hobb’s manifesting on the mortal plane, whilst Night on Bald Mountain is a very good choice (even if its been kinda rendered parodic by now – I won’t mention names but theres a certain film that used it liberally to the point of parody (no, this is NOT a diss on Fantasia, I swear), I am uncouth and can lean to the sorta music that would’ve been more contemporary at the time of Oaken Throne being published, so here’s my choice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPObnTRUzTg

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    • That is very true. Taking drinks (or candy, or what-have-you) from strangers is never a good idea, and really, Vesper of all creatures should have known better. Several times it was noted that he had lost his childhood naivete on the road to Greenreach – he knew full well the sort of horrors that were out there in the world. It seems obvious that you especially shouldn’t trust a random hooded figure who appears out of nowhere. Although, I guess it could be argued that Vesper was at such a low point that he really couldn’t think clearly.

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  3. So con weekend is over and i FINALLY got around to reading these last two chapters. Phew. Vesper’s death will never not be awful. But I really adore how this book ends. There’s no unnecessary paragraphs outlining what Ysabelle will do next, because we already know. She will rule, but she will rule with a broken heart.

    Also, here’s my Vesper/Ysabelle mix. Be warned, it’s sickly sweet because I made it several years ago when I was super into these two haha. The first “Kiss Me” is from Ysabelle’s POV, and is quite light. The second “Kiss Me”, and final song is from Vesper’s POV, and has a sadder tone to it. I’m still v proud of that! haha

    playmoss.com/en/starmaid/playlist/kiss-me

    Liked by 1 person

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