Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The coffin began to fill with blood, and from that blood a horde of repulsive tentacles hatched. They tore through the wedding gown, and the perfect features of Martha’s face bubbled and burst until only a monster of scales remained.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Sometimes I sing the praises of the artists and designers who have worked around Mr Jarvis in recent years to make his books the lovely, oh-so-collectable things that they are. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.
The scene described in the above quote is clearly what the cover of this book was trying to portray, but in this instance I have to give an honest critique and say I feel it falls somewhat short. There is no sense of lingering horror, the tentacles could have been a great deal more repulsive, and there’s not even a stylised hint of blood. As for Martha, she is nowhere in evidence, melting or otherwise.
Sorry everyone, but imagery as grotesque as that needs the Robin Jarvis touch. Illustrations or no illustrations, the design team might have taken a chance just the once, and handed the covers over to the writer, who, by the by, also happens to have been painting book covers professionally for thirty years. If hell-eyed barguests and unholy fishmonkeys were allowed in the early 1990s, I think a few tortuous tentacles and a bit of bubbling bride is a small ask.
Middle-grade covers are no less lurid now than they were when the original Whitby trilogy came out, so offended parents and teachers are no excuse; young readers are always going to be bloodthirsty regardless. That said, I’m sure whoever decided upon these covers had their reasons. At least the limited rerelease of The Whitby Witches that came out this year is a small work of art in itself, and makes up for a multitude of design sins.
Now that I’ve had my whinge about that, let’s look at the brine and thunder of this chapter. Lil thinks she has found Verne at last, but oh no! It is Lil who ends up in mortal peril! (I knew those bathing machines were foreshadowing.) Then Abe Shrimp and Silas have their altercation, sparking what will eventually become the feud to which Abe will lose his life. Finally, one of the mysterious gentlemen who has been following the doings of Mister Dark reveals himself, and of course it’s Bram Stoker. Really, was it going to be anybody else at this point? Bring on the true Whitby Gothic.
Matt’s Thoughts: For some reason, when Pirates of the Caribbean did tentacley humanoid beings in their second movie, it was sort of a bit laughable. But the vision of Martha with the scales and tentacles is really creepy.
Only equalled by the creepiness that somebody has grafted wings onto Verne …
Anyway, the best part is that now the Irishman has been revealed as Bram Stoker, which thus makes his acting companion, Henry Irving – a superstar of his day. Whereas nowadays, of course, none of us know Irving and all of us know Bram Stoker. Only with the advent of film could actors become true immortals and have their performances passed on to future generations. Before that, the greatest theatre actor could only live on in the memories of those who had seen him perform. Fascinating, isn’t it?