Thomas | Chapter 12

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As a pale, crouching phantom he appeared; a colourless, shrunken spectre that patiently sat through the endless passage of time, growing old with the mountain and wasting with the world.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Holy One? More like Wily One. That decrepit loris has more tricks up his figurative sleeve than the Starwife and Simoon combined. Even I wouldn’t trust him as far as he could walk without a stick, and as it is heavily implied, it should be the likes of me doing the trusting. The ol’ Sadhu seems to have heard a call other than the Green’s, if that little scene with Jophet is anything to go by.

Speaking of the Green, I was highly disgruntled to reread the part where Woodget has his little holy vision and discover that a certain theory I came up with during The Crystal Prison has been scuppered. After some thought, however, I decided that it could be amended rather than discarded completely, but I’ll talk about it when we’re finished this book because I don’t want to be peeled for spoiling twice in as many days.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Phenomenal chapter. I think the Holy One is possibly my favourite of the Jarvis ‘wise’ characters so far. (Except maybe the Starwife, who will always be all-round awesome; but then she has a much bigger role and we know a lot more about her.)

How did a loris come to spend his time meditating up in the top of a massive statue? Again, so much mythology, so little back story!

Jophet is an interesting character. To be honest, I had forgotten about him, because he seemed more of a ‘red herring’ to take our focus off the sinister nature of Dimlon. But clearly he has his own sinister part to play in the proceedings as well. I am looking forward to how that one plays out.

And as for the scene with Woodget and the Green – well, that’s just another case of making the oncoming tragedy more poignant, isn’t it? By which I mean, it worked perfectly on me and I’m getting that feeling of oncoming dread.

Thomas | Chapter 11

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‘What a place,’ was all he could find to say. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts:   This is where things get a bit awkward for me, because even as I hiss in the faces of Hara’s forces and sneer at their city, I have to admit that it is a very pretty city. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to see its fair streets run with blood and all that good stuff, but there’s no slithering away from the bald truth that Hara is a truly fabulous setting. Even, dare I say it, one of Robin’s best.

This Gondolin of the Deptford Histories is a fascinating look at how the worshippers of the Green do their goody-goody thing in other parts of the world. Here at Myth & Sacrifice we all love the original Deptford Mice Trilogy, and I hazard that we were interested enough in the mousebrass-toting denizens of London and surrounding areas that we didn’t give much thought to wider Green Mouser culture during the reread of those books.

Far though it might seem from Audrey’s world, Hara is the stronghold which anchors the past to the present in the Deptford universe, and, though to say too much about this would be to commit the peelable offence of cross-book spoiling, to the future. (Stay tuned for part two of this point when we get to the Almanack next year.)

Like Greenwich, Hara has crouched on its hill through long and weary years, guarding its esotericisms close and presided over by an ancient and powerful ruler. It is connected to the present through Thomas, who, as we are wryly aware, plays a large role in The Deptford Mice. To join it up with the past, we need only contemplate the notion that this age-old city of the Green was probably up and running long before the first squirrel annoyed the first bat (or vice versa) and the wars that ended in Ysabelle’s time, began. What a place, indeed!

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  I also agree that this is possibly one of the greatest Jarvis settings ever. Completely fictional, and thus awesome. Also, I can’t help but wonder – where is the city of Hara actually located? Not what country it’s in, but physically located in that country. For instance, we know the Deptford Mice live in empty houses, we know the Greenwich squirrels live under the ground. So you can imagine all these places actually existing.

But an entire city with a massive statue of the Green Mouse towering over it? Is it built deep in the jungle somewhere where no human ever sees it? Does the same magical mist that protects the ships of Hara from being seen by evil eyes also protect them from human eyes?

I don’t even want to overthink it too much anyway, because regardless of how it works, the city is just a brilliant concept overall and another layer to the mythology of the Green.

 

Thomas | Chapter 10

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‘Know now the truth of Suruth Scarophion. He whom we in Hara name Gorscarrigern – the Coiled One.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I spoke a little about settings in Chapter 4, but I want to add to that a bit by saying that in that little corner of Crete, strewn with shipwrecked corpses and acrid with the reek of despoiling fires, Mr Jarvis has really excelled himself. The Shrine of Virbius and its environs are vivid and multi-layered enough to host an entire novel, and the drama which unfolds upon its shores in the brief time we spend there is certainly enough to fill one.

There is the shrine itself; ancient, crumbling, now despoiled for good. There are the groves and grasses sloping down to the sands, upon which the twin tragedies of Neltemi, last of the Twelve Maidens, and Mulligan, last of his line, are enacted. Then there’s the shore itself, already a place of death, into which the bearers of the book’s second act march with silver helms and grim intent. What a place, what a stage, and what a well-orchestrated transition into the next part of Thomas and Woodget’s quest.

Behold noble Captain Chattan, ten times the warrior that Fenlyn Purfote ever was, a paragon of grace and righteousness. As a character, he’s impeccable – strong but gentle, brave but compassionate, endearingly rash in his endeavours to get at those pesky forktails. He is Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in armour, a friend to all who abhor the Serpent’s brood, and Sarpy help me but I really like him. Who wouldn’t? Look at that red cape, and those adorable little mask markings around his eyes! If nothing else, he’s a foe I’d be pleased to face in battle, should the occasion ever arise. Karim is equally worthy, but I’ll get to him later on.

