Aufwader’s Thoughts: The Deptford Mice Almanack is a rare and beautiful curiosity. Probably the closest thing to an artbook that Mr Jarvis has ever released, it slipped under the radar about as soon as it was published and is now something of a collector’s item. I didn’t actually know of its existence until a few years ago, and was delighted to discover this treasure trove of rodent lore and exquisite original paintings.
Although the Almanack follows on from the finale of the Deptford Mice Trilogy, it has none of the derivative feel of a series tie-in, and all of Robin’s trademark attention to plot continuity and world-building. It might be in wide and colourful format, but this is to all intents and purposes the next instalment in the epic of A Few Small Mousies Against The Forces Of Darkness, and it shows in the depth of the story woven between the titbits of in-universe mythology and folklore.
As for Gervase Brightkin; official limner to Audrey the Starwife, as a premise I find him to be quite endearingly self-aware. In the hands of a lesser author it might seem somewhat glib, or even vain, to insert oneself into one’s own story. Here, however, it works with the tone rather well – we all know Mr Brightkin is Robin in disguise, we all know it’s a twee conceit to make yourself a squirrel for the fun of it, but then, ‘for the fun of it’ is the point. The Almanack is Mr Jarvis throwing a party in honour of his own world, and we’re all invited to attend.
January starts us off in characteristically bleak fashion, with the most notable date being the grandly-titled Day of Deliverance on the 18th, upon which Audrey liberated the world of Jupiter’s menace from atop the Greenwich Observatory dome. Our heroine also has her birthday on the 3rd, directly following the day in honour of the Fir Realm, that most musical of squirrel houses. January also introduces both the Squirrel Calendar, with each month named for a different tree, and the Rat Zodiac, a delicious piece of villainous esoterica complete with moon phases in the houses of Hobb, Mabb and Bauchan. What are your favourite entries for this month, Readers all?
Matt’s Thoughts: Not having read the Almanack before, I love the concept. I also now realise why there have been some fans clamouring for more Deptford stories – clearly those hints by the writer Gervase Brightkin that something bad is on the move is a suggestion that all may not be peaceful for our mice in Deptford just yet …
And, by the way, I love the fact that all the squirrels at Greenwich seem to have spectacularly pretentious names.
As for the Almanack entries themselves – what a sad January that was to remember! Piccadilly, Oswald, Mr Oldnose, Holeborn being decimated. It would take a long time for those memories to die down.
Most poignant entry, though, was the one about the Sadhu giving the wooden figures to Kempe. This is a small detail but in chapter 5 of The Crystal Prison, Kempe has those figures and shows them to Twit. What a layer of irony that entry adds to that scene now!