Upon the cloth lay the picture of a serpent. Flames dripped from its jaws, and along its twisting back were painted nine bright stars.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: We rereaders like our Robiny cults. We like our peelers and our mousebrasses and our squirrel realms. Many of us have our little corners into which we neatly fold, with a hymn to the Green or a Mabb rest, and of course that had to start somewhere.
Some of us entered the Chamber of Summer with Audrey, or caught the silver with Ysabelle, and knew our destinies to be honourable and true. Others rushed barefoot through the wild woods, young imaginations fired in the Pit, glazed with the runes of the Three. Ever since I first read The Final Reckoning I have jokingly thought of this call to devotion as being ‘got behind the eyeballs’, and for me, it happened in Simoon’s faded tent.
Like Thomas and Woodget, I had the fell chronicle of the Dark Despoiler’s reign narrated to me (albeit on cassette rather than in a creaking ship’s hold) and from ‘all titles are just, yet none do justice’ I was well and truly got. The manifold cruelties of the Scale did not bother me – I was a bloodthirsty little blighter, next door to a perfect heathen in my disregard for the Green, but equally disdainful of Jupiter and the Raith Sidhe. Even then I was a reptile at heart, and Suruth Scarophion summoned me with a venomous and imperial summons.
But of course, you all knew that.
Matt’s Thoughts: Righto. Once we’ve got past the obvious point – that Simoon is a terrific character, we arrive of course at the tantalising prospect: is there a Robin Jarvis universe?
The legend of Scarophion, the Dark Despoiler, a mighty serpent who caused terror on the earth. One can’t help but draw the obvious comparison between this and Morgawrus. Was there a race of ancient serpents that was eventually defeated by a combo of ancient nature (which could have turned into the Green for the various animals in the story and perhaps paganism, which led to people like Alice Green) and the power of God (which is not mentioned much in The Deptford Mice but gets a nod via Miraculous Myrtle in The Alchymist’s Cat and would be tied in with any of the religious characters like Sister Frances, Hilda, etc. in the Whitby series). Then the third element to that is the powers in the ocean, the Lords of the Dark and Deep, which could be good or evil depending on how they choose to exercise their powers.
However, opposing this, are many dark and evil groupings as well. There are the followers of the Scale, the Raith Sidhe and the dark Satanic forces that were invoked all the way through the Deptford books by Jupiter, Magnus Zachaire and those sorts of characters.
I know this becomes more complex with further books still to come, but help me out, Jarvis fans: would this work for the nine books we’ve read so far? I’m halfway between moving house, so some of my books are in boxes at the moment, which means I’m working a bit from memory with this theory. Either way, I love the idea of these epic ancient forces that are never far away from the surface of everyday life.
But this mythology – regardless of how it plays out – is never allowed to drown out the character journey. Ultimately, this is the tragedy of Woodget and how it impacted on Thomas, and when we see Simoon check Woodget’s real card at the end of the chapter, the inevitability of where this journey will end comes back again.