Of course, the greatest joy for me in this chapter is that my darling snookums is so far evading discovery. I’d pray to the Dark Despoiler to keep him safe, but I daresay they’re both too interested in what the fragments are doing to take any notice.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’m in a rush to catch up on my Thomas reading, so forgive me if my contributions for the rest of the book are somewhat shorter than my esteemed Scottish colleague. 

So all I’ll say on this chapter is: Mongooses. Genius, genius Jarvis character invention. Because of course, as Aufwader has mentioned with her Kipling reference above, if you wanted rodent-like creatures from India as hero characters, what other type of animal would they be?

Thomas | Chapter 9

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So perished Mulligan, the last of his line, and penultimate custodian of the ninth fragment. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I loved the scene with Woodget and Zenna so much that it was the first drawing I ever posted on Silvering Sea. The mermouse and her shadowy realm suggest, but never explain, some fundamental things about the Deptford universe. Though I said earlier that I don’t really want to know anything more about the sea-daughters, those ‘nameless spirits and cloistered intellects’ of the deep dark oceans are definitely something to mull over.

Of course, what everyone really remembers about this chapter is Mulligan’s grisly demise. I will happily clutch my pearls with the rest of you over any number of distressing Robiny deaths. Piccadilly? Ouch! Oswald? Get me a hanky to mop my tears! Dab? Vesper? Tysle? Squirrels in the Ring of Banbha? Dreadful, awful, horrific, don’t even talk about it!

Almost any manner of morbidly-imagined exit can make me wince in the right circumstances, but the black blood of Sarpedon runs in my veins, and I’m sorry everybody but however much I like Mulligan, I honour the Dark Despoiler more. Take that, Green Council! Take that, goody-two-shoes wholetails! May your paltry endeavours crumble before your eyes!

On a more wholesome note, bless Woodget in this chapter. Look at him, being all stoic and getting on with things despite that he’s just been in an honest-to-goodness shipwreck and almost drowned. His character journey is similar to Vesper’s in some ways, in that he slowly loses his naiveté as a result of the suffering he endures. It’s heart-rending to read, even for a jaded old reptile such as I. Fare you well, Master Pipple. May you come out of this chapter’s cliffhanger with your fluffy little head still attached to your shoulders.

Matt’s Thoughts: What a dark and devious co-blogger I have …

But I must admit, was there any precedent anywhere in the realms of anthropomorphic animal tales for inserting this sort of body horror? I feel with the original Mice trilogy that the violence was visceral but within enough bounds that it could possibly become an animated film (albeit of a darker shade).

However, by the time you get to Thomas, I feel like Mr Jarvis had worked out his readers’ limits and how far he could go – and then just goes there. It’s violent, it’s high stakes, it reels us right in. Someone like Nathaniel Crozier might well be one of the darkest villains, but the Scale have a love of violence and suffering that puts them in a class of their own as Jarvis villains.

Anyway, I can’t natter when we’ve got a chapter ending like that hanging over our heads (gag intended). Onwards!

Up Next Reminder | The Power of Dark

 

 

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Egmont UK, 2016

When we set out to do this re-read, Aufwader and I discussed in what order we were going to tackle the Jarvis canon. We have both thoroughly enjoyed working through in chronological order – with all the fascinating switches between the Whitby mythology and the Deptford Histories.

BUT …

We’re also aware that while all of this is going on, all of us have been ploughing through the Witching Legacy books as they appear, and probably have all sorts of fan discussions that are keen to happen as well.

My own philosophy is that I would like this to be a site where we don’t just re-read the old favourites, but even when we’re finished at the end of next year, that this can be a place where we re-gather every time a new Jarvis title appears to geek out, gasp and pass the tissues around. And, hey, it will encourage him to write them fast. (Just kidding, Mr Jarvis – you take your time.)

And so, what we’re going to do is move onto the first three Witching Legacy books for the next three months, which will take us through to the end of the year. That will leave us all well and truly hanging on for Book 4 in 2018. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I started a new job a couple of months ago. It’s been so busy that I’ve barely been getting through Thomas, and thus there’s a shiny new copy of Time of Blood which I haven’t been able to crack open yet. I’m insanely jealous of the rest of you.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that we’re returning to Whitby sooner rather than later! Next year, we’ll go back to the Wyrd Museum series in January and continue to go chronologically through the back catalogue, except for the month when Witching Legacy 4 appears, when we will all have a grand read-through as soon as it appears in the stores.

How exciting will that be?

As for editions, there are two floating out there – the general paperback and the awesome hardback edition, which has been autographed by Robin. If you can track down one of the latter, that’s the one to have. (I also must add, that I love the typesetting and look and feel of this series. It’s a beautifully laid-out book and it features tons of superb Jarvis illustrations, so definitely grab a physical copy of it if you’ve got the shelf space.)

Oh yeah, and Mr Jarvis made a book trailer as well, so we’ve got to throw that in!

