Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Red for the mother, white for the maiden and black for the crone.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I knew Celandine would turn out to be important! Foolish Neil for disregarding her words, for we the readers know them to contain strands of significance. Ursula might be aware that her sister gambols about the museum at night, but how much does she know of the state of Celandine’s mind? Perhaps that bestockinged lady is cannier than everyone believes.
In this chapter we also get a bit of genuine Jarvis Scare with the museum as a living entity, out to confound and consume young Neil. (Poor kid, even his new home is out to get him.) Sadly, what truly awaits our hero in this trilogy makes his imagined crouching fiend seem like a pretty daydream.
Matt’s Thoughts: As a fan of movies, I’ve always found it a funny thing that acting is prized as being the be-all and end-all of a film, without recognising that in many cases, the location of the story itself can be much more interesting even than the characters in the story.
How many great darkly fantastic cinema tales have we seen where a character arrives at a place that is somewhat dark and spooky? In this particular case, it is not the acting that usually creates that atmosphere, but in fact it’s the set-building, the lighting, the props people – these are the people who have done the magic to draw the audience in.
All of which Robin has an eye for – either on purpose or instinct drawn from his experience in television. So once the building gets dark and Neil is wandering through rooms without end and getting lost, the spookiness is real and palpable. I have no idea whether this story is going to get as dark and violent as all its predecessors, but I love it based on atmosphere alone.
Then, the other part that I love is that for the first time – that I’ve spotted so far – Robin’s books are connecting with another well-established fantasy world: that of Wagner’s Ring Cycle! More correctly, he is probably drawing on the ancient Norse myths which inspired Wagner to write the Ring Cycle operas (and later Tolkien as well), but I’ll talk about Wagner because I used to be a huge fan of the Ring Cycle in my younger days. (That was before I had three kids and struggled to find time to listen to a 16-hour-operatic tetralogy). The part that I’m thinking of is the beginning of the final opera of the four, Twilight of the Gods (which translates, as only German can, into one single word: Götterdämmerung). In the opening scene, three Norns appear – three sisters weaving the loom of fate.
I’m pretty sure they also explain in that scene – if not, then it’s somewhere – about the concept of the World Ash Tree, from which all things arise.
There is also, of course, the concept of the Triple Goddess as well: the mother, the maiden and the crone, which is being drawn on here too.
Normally, this would be all very grand and operatic, but in the Jarvis version, the sisters are stuck in a corner of East London, perhaps even going senile. And the remainders of the ash tree are sitting in an old water fountain out in the backyard. It’s understated and brilliant and we know it’s all going to come alive.