The Deptford Mice Almanack | February

the deptford mice almanack _0004
As I questioned the present Starwife about Piccadilly, her eyes became filled with sorrow, and when she saw the drawings of him which I had drafted from the various descriptions I had heard, she could not speak and rushed quickly away.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: For this little forktail, February is all about Scalian New Year, which I decided at age ten falls upon the 4th. Do not ask me what the significance of that date is because I’ve honestly no idea, but since then, ever year, I have done something to honour Sarpedon the Mighty.

It always seemed to me a bit of a swizz that every other god in the Deptford universe  should have so many festivals and holy days, while the Scale were left standing gloomily on the sidelines. Even Jupiter has the repurposed Hobber rights of First Blood and Goregut to look forward to. Blame it on biased squirrel scribes or ancient records now lost to mould in the Starwife’s archives, but the Scale have been short-changed for high days and revels, and over the years I have done what I can to rectify that sad state of affairs.

Speaking of First Blood, that falls this month, as well as the moon entering the House of Hobb in what should be the start of a new calendar year for all Children of the Raith Sidhe. It may also be noted that these events coincide with one another in a manner that I imagine was quite difficult for Jupiter’s lieutenants to gloss over in the past. Of final note is the birthday of Wendel Maculatum, right in the Peeler – well, that explains his gift for turning sacrifices into ‘art’!

Matt’s Thoughts: I love the illustration for this month – both because it’s possibly one of the single best illustrations of Thomas Triton you’re likely to see, and also because its corresponding entry for the 10th refers to the tossing of the coin to propitiate the Lords of the Deep. Those three can certainly do with plenty of propitiation, that’s for sure!

I loved the mix of the humorous (Madame Akkikuyu’s sniffles remedy) and the tragic (the burial mound of Mr Woodruffe and the entry for Piccadilly’s birthday). Also, given that 18th marks the beginning of the Ash Month, I was actually wondering to what degree the Wyrd Museum was taking shape when this was written?

The idea that ash trees are somewhat distasteful to squirrels because of some dim dark connection to the World Ash Tree, while being completely my own reading into the passage, is an idea that I find quite appealing. You could see somebody like the old Starwife (or even the current one) knowing the whole tale of Yggdrasil and thinking it a rather pathetic example of squabbling divinities engaging in power struggles.

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Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | The Raven’s Knot

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance the names of all those who have fallen to the fatal stroke of Mr Jarvis’ pen. Hero, villain, or neither, we honour their sacrifice for the greater myth of the story.

The deceased of The Raven’s Knot are as follows: 

HAZEL and TOM  (The Raven’s Knot | Prologue) The first victims of the resurrected Valkyrja, Hazel was slain along with Tom as they drove through the Somerset Levels. The vile handmaids of Woden attacked the couple in the dark of night, hurling their car from the air with them still inside after a prolonged chase. May they rest in peace.

OWEN  (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 8 – The Raven’s Knot Ch 12) First victim of the Twelve’s attack upon the Eden’s Bus, Owen was brutally killed by Valkyrie talons.

RHONDA, LUKE, PATRICK, and DOT  (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 8 – The Raven’s Knot Ch 12) The remaining inhabitants of the Eden’s Bus met the same fate as Hazel and Tom, shortly after Owen’s grisly demise. Their ghosts dwell still in the Summer Lands.

AIDAN  (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 8 – The Raven’s Knot | Ch 26) Descendant of Askar and leader of the Well Wishers, Aidan gave his life so that Neil might reach the Holy Thorn in time to be spared the wrath of the Valkyrja. A devoted and courageous servant of the Nornir throughout his life, Aidan was trusted by Miss Ursula in the dark hour when her sister left the sanctuary of the Wyrd Museum to journey to Glastonbury. His memory is honoured by the remaining descendants of Askar.

THOUGHT (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 3 – The Raven’s Knot | Ch 28) Faithful confidant of Woden and leader of the Twelve, Thought the raven was resurrected by the arts of the Gallow’s God, and ordered the carrying out of many heinous murders and deceptions before he was at last destroyed by the spear of Longinus. His maleficent soul is condemned to the void, and never again will he ride the bloody winds of war at his Master’s side.

REVEREND PETER GALLOWAY  (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 4 – The Raven’s Knot | Ch 28) Deceived into Woden’s service, the kind-hearted but weak-willed Reverend Galloway met his end at the cruel beaks and claws of the Valkyrja upon Wearyall Hill. He was able to wrest back his will from the enthralment of Memory and defend himself before his death. Tragically, however, he was slaughtered just before the ascendance of the divine being who had been imprisoned in the body of the elderly Tommy, and so never set eyes upon the holy vision he arguably deserved to see. May the Lord receive his spirit.

TOMMY  (The Raven’s Knot | Ch 6 – The Raven’s Knot | Ch 28) Trapped upon the earth as a wizened vagabond, Tommy was revealed to be angelic, one of the holy host against which the Valkyrja could not stand. In its devouring fires were the Twelve vanquished, and by the death of its human form was it able to ascend once more.

