The Fatal Strand | Chapter 21

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Miss Celandine Webster, she who as Skuld had woven the tapestry of so many destinies, was dead.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter is just distressing. From Celandine being bundled off to a gory demise, to Quoth’s discovery about Austen Pickering and subsequent murder at the hands of same, it seems to go on and on, with no respite in the cruelty and destruction.

Quoth’s sudden death really brought home how close he and Neil had become, and how their relationship was different to that of Neil and Ted in The Woven Path.

Far from being a loyal sidekick, Ted was out for his own ends, and could be downright nasty to Neil when pushed. He might’ve been a talking toy, but he was no true companion to our young hero. Contrast this with Quoth – ugly and decrepit with a past as Woden’s right-hand corvid, but a more faithful and affectionate friend Neil could not ask for. I definitely care about Quoth far more than I did about Ted

Matt’s Thoughts: Jarvis, mate, what the?? Quoth AND Miss Celandine? This chapter blindsided me a bit. First of all, Pickering being Woden was well hidden. Pickering is enigmatic, but also, even when nobody else is in the room, he still talks to himself as Pickering, so there was no sign of him having a hidden identity throughout the book.

But Quoth? QUOTH! I was hoping he’d make it to the end of the book.

And the clumsy surgeon?

This whole chapter surely has to go down as one of the most deeply traumatic in the whole Jarvis canon.

Advertisements

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 20

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Tap-tap-tap.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’ve muttered about ominous chapter titles before on here, but this one really, genuinely takes the jam and pancakes for this trilogy. You can ‘Crimson Weft’ all you want, but there’s something about the combination of last chapter’s cliffhanger, that ghastly illustration of skull-headed Galatea, and the fact that there’s only ‘this much left to go’ that puts ‘The First Wave’ at the top of the list.

In The Woven Path we all guessed that the Separate Collection and its inhabitants might return in the trilogy finale, and here we finally get to see that happen, in as grand and theatrical a manner as could be hoped. Best moment for me has got to be Galatea stepping into the light as Ursula charges her to lead the defence against Woden. Really, could the Nornir have a better general than the beautiful, hollow-eyed scourge of Paphos? I have to side with Edie this time – I’d run up to the statue too!

Matt’s Thoughts: This finale is reminding me more and more of the end of Fighting Pax, in that the last third of the book is really just one unrelenting sweep of action, without pause for breath, without letup of the tension.

Also, another whole sweep of old mythology is thrown in here. I do wish I had learned more of these ancient myths and legends when I was younger so they would come more readily to mind. (Alas, my somewhat conservative Christian curriculum as a youngster tended to de-emphasise the great myths for fear of us all becoming Satanists or something like that.) But, I managed to work out that the skull-topped beauty of a statue is a reference to the famous story of Pygmalion (or Pumiyathon, which is how he is referred to here) who fell in love with a statue that he had created.

The twist here, of course, is that in the same way that the Valkyries in the previous book are monstrous versions of their mythological counterparts, so here the statue – instead of being classically beautiful – is rather terrifying and warlike. It’s never stated explicitly in this series, but there’s an undercurrent here that all legends are based on some sort of truth, but that over time, storytellers have taken the edges off the stories to make them more palatable.

Having just watched Darkest Hour, in which the story of Churchill in WWII is portrayed in the most perfectly-lit, perfectly-costumed, beautifully-shot visual version of events, there is a definitely a truth to the idea of us liking to smooth out the past into a more palatable re-telling.

And as for that last set-piece where Ursula has to choose between a roomful of school children getting killed and defeating Jack Timms …  yikes!

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 19

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From some remote region, deep within the museum, there came the distant sound of a rhythmic knocking.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I definitely get shades of The Final Reckoning from this chapter.

Onceagain, our heroes are forced together by an unnatural cold and crouch, breath bated, around their meagre fire as the forces of darkness assail them from all sides. Once again, they summon the powers which safeguarded them in ages past, while their ancient matriarch, grim and grieving, despairs beneath the weight of her years.

We’re really at the finale now. Will the Nornir triumph, or will all who huddle around that fire be ‘besieged by death’?

