‘You no need teller of fortunes – Mother Lotus, she know what Lady Fate has is store for you.’
Aufwader’s Thought’s: A quick scene change, and we arrive at the dingy dockyard dive that is the Lotus Parlour. (Or, if you’re a forktail, a pleasant and welcoming establishment where one might partake of the house vintage and meet with one’s jewel-encrusted, serpent-worshipping cronies in relative privacy.)
Personally I really enjoy the way we’re introduced to the Scale’s home turf – it’s implied that ol’ Ma Skillet has a gold-lacquered finger in every Singapore smuggler’s pie, and runs her bar something like a gangster’s speakeasy with added occult flair. I especially appreciate the notion that she has been in that job for several decades and is so bored with it that she has descended into hypnotising unsuspecting patrons for laughs to ease the monotony. Sure, evil’s fun at the weekends, but on a slow Tuesday you still have to mop the floors and polish the bar-top.
Or, as it happens, get a well-known and beloved side character in the backstory phase of her life to do it for you. Why hello, Madame Akkikuyu! We missed you!
The little origin-scene with Kiku really does make a perfect bookend. In The Dark Portal, Morgan and Madame Akkikuyu were the first villains we met aside from Jupiter, and in this, the backstory to end all backstories, we get a perfectly-mirrored look into how they came to be spitting insults at each other in 1990s Deptford. Readers, which origin story do you prefer, Morgan’s, or Kiku’s? Personally, I like them both.
As if Thomas and Woodget turning up and getting caught were not enough, Simoon has to poke his nose in and start causing a ruckus. But it’s all to the good (or rather, bad) for if he hadn’t, we would never have had another fantastic scene with the High Priest. While he trounces Simoon and has a heart-to-heart with Mother Lotus about the Black Sovereign’s return being imminent, I can almost forget my heartbreak over the events of last chapter. Almost.
Matt’s Thoughts: How do I not remember this either? A backstory for Madame Akkikuyu thrown in for good measure!
But what struck me the most was the bitter irony that, as well as some good old hocus-pocus on Ma Skillet’s part, it is alcohol that undoes Thomas in this moment – which, of course, comes at just the right time in the story to remind all of us that everything that’s happening is essentially a horrible memory being replayed in Thomas’ alcohol-fuelled mind in the present day. It’s tragic, horrific. And, hey, with a Black Temple about to be revealed, a little bit Indiana Jones as well.