Time of Blood | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘What horrors are in you?’ she muttered. ‘I am so relieved we never found out. But I’m sure there’d have been fewer survivors at the end of it if we had.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter is special and precious. It has Tarr! It has Nelda’s parents and Hesper! All together! I’m emotional!

Aufwader nostalgia aside, I love the little moments of world building that we get here. The devil’s paintbox is buried and the witch’s names written in the great ledger. Lil now knows about both Shameless Rose, and the secret stairway from Nannie’s cottage to the aufwader caves. What marvels will come of that hidden way in Legacy of Witches, I ask myself? What of the Guild of Time Witches of whom Nannie spoke a few chapters previously?

Matt’s Thoughts: And nice to see the aufwaders back again. Of course, by this stage, if Nettie and Abel are sweet on each other, then those of us reading the original trilogy will realise that this must be Nelda’s Mum and Dad. But by the same token, if you haven’t read any of those books, these characters work just as well for new readers.

Another aspect I really love is the way that Nannie Burdon – while being completely different – has stepped into the mentoring role for Lil that Cherry Cerise used to have. You can feel that Lil herself may be one of these middle-aged / older women in the future and that the training she has picked up from not just one but two Whitby witches, will put her in good stead for her future battles against evil.

Unless Whitby is going to settle down and stop having weird stuff happen to it all the time.

Probably not likely.

But never mind that – here’s Dark on the prowl for another neck. Grace we could handle, we didn’t know her that well. But Lil’s ancestor? We’ve now hit that point where the story could go anywhere …

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Time of Blood | Chapter 6

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘From rhomboid minor down to latissimus dorsi,’ she said proudly, pointing with the scissor blade. ‘Our master is growing such a magnificent new pair of wings to attach there. I will assist him in the operation. And then, my darling pet, you shall fly faster and higher than you ever have.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What a creepy one! First Silas’s clandestine meeting with the Herald (hey Irl, just hang in there my dude, only a century more to go) then Verne being prepared for sinister surgery, and finally Martha’s fairytale transformation into Miss Whitby 1890.

Honestly I’m not sure which is more unnerving; Mister Dark’s nefarious schemes, or the implication that the Lords of the Deep tampered in some way with Lil’s well-meant scarf. As was frequently stated in the first trilogy, the Deep Ones can do literally anything, and we all know how bitter, petty and malign they can be. It doesn’t bode well for our spooky happenings duo, nor indeed for ol’ Whitby bay.

Matt’s Thoughts: That Silas Gull – does he just skulk around until some person with a darkly magical bent comes along and offers him booze? Wasn’t he doing all of this in The Whitby Witches? What do the rest of the aufwaders do with him in the decades in-between malignant magicians? Or does he just lurk around the caves full of bitterness, neither completely included or completely ostracised from the world of the aufwaders?

Meanwhile, beauty and tentacles … great combination. Oh yeah, and if you haven’t done a Google image search on Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s Whitby photography, you really should. It makes the whole book come alive.

In fact, if I was making a Netflix series of these books, and the crowd had kept up with me through the first two books, I’d almost be tempted to film this one in the same sort of sepia colour just as a nod to the photographs.

Time of Blood | Chapter 5

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘How terrible it would be if Whitby became merely a town of vanished bygones, invisible as ghosts to the grandchildren of our grandchildren. The fossils found along our coast call to us of a history long disappeared. I wish for my photographs to do the same.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What I love about Robin’s period pieces is how he manages to be so centred in the era, without it ever feeling forced or gimmicky. Which other middle-grade writer of today would casually include the Ewbank, gigot sleeves, bathing machines, and Frank Meadow Sutcliffe in the same chapter? Very Victorian, one and all, but somehow, none of it feels tacked-on. As a reader I feel like an inhabitant of 1890s Whitby, not a historical tourist. Is it just me? I honestly feel like this is something Robin does exceptionally well.

Speaking of Sutcliffe, what an uncanny moment when Lil is photographed, knowing she will find said photo in the devil’s paintbox almost a century hence. I love that despite all the upheaval and trauma she has been through, she still has the wherewithal to be inquisitive about Sutcliffe and to feel sorry that he’ll never know the full social and historical impact of his work. (Imagine if she had shown him her phone! All of time and space might’ve collapsed! Wise girl.)

We also get a little bit of Martha-centred heartbreak surrounding the photograph. Sad though it is, it’s also a piece of classic Robin Jarvis character-building. Of course Martha’s vapid wedding talk is a sticking plaster on crushing self-image issues and fear of ridicule. What do you mean, comic relief? What do you mean, happy secondary characters? Pheh! Paah! Not likely! In all seriousness though, I am reminded of Twit, and funnily enough, he had marriage troubles too…

Matt’s Thoughts: I will admit that this chapter finally roused my curiosity enough to research the two gentlemen who feature heavily. The Irishman was an easy enough suspect, but the actor was a little less well-known to me. I’m not sure what degree of information revealing will come later in the book, so I’ll leave you to do your own googling for now, but it’s a great touch to have these characters tied in.

In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series is that I never thought we’d end up here. I’m not sure what I was expecting with a four-book series set in Whitby: perhaps something like the Whitby Witches series but slightly shorter? But this whole thing of time-travel, historical Whitby, goths, steampunks, 7os disco – and knitting, let’s not forget knitting – is something I would never have seen coming. I can barely imagine how you tie this altogether into a finale, but I’m sure it will work.

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.