The Power of Dark | Chapter 9

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Magic might be real, but it was also incredibly alarming!

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The cover of this book is really excellent, but I’ve always thought that, had it been painted in the tradition of Robiny covers, Verne soaring over the West Cliff would have made a great back-cover image. I’m well aware that the look of the original Whitby Witches trilogy is somewhat dated on the bookshelves of today and that the time of the manual airbrush has sadly passed, but a fan can gaze at her box-set and dream.

So in this chapter we come back to Tracy Evans, and a delightful sending-up of that most infamous of genres, the young adult paranormal romance. I can picture it already –

Tracy Evans is an ordinary girl with ordinary problems – neglected by her uncaring boyfriend and bored with life in the small, sleepy seaside town of Whitby. One night, while messing about with a home-made oujia board, she and her friends make contact with a mysterious spirit known only as D-A-R-K.

In the days that follow, Dark approaches Tracy again, claiming to be able to speak from the beyond via her mobile phone. Tracy has no time for what she’s sure must be a prank, but Dark is so very charming and persuasive, and all he asks is a little blood to strengthen the bond between them…

This subplot might seem like Mr Jarvis riffing on YA romance in the same way that Freax and Rejex examined and dissected the YA dystopia, and it is. But the luring-in of Tracy has a more serious component, in that it’s the story of Nathaniel Crozier and Jennet updated for a modern audience.

In an age where the ‘perfect boyfriend’ fantasy is more likely to be a supernatural, seemingly-immortal being than a humble but charming tweed-jacketed professor, Tracy’s story arc conveys the same message as Jennet’s. In real life, dashing warlocks are often abusive, twisted individuals who will use others for their own ends, and that cute guy you met on a dating app may in fact turn out to be the worst kind of vampire.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: The whole flying scene with the Nimius was a little bit Harry Potterish for me, so I was thinking, ‘This book is much lighter in tone than a regular Jarvis novel, isn’t it?’

And then there was a teenage girl being texted by a creepy dead guy. (Using a fake profile as well!) Anyway, as a parent of a soon-to-be-teenager, if I ever even let her have a mobile phone, you can be sure I will be checking for bloodstains …

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The Power of Dark | Chapter 8

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‘Old truths have been forgot. Land sakes, people, you threw away what was real and ran to embrace cotton-candy whimsy instead. This island’s bones are cemented over and y’all were happy to let it happen. That’ll cost you mighty dear.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Whenever I remember that Cherry Cerise is based on a real person I feel as bright as Lil’s knitted creations. Of course, the fictional Cherry has a bit of Robiny magic in her to blend her with the setting, but there are people we meet in our everyday lives who have other kinds of magic in them, who instantly snazz-up your day (as Cherry might put it) and make you think ‘which story have you stepped out of?’

Having said that, I like that Lil isn’t immediately comfortable around her, and that Cherry is blunt and rude, rather than a Miss Honey-like mentor figure. Miss Boston was rather short-tempered and grating too, at times, but she was officially Ben and Jennet’s guardian and they were lumbered with her. Lil, on the other hand, already has parents, and I like that she stands up for them even despite the peculiar upbringing they foisted upon her.

Speaking of Miss Boston, I love the recreation of that scene at the start of The Whitby Witches where she and her new charges huddle in the selfsame graveyard – probably even sitting near Lil’s bench – and have their first heart-to-heart. You can really feel history overlapping. I’ve never been to Whitby, but I’ve often felt that certain very ancient sites hold some memory of the happenings they’ve seen, and the scene between Lil and Cherry in the cemetery evokes that feeling.

I have to laugh when Cherry says of Scaur Annie’s head, ‘Word is, the skull’s gone AWOL’. Matt already made the joke about Annie having a second job as Robin’s book-tour accomplice, but it’s pretty hilarious to imagine her being late to haunt Lil’s mirror with the excuse, ‘I have a life, you know.’

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Who would have thought that the Morgawrus and his filthy tear-pool would get a second look in? (It is a great concept, though, so I’m glad to see it back again.)

Also, what sort of Canadians has Robin met in his lifetime? I go to an international conference every few years and I always found that Americans were good for the enthusiasm and hype, people from the UK were good for a night at the pub and Candians were good when you wanted to calm down a bit. They’re normally so mild-mannered!

But Cherry, with her wild colours and slightly obnoxious manner (which cleverly mask the depths of her personality) is quite a character!

 

 

Up Next Reminder | The Devil’s Paintbox

devils paintbox

Get your home and contents insurance together (is that what they call it in the UK?) because things are going to get cataclysmic in Whitby in Book 2 of the Witching Legacy, The Devil’s Paintbox.

I won’t say any more about the story here, but needless to say, if you’re finding the current goings-on in The Power of Dark to be a bit grim, that’s going to seem like a picnic full of fairy bread and cupcakes compared with what’s waiting in an ordinary-looking box of paints.

More great illustrations, more Whitby, more suspense – and, of course, more myth and sacrifice.

Pick up your copy now so that you’re ready to go as soon as we hit November!

 

The Power of Dark | Chapter 7

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‘Oh, far out!’ she cried. ‘That is so funky. Lookin’ good, Whitby, lookin’ good!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: All right but I really, really hate that scene with the diorama. It terrifies me, a grown adult, so that I can’t read it over and have to zoom past that page in order to not even lay eyes on it for a second. Lordy.