Matt’s Thoughts: All I’ll say on this chapter, which nicely ramps things up, is that there is definitely a profound creepiness to the old song ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ Such a nice extra touch having the lyrics of that song being sung by the kids as Tick-Tock makes his way through the Museum.

Which is actually the second time in a month that I’ve encountered this particular little ditty being used to create a sinister atmosphere. Down here in Australia, we have two films and now two seasons of a TV show called Wolf Creek (definitely not suitable for children!) which I think exists solely to scare Australians from ever leaving the cities and visiting remote outback areas of Australia and to scare anyone from overseas to even contemplate visiting Australia full stop.

It’s probably the closest thing we’ve got to those horror stories that make you terrified of visiting old moors.

But, interestingly enough, for the title sequence of the TV series, they used the Cock Robin song quite effectively. What can I say? It’s just a creepy song.

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 18

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

KILL THEM ALL

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I once jokingly referred to our esteemed author as ‘Robin ‘Kill ’em All’ Jarvis’, but I had forgotten that that ominous phrase had root in this trilogy. I daresay that nickname is well deserved – with the protection of Durath negated and even the museum itself turning against them, who of our small and motley band of heroes will survive the coming onslaught? I’m holding out for Neil, at least. That kid can survive anything.

Matt’s Thoughts: I loved this chapter, because it more or less sets up the rest of the book as being a classic haunted house story – from here on in, the evil things lurking around the corners are going to break free and attack. There is also the masterful bottom drop-out when we find out that Pickering has inadvertently (we assume?) gotten rid of the last thing that could hold back Woden’s evil forces. And we’ve got what, a quarter of the book left? This is going to be a long night, folks.

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 17

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘The prophecy tells us that the Paedagogus shall be the saving of us.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: It’s rather heart-wrenching to see Edie have this sacred time in the past with the Websters as they once were, but that scene is also necessary to show how she, too, is connected to Nirinel, and to expand upon the mythology of the Nornir. Trust Robin to shatter that magical peace, however, and catapult Edie back to the museum prematurely. She had just met Skuld, her mother, and almost got to see the Loom of Doooooom. Bother and drat it all!

Matt’s Thoughts: I know they’re somewhat tired, but I always love the concept of ghost hunters and exorcists. They’re the characters that show up mid-way through a haunted house story and their function is that they help us, the audience, feel a bit braver. They’ve seen all the bad stuff before, and so when everyone else is freaking out, they know the words to say, or the incantations that are necessary.

Pickering is a bit of a comedic spin on this, because clearly his concept of what can happen in a haunted house is absolutely not up to the reality of what is going on in the Wyrd Museum, and yet he braves it out anyway! But cold coffee is a different thing. Are the ice giants back?

Phenomenal scene with the younger Norns and Edie, as they start to set us up for the finale. It’s interesting to see that the Gogus – who, if you have the original front cover looks very much like the monster of the piece – is quite possibly going to be the hero of the finale. As always with Mr Jarvis, first appearances can be deceiving.

Finally, I’ve got to say, that the time-shifting nature of this book is starting to do my head in a bit. Not that I can’t keep up with it, but there are so many different flashbacks to different eras, that it’s starting to unsettle the feeling of location. This is somewhat unusual for a Jarvis book which – despite anything else going on – will usually have a very strong sense of location and time period. But both those things are constantly shifting.

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 16

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

And in that rousing instant, his heart was determined.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What a shame that Woden has ended up right down at Least Fun on the Jarvis Villain Scale. The pageantry of this chapter, the blazons and gleaming artistry of war, are ever so evocative and compelling. The relationship between Thought and Memory is really quite entertaining, and the deference with which Memory is treated really shows us Woden’s side of the battle for Quoth’s allegiance – in the days of Askar, Memory was a lord among ravens, second only to the Gallows God himself. No wonder Woden seeks to beguile him back into his service, and no wonder Thought was so outraged in The Raven’s Knot when Quoth defied him.

This trilogy is full of the juxtaposition of the glories of the past with the decrepitude of the present. Woden, like the Websters, was once magnificent; Thought and Memory were once revered. Now Thought is dust, and Memory a balding, beleaguered husk, silenced by the power of his once-doting master. Perhaps, however, the shabby banner that Quoth flies for ‘Squire Neil’ is really nobler than all the vivid pennants of