MISS VERONICA WEBSTER [VERDANDI OF THE ROYAL HOUSE OF ASKAR, THIRD OF THE NORNIR]  (The Woven Path | Ch 2 – The Raven’s Knot | Ch 28)   Bearer of the Measure of Doom and erstwhile beloved of Woden before immortality claimed him, Verdandi finally met her end in an act of great bravery, sacrificing herself to save young Edie from the spear of Longinus. Imprisoned in the Wyrd Museum for countless generations with her sisters, she sought freedom at the last, and was able to find a brief happiness despite the guile of Woden. With her death began the Cessation, and the fall of the Spinners of the Wood.

 

MISS VERONICA WEBSTER would like to convey to EDIE DORKINS the following message from the beyond: ‘Look out for the Undine, dear. And always keep your eyes peeled for trouble.’ 

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 28

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Over Glastonbury the celestial, shining being was revealed in all its apocalyptic, dream-like glory and the living plane shuddered at the violence of its reawakening.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So now we get the Valkyries chanting about death! Good call, honestly, there couldn’t have been a better moment to bring that detail up. The manner in which Thought finally expires is also a good touch – he doesn’t just keel over, tongue out, but we get a sizeable paragraph about him gasping sawdust, turning back into a wizened relic, and finally disintegrating all together.

It really emphasis that in this series, Woden is a god of illusion and decay, a false Captain who flies bright banners but wears only bones beneath his gleaming armour. It’s an excellent contrast to the Nornir, who appear crumbling and decrepit, but are in fact the opposite. Fair is foul and foul is fair in Robin Jarvis canon, after all.

Now we have the culmination of all this book’s foreshadowing in the finale – Reverend Galloway really does do brave and holy deeds, Tommy, in a David Almond-like twist, turns out to be a genuine, honest-to-god angel, and, unhappily, only Edie returns to the Wyrd Museum. Alas for Verdandi, and alas for the Spinners of the Wood now that one of their number is no more. What fatal strand is woven into the great tapestry of the Wyrd Museum and all who dwell there? There’s only one way to find out.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Cleverly done, Mr Jarvis. The set-up with Peter about angels not appearing as we expected certainly led us to expect something like the Valkyries, but to have an angelic three-headed dragon?

This also is enough of a massive serpent / dragon reference for me to put the Robin Jarvis Universe back on the table. Does this now give us the prospect that Morgawrus was some sort of fallen angel? Interesting concept, if it is.

Regardless of how – or if – all the Jarvis mythologies tie together, nonetheless, this one has been quite a trip. I would have loved to know more about some of the characters, such as Aidan, Tommy and Peter, but the danger ramped up so quickly and fiercely, they were all pulled into action before we had a chance to get to know them too well, sadly.

I was also hoping to see an appearance by (the real) Woden, given that he caused all this mess, but apart from his sinister epilogue, it appears that I must wait on that front as well. As in, wait till tomorrow. After all, we are moving on to Book 3!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 27

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘… the most powerful instrument of destruction there hast ever been …’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So the truth is revealed at last, and poor Veronica sees all her dreams crumble before her eyes. It’s a heart-wrenching moment; she has spent half the book believing that she might yet find some happiness with her Captain, and escape from the drudgery she has endured for centuries, only to be deceived at the last. Even Edie’s comic turns of phrase (‘we’ve been ‘ad’ has got to be the best reaction to a Robiny betrayal ever) cannot lift the atmosphere of abject despair that this chapter leaves us with. As for poor Reverend Galloway, just because we all saw it coming doesn’t make his final breakdown any easier to read. It’s a bad time all round, and there’s only a chapter to go.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, the old spear of Longinus. I haven’t seen this in action since I read The Spear a few years ago (in which said object was being used to resurrect dead Nazis). Actually, there are any number of Nazi-connected stories about the spear (but we sort of did our dash of Nazis in Book 1, so I’m glad that doesn’t come up again).

There is also a Wagnerian connection, in that the spear (and the grail) are all part of the rather ponderous plot of Parsifal, Wagner’s last opera. (Apologies to people who love it – I know it has some fantastic moments, but there are some long, long stretches in that one.)

But no long stretches in this chapter, though! Quoth is being a hero, Thought is being something I won’t describe on this blog, Peter is losing his marbles, Verdandi realises she has been betrayed and Edie is being spectacularly brave. (Is there nothing that worries this girl? What an awesome character.)

Can’t wait to see how this all untangles in the last chapter!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 26

RK
Warning: Contains Spoilers!

And with those words, the leader of the descendants of Askar died.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: That was brutal, Robin. Brutal! Aidan was so likeable, so courageous, a font of history and legend, a true and loyal servant to the Nornir, and you snuffed his worthy life like so much used candle stub! I am upset, and aggrieved, but sadly not surprised. I’m going to be very cheesy and dedicate this track about the journey of the soul to Hel to our deceased descendant of Askar, because if anybody in this trilogy deserves a Norse dirge to accompany them to the underworld, it’s Aidan. So passeth a noble knight, indeed.