That side, here’s a spooky story for you all: last summer, literally the day after I had read this chapter, a bench in the park I frequent was yarnbombed. Just one bench, and not even in a busy part of the park. It was a beautiful job too, all colours of the rainbow and very sturdy. It lasted all through the Scottish winter, and I don’t know about you, but I reckon there was magic involved.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Great little creepy  set-piece with the electric chair automaton, but my favourite line of all is ‘Our Verne isn’t a wizard … it’s just his hormones.’ But then again, what would our parents have said to us if we’d started doing weird stuff like this when we were younger?

On the whole, I find this book has a more intriguing set-up than some of the others. While most Jarvis books would be in dark and dangerous territory by this stage, we have a lot of flashbacks to the past, but not necessarily anything super-life threatening in the present. But, of course, for those who’ve read the rest of the book, all of these bits and pieces become increasingly significant.

 

The Power of Dark | Chapter 6

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‘Just one brief glance within,’ she told herself. ‘None shall ever know and I won’t never doubt him again.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So all that promotional business with Nettie was a beastly swizz and the aufwaders only appear in flashbacks, hm? Hmm, Robin? Hmmmm? 

I wish I could feel swindled, but honestly the alternative was that there were some aufwaders who missed the boat at the end of The Whitby Child, which would rather dampen the mythic glory of their final departure in that finale. So thank you, Mr Jarvis, you did this story and your readers a good turn.

Speaking of the historic segments, goodness me but I wish Annie and Melchior would communicate like an actual couple. Would it have killed ol’ Melchy to just say something like ‘I wish I could tell thee but forsooth tis probably very dangerous and I would fain die rather than see harm come to a hair of thy fair head’ or something equally gallant, and left it at that? Not that Annie is any better, I mean – Nettie’s questionable advice aside –  she could’ve handled things more openly all together.

On a final note, who doesn’t love Catesby? What a devilish little abomination! Can I keep him?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Clearly I’m not the only one who thought that picture of Scaur Annie’s head was freaky, given that Robin happily carts the replica around. But can you imagine it playing out on TV or in a movie? Eurghh ….

Also, I also have to throw in a vote for Catesby as one of my favourite Jarvis creations. I don’t know where he came up with the idea, but it’s just brilliant. I loved the idea of Catesby as a name for him just when he was a cat (‘because he was always lurking in the cellars, like that traitor with the gunpowder’). But when you add in bat wings as well? There’s just something quirky and great about it.

The Power of Dark | Chapter 5

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I  W-I-L-L  B-E  W-I-T-H  Y-O-U  S-O-O-N

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Tracy and friends are honestly so much fun to read. Their sullen posturing contrasted with the childlike glee they take in laughing at Lil and sniping at each other, reminds me strongly of the adolescent characters in the Dancing Jax trilogy. In those books we learned that Mr Jarvis can write teenagers extremely well, and this shows here to, albeit in far different context to the life-or-death trauma of Freax and Rejex and Fighting Pax.

I really like the mirroring we’ve had so far with Lil and Verne. Lil is head-butted by Scaur Annie and ends up in her mind, then Verne brings home the Nimius and lands in The Life and Times of Sir Melchior Pyke. It’s all leading up to something momentous, but in between, there’s Mister Dark to consider. Cut down from the gallows, eh? Revived by ‘electricus’ on the operating table of an alchymist and natural philosopher, eh? Frankly, I’m with Annie on that one. Pyke ought to have let sleeping evil lie.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Another layer to the backstory. Quite enjoying the structural side of this one – flashes between both past and present, between West Cliff and East Cliff, Lil and Verne, Scaur Annie and Melchior Pyke.

This structure is no accident, of course – you may have noticed the two opposing cliff faces on the cover, so it all serves a purpose.

Rather like the old-but-never-tired trope of the spooky homemade ouija board. I think ever since Captain Howdy showed up to freak people out in the 70s, those scenes always freak people out. Well, they certainly give me the creeps. You couldn’t pay me to play with one of those things!

The Power of Dark | Chapter 4

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He reached down and scraped more of the mud away. The revealed gold reflected the sunlight up into his eyes. Verne caught his breath and took the strange find in his hands. What could it be?

Aufwader’s Thoughts: There are some absolute gems in the dialogue between Lil and Verne as they walk along the beach, but my favourite has to be when Verne reassures Lil that he believes her when she says she didn’t steal Scaur Annie’s ‘manky head’, and then mutters that it’d be a cool thing to have. Bless.

Then there’s the nimius, or, as I like to call it, the result of somebody’s black-market deal with the Scale. Look at it, though. Nobody else in Robiny canon does gold filigree so fine. Even if whatever powers it holds are in no way Scale-related, the mark of the Serpent is on it, or I’m not a faithful forktail!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Well, it turned out that Scaur Annie’s head was down at the local bookshop being guarded by some grim-looking fellow with a beard…  (It’s okay, we checked and there was no tweed jacket, so it’s not Nathaniel returned to town.) 

So that solves that mystery! But it leaves us with the mystery of the Nimius. What is it? What can it do? What’s inside it? What is it with Whitby and severed hands?

I wouldn’t mind having a Jack Potts costume but I wouldn’t have the patience to assemble the whole thing. Also, did anybody else get reminded of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by the automaton? Or is that just me?