And now – let’s get back to what Aufwader and I affectionately refer to as Tom vs the Lizard Club.

Thomas | Chapter 8

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Night bright stars from out the void, shining up on high. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I did not enter the forktail fold for reasons of romance – I am one of the Scale out of devotion to Him Wot Kips Up In Them There Bright n’ Sparkly Heavens, and proud I am of my constancy in that regard. However, perhaps by chance or perhaps because the Dark Despoiler watches over His own, romance found me but a few short chapters after my rapturous conversion.

Permit me a soppy sigh at the mention of Dahrem Ruhar; love of my life, holder of my heart, my chevalier in shining talons. He to whom I was solemnly wed in the sight of Sarpedon the Mighty, and to whom I pledged an everlasting vow second only to that which we both swore to our terrible and most majestic Lord.

If any of you are still reading at this point (and frankly I wouldn’t blame you for skipping down to Matt’s section in double quick time) you may be wondering what in the very name of the nine stars I could possibly see in a snizzly little whippet of a mouse with the world’s most irritating disguise. I admit, his real voice is partly to blame, but let’s just say that there’s more to this vile villain than meets the eye.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I know my blogging colleague has a great love of all things Scale but I will be honest – this chapter got under my skin a bit more than I expected. Obviously, I think a lot of us saw Dimlon coming from a while back. But I think this chapter gets to me because, even six or seven years ago when I read this book, things like ritual beheadings and bloodthirsty cults were mostly a thing of fantastic fiction. There was a certain distance to it.

Whereas, nowadays, I feel like we live in bleaker times, where that line between fact and fiction is not so clearly defined. And so I find the Scale just that bit more dark and dangerous relative to other Jarvis villains. (Except perhaps for the characters in the Dancing Jax series, but we’ll talk about them next year.)

But then, by the same token, I think the reason I have been drawn again to Robin Jarvis books in my late 30s is because he does tackle the issue of evil head-on. The world does contain people and groups who sometimes do act in cruel ways – and even if we don’t encounter people who are that bad, we all have to deal with the fact that life throws us curve-balls a lot of the time.

The question is: are we going to be brave? Are we going to stand up, even at great cost to ourselves and do the right thing? And this chapter, with the brave final actions of Mulligan and Neltemi, is a terrific example of that noble sacrifice element that runs through his stories and thrills all his fans.

Thomas | Chapter 7

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‘Fare you well, Master Pipple,’ Simoon breathed in a soft, sorrowful whisper. ‘Many are the ordeals that yet await you. May such blessings as are in my power to grant go with you. But I dread that against the trials to come, their humble strength will fail. I pray that you do not.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The scene where Simoon spies on the ship of the Scale at the start of this chapter is hands down my favourite scene in the Deptford Histories. Yes, over all the other stuff that’s soon to happen in this book. Yes, over Hobb arising from the Pit in The Oaken Throne or Jupiter’s battle of sorcery with Doctor Spittle in The Alchymist’s Cat. It’s just. It’s glorious. I cannot stress enough how much I love that scene.

The way it begins, with Simoon being the only creature left awake on board the Calliope, cloaked in moons and stars in the deadly dark of night. The way the slightly archaic turns of phrase (‘a tranquil, moonlit country rising gracefully from the shimmering sea’) carry the reader along like breaking waves. The blending of the mundanity of the present with the darkly gilded past of which Simoon spoke to Thomas and Woodget, and the sudden revelation that every word of that ‘rattling yarn’ is completely true. Give me this book as a lovingly-rendered old stop-motion, and give me this scene and nothing but this scene for a trailer.

Then comes Thomas’s first storm on board ship, and his first meeting with the pitiless wine-dark sea. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Jarvis had gone so far as to research real shipwrecks for this chapter, because the nightmare moments in the hold of the Calliope are startlingly realistic, and at times quite queasy-making. The illustration that goes with them also haunts my dreams a bit, and when our heroes finally go down to the deeps, you find yourself fearing for them even though you can plainly see that there’s more than half a book still to go.

Matt’s Thoughts: You know, there was a time when all great old-fashioned classic books seemed to contain a shipwreck: Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson and – let’s face it – what would The Famous Five do in their holidays if there weren’t old shipwrecks to check out?

But I’m not sure that we do nautical tales like that quite so much for kids any more, so this chapter felt somewhat nostalgic but also quite sinister with the arrival of The Threat. It’s one thing to have a mysterious assassin with gold claws. But creatures that can control the weather? Another thing altogether.

Also, where are the humans in this section? It’s unspoken, but the ship being torn apart by an unholy storm really means that the entire ship got shipwrecked (perhaps with no human survivors) because some vicious followers of an ancient serpent decided to go after a few rodents hiding in the hold. Like, if you think about it too much, it sounds crazy. Like the world being torn apart by the ghost of a giant cat.

But the charm of Mr Jarvis is that his ideas always work. Of course the followers of the Scale are trying to sink the boat and rip the whole thing apart. It’s the ramp-up of the tension.

P.S. Sorry, Aufwader, I imagined the whole Simoon vision as a spectacularly engineered computer-generated 3D effect. But given the age of the book, your stop-motion wins, so I’ll give you this one.