Up Next | The Woven Path & The Deptford Mice Almanack

Hi, Matt here, with an update on what’s coming next:

In January of next year – We can’t believe we made it through 12 months of blogging our way through Jarvis! – we’ll be starting both the Tales from the Wyrd Museum series, and also reading through the Almanack entries for each month. So, if you want to keep up with us, you’ll need to get yourself two books for next month!

Let’s start with the Museum …

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The Woven Path is a bit of an abandoned book for me. I remember buying it when I came out. In fact, I loved the original cover artwork, featuring an elaborate arched doorway and a terrified, one-armed teddy bear fleeing from what looked like an enormous cockroach with glowing red eyes. (As an Australian, I can appreciate the fear of giant cockroaches: the things are miserable.)

However, like all of my Jarvis books from Warlock in Whitby onwards, I never got around to reading them at the time they came out. I eventually caught up on the remaining Whitby and Deptford Histories books, and later on down the track I decided to jump back in to Jarvis when Dancing Jax came out.

But the poor old Wyrd Museum either sat in boxes in cupboards or on shelves, unread, moving from house to house. So I never did find out – who was that giant cockroach? What was the teddy bear’s full backstory? (There are some hints at it on Robin’s author website, but they only make me more curious.)

So, finally, the time has come to dust off my still mint-condition originals and give it a read. Looking forward to it!

If you’re looking to buy a copy, this one is still in print on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition, all of which contain the original illustrations(Though sadly the terrified teddy bear no longer features on the latest covers.)

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Meanwhile, now that we’ve read our way through everything Deptford barring the Mouselets, we thought the new year would be a great time to begin the Deptford Mice Almanack. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a guide to the year, arranged in months and date entries – explaining further lore of all the characters and societies from the Deptford books. It probably won’t make as much sense if you haven’t read those books, but it’s a beautiful extra enhancement if you have. As soon as I flicked through the first few pages, I immediately decided I didn’t want to read it cover to cover and am going to space it out over the year.

At the end of every month, we’ll do a post on our favourite bits and interesting trivia from that month’s selection of the Almanack. This one is out-of-print, so you will need to do some searching for it, but it is fairly cheap on the second-hand market (at least in the UK) and has heaps and heaps of original illustrations.


Time of Blood | Chapter 4

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I’d been sewing death into my marriage, you see; don’t need to be a knot witch to do that.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Yes! Whitby words! Chelp, fret, haar! (Well, they’re not exclusively Whitby words – ‘haar’ is also an east-of-Scotland thing) but the point remains that Mr Jarvis is introducing young readers to local dialect as skillfully as he ever has. In terms of local tradition, there’s also that wonderfully macabre anecdote about Nannie Burdon mistakenly bringing her wedding handkerchief to a wake, thus dooming her marriage. Between that, the ominous tea-leaf reading, and Martha’s mentions of, well, everything from the first Whitby trilogy, Lil seems to be getting a thorough education in Whitby folklore, and about time too!

I also like that the disparities between Lil’s time and Victorian Whitby are pointed out and made use of, rather than being glossed over. As a girl of 2017, Lil is of course going to be put off by Martha’s well-meaning assumptions that ‘every girl dreams of being a wife’ and that twelve years of age is not too young to begin planning one’s nuptials. This necessary disagreement both highlights the questionable attitudes of the time toward marriage and gender roles, and also furthers the plot by forcing Lil outside. There, she can use her phone for its last remaining purpose, and we get a little nod to the main plot, i.e., Verne Is Still Missing And Lil Has No Idea Where He Is But By Golly She’s About To Find Out.

Then, of course, there’s the set-piece of this chapter in the form of Grace’s walking corpse. How marvellously, gloriously, magnificently gothic. We expected nothing less from Mr Jarvis or, come to think of it, from Mister Dark. But what could the Marquess of Bagdale Hall want with an undead maiden, or indeed, with a zombified Verne? What fiendish devilry is he planning this time?


Matt’s Thoughts: This just gets increasingly brilliant. After so many jokes about a zombie apocalypse in the last couple of books (none of which came to fruition), we now have a re-animated corpse in the Witching Legacy. (You could possibly count Mister Dark in that category, but you know what I mean.) Or is Grace now Undead?