I didn’t really take to Reverend Galloway, I have to admit, but now I cannot help but pity him. Like Neil, he’s had his entire worldview shaken and stirred, but unlike Neil, it has made him less able to make sound decisions or stick to his own compassionate and brave moral code. Really, it’s telling about the sort of person he is. The Reverend was apparently always zealous and a little too overenthusiastic in his faith, and, sadly, when things go awry for him, he just isn’t built to cope. It’s a real low point when he does as Thought orders despite the evidence of his own eyes, but it’s also a very in-character thing for him to do.

Amongst all the gloom, it’s heartening to see Quoth sticking by Neil, and then realising that he can finally fly. Zooks-hurrah for that most stalwart of corvids!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Not much to say except that I’m jumping on to the grand theatricality of this finale and seeing how it all works out.

Everything you could possibly want is in this chapter: the two raven brothers fighting each other, Peter doing something cowardly, Aidan doing something important with his last breath, Quoth flying (best bit of all!) and Tommy refusing to do anything, giving us that ‘Oh no!’ feeling. Two chapters to go!

 

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 25

RK
Warning: Contains Spoilers!

”Tis better to nibble a morsel of sweet pudding than gorge upon the stale and wormy pie.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Did anyone else catch that the light of the Holy Thorn is ‘rose coloured’? It’ll be many months until we come back to that and in a different series entirely, but we will come back, so hold that thought.

That aside, it’s such a fantastic moment when Neil lays hands on the puny sapling, only to have it burst, burning-bush-style, into flame, repelling the loathsome Valkyries in a manner that honestly deserves some sort of dramatic crescendo and perhaps a choir. At long last, there seems to be a bit of benevolent power to protect the poor kid from all these supernatural dangers. Hang in there, Neil!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: While I know Mr Jarvis has taken a very different track from the composer Wagner, one thing that he has thrown in here and there is a bit of alliteration. Thus we have the ‘battered, beleaguered’ van and – best of all – the ‘harrowing, horripilant’ screams of the Valkyries. (I had to check the dictionary on ‘horripilant’ but it’s a great word. Even if my spell checker doesn’t seem to think it’s a real one. What would it know?)

Also, loved Quoth standing up to his brother. I was really thinking that one could go either way, so to see him stand his ground was brilliant. (Because he’s been a phenomenal character and the replacement for Ted, really.)

Finally, I was going to ask – did this book cause a whole bunch of young readers to head up Wearyall Hill to touch the Glastonbury Thorn? But in getting curious about this tree (which I had no doubt really existed), I found out that the story was actually much sadder than that. The Thorn, according to Wikipedia, had been kept going for centuries, with many people working out how to graft branches from old versions of the tree into a new one and thus keep the original trees alive. (There’s a few of them.)

But then in 2010, sadly, vandals cut off all the branches on the tree on Wearyall Hill and, unless someone’s heard otherwise, that is the end of that particular strand of the tree. I found that quite sad.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 24

RK
Warning: Contains Spoilers!

A pair of large, round eyes were staring up at her from the solid murk below.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’ve got to say, Edie is probably one of Mr Jarvis’s most peculiar characters, and that’s really saying something. She’s just fallen into the belly of the earth, and yet she chuckles at the thought that she might be mortally injured and face a slow, lingering death underground. It’s moments like this that make us wonder how much of her is regular human child and how much is mythical Askarian (?) spirit. Even the most courageous and doubty of young heroes would surely balk a little at the thought of perishing alone in the depths of the earth, but here’s Edie, happy to one day be picked up as a fossil. Odd girl.

I also like the moment of bleak humour where Miss Veronica hoves into view exclaiming about strawberry jam… as opposed to the ‘jam’ that her fall might have made her into. Things are getting so intense at this point that it’s strangely charming to find that even in the direst of circumstances, Miss Veronica can still be thinking of her favourite teatime snack, then declare that she ‘did enjoy that little fall.’ (I’m rather glad she and Celandine never did experiment by leaping off the roof of the museum, however. They might’ve found that their invulnerability only stretched so far.)

The undine is an interesting addition to Jarvis canon. The closest we’ve seen to his like before would be the Lords of the Deep and Dark in the Whitby Witches Trilogy, or Zenna’s deep-sea companions in Thomas. I hesitate to compare the noble undine to the mallykin, though in terms of appearance I’d hazard that he is closer to that flesh-eating sea demon than to, say, the aufwaders or squalbiters. I would love to see a painting of him in the style of the Deathscent cover, but perhaps he’s shown in The Fatal Strand, so bear with me on that.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter caught me out a bit. I thought last time we’d been following Edie that Veronica had disappeared down the hole and Edie had not. That was clearly wrong.

And then, like another layer down in a Russian doll, this chapter gives us even deeper mythology. Last chapter seemed fascinating, with the idea of a long-hidden corpse with a magical artifact hidden below Glastonbury. It was a fascinating location just by itself.

But now we find there’s another cave underneath that one with an ancient sea monster thing? Bring it on.

I do wonder whether something like the undine could tie in with the Lords of the Deep and Dark somehow, but I would of course be trying to stretch things too far. Still, I do wonder …

And I’m just going to assume that neither Edie nor Veronica are out of the story yet, despite the merciless cliffhanger at the end of the chapter.