Either way, loving it. I thought for a moment that the flying carriage was a scene from the old 1931 Dracula, but that was my imagination. But I could see Dracula having a flying carriage, you know?

But it’s never good news when we have a fortune telling scene in a Jarvis novel: we know the drill now, Person A tells the fortune of Person B, leaves key bits out, looks worried. We are now filled with dread about what’s going to happen to Person B. In other words, they’re some of the absolute best bits in the Jarvis books – from the original prophecy of Eldritch and Orfeo on down.

Time of Blood | Chapter 3

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Rearing high above the roofs of the new hotels was the tower of an immense windmill. Dominating the top of the cliff, it rose from the centre of a long brick building and was higher than the abbey ruins. It was so imposing, the August sunshine appeared to have no power over it.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Ah yes, the anomalous and distressingly ugly industrial building; a Robin Jarvis classic. Surely, nothing sinister could possibly be going on in that looming five-sailed edifice that seems to absorb even the light of a summer’s day, and dominates the coastline like a sentinel of malign horror. I’m sure Lil will at no point find herself entering its vicinity during this book’s finale to do dire battle with the evil she has journeyed so far through time to confront. Nope. Absolutely not.

As much as I love Nannie Burdon (and that is very much) Martha is my absolute favourite character in this book, if not in this entire series. She has that inexplicable but deeply lovable something that certain of Robin’s characters possess. I’m getting Twit, Dab, and Pear as examples, but I’m sure you’ll agree there are many more. Unlike his righteous ‘goodfolk’ or insidious two-faced villains, this type of character radiates honesty, integrity, and deserves-better-ness from their very first appearance. Which means, of course, that sooner or later they’re for the chop.


Matt’s Thoughts: And this is where real-life macabre doings flows over into the fantasy world. The fact that people actually did have viewings of corpses in their homes is a real-life detail that works effectively here.

But, actually, I think the whole chapter works because it pauses away from the supernatural, and focuses on the human. Grace’s grieving father, struggling with his alcoholism, Nannie Burdon, giving him flack. You can feel the actual tragedy under this that gives an extra layer rather than just waiting for what the next sinister reveal is.

Though with Mrs Axmill offering the family crypt, one can only wonder what is in store there. I’ve personally hated family crypts since I was kid. One part of that was reading ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allan Poe, which had the most terrifying set of italics ***spoiler alert*** I’ve ever seen in my life: We have put her living in the tomb! That sentence just burned a hole in my brain at age 9 or 10 or whenever I read it and utterly Freaked. Me. Out.

The other thing that crypts remind me of was another freaky story of a family crypt (which I thought was in England, but turns out to be Barbados) that, every time they came to bury someone new, they would find that the other coffins had mysteriously moved. It was possibly just internal flooding (or there’s the Wikipedia explanation, which is that the whole thing is just made up), but again – terrifying.

Anyway, enough of my childhood nightmares. Back to 19th century Whitby.

Time of Blood | Chapter 2

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘We’re waking her corpse.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I loved Nannie Burdon the moment I met her. Sorry everyone, but I think I like her better than Cherry Cerise (though of course Aunt Alice will always hold the top spot as far as Whitby Witches are concerned.)

In this book we see evidence of thorough research into the lives of late-Victorian Whitby folk, and the detail is, as always with Mr Jarvis, to a very high standard. I’ve always enjoyed the thought he puts into his historical characters, be they well-trumpeted figures like Elizabeth I, or embellished approximations of ordinary people, like Will Godwin. Nannie Burdon continues a long tradition of such characters, and immediately comes to life as a product of her time, albeit with a distinctly Robiny edge.


Matt’s Thoughts: Does Robin never run out of characters? I’m still amazed by his ability to somehow keep plots moving forward – his stories are always propulsive – and yet if a new character appears, they instantly have enough differentiating features to make them memorable in their own right. (Whether it be their look, their accent or their outlook on life.)

Ditto for Nannie Burdon here – already she’s a completely different type of woman from Alice Boston, Scaur Annie or Cherry Cerise – and yet so immediately the Whitby Witch. And when you see her determination to avenge Grace, it becomes apparent what the common thread is for Whitby Witches: when they need to protect, they are fearless.

Time of Blood | Chapter 1

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Please Lord, help me! Send an angel to protect me from the devils and demons of this house!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Were I a 19th century kitchen maid in some great stately home reading this over my supper, I could not be more thrilled. Shuttered Bagdale Hall with its new, darkly handsome master and his pale, mysterious young ward; howlings and scratchings in the night; a red room wherein lurks some frightful beast; a housekeeper grown cold and distant, with bright, fresh blood upon her cuff. It’s the stuff of penny dreadfuls, and makes a great opener to the lurid period drama that is the third instalment in the Witching Legacy quartet.

I have to say that I got Warlock in Whitby flashbacks from this – specifically, the subplot in which Miss Boston goes to visit her dying friend Patricia at her grand home in London, and ends up in a fistfight with Patricia’s fearsome nurse, a werewitch of the Black Sceptre. Poor Grace is, evidently, not as fortunate as Aunt Alice, and there is no drunken butler to save her in the nick of time.

If I remember correctly, Mr Jarvis took Grace’s name from a young reader. If that’s the case, congratulations to the real Grace for starring, however briefly, in your very own Victorian murder mystery.


Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter here – this is a piece of pastiche artistry.  A whole bunch of ideas that have been foreshadowed for ages (even back to the original trilogy) have all come blazing to life. In some ways, it’s almost like Books 1 and 2 were just a glorious excuse to get to this one. And maybe they were, but they were such cracking yarns with such memorable characters, they did’t at all feel like filler.

But here we go – it’s the 1890s, and all the great supernatural tales of the 19th century are getting a mention. First up, there’s Mrs Paddock’s mention of a Barbary ape, scampering up the ivy. This immediately put me in mind of the legendary short story, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ by Edgar Allan Poe, where ***spoiler alert*** a particularly gruesome murder of two women in an apartment turns out, in the end, to have been committed by an escaped ape that climbed in the window.

Then we’ve got secret rooms that must not be entered, disappearing maids, and clandestine explorations at night by candlelight – what is not to to like? I was tensing up when Grace decided to step into the red room …

That grisly delight was great, but who didn’t get a thrill when we had Mr Dark drawing blood with a syringe, and a mysterious Irishman prowling the streets wondering what is going on? Hell. Yes. I can see where this is going and it’s an absolutely awesome literary nod. It’s one that has been hinted at for ages but was no less brilliant when it arrived.

Time of Blood | Time-Burned

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘See what we bring – a human child, spat out of the darkness. I fear there’s only a gasp of life left in her.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I love this as an opener. Immediately we pick up where we left off at the end of The Devil’s Paintbox, with just enough hints and suggestions to pull us in. Lil will hopefully survive, but what of Verne?

I can remember there being some mutterings about a dearth of aufwader presence when Devil’s Paintbox came out, and perhaps Mr Jarvis was missing their walnutty faces too, because we begin this instalment directly with Hesper and Nettie. Can’t say I blame him, I love me a good bit of fisherfolk gossip, and the aufwaders can always be counted upon to have some sort of soap opera going.

Considering that it’s clearly the Victorian era and Hesper and Nettie are still having trouble with Silas Gull, this chapter really brings home how jolly old the aufwaders are. Those two have probably been dealing with the same angst for centuries, and Hesper at least will still be caught up in that for almost a hundred years. No wonder she has so many worry lines.


Matt’s Thoughts:  I’d never really thought of time travel as something that might cause physical damage, but apparently so. What I like is that it’s not immediately apparent what time we’ve landed in. Bathing machines puts it in the Victorian era, I’m pretty sure, but not quite sure where. Our resident Whitby Witch is not Alice Boston, so we know it’s earlier than her.

But far enough back that we have our aufwaders: Hesper and our new character we met in Power of Dark, Nettie. I have no doubt my blogging colleague would have been happy even if the rest of the book was absolute rubbish just to have a prologue like this one.

But this is just the prologue, there’s a whole book ahead of us, and I’m certainly full of questions: Where is Dark? Where is Verne? Is Dark really going to try to work out his threat from the last book of making two Nimius devices? Would that then be a pair of …Nimii?

Either way, I’m cracking on with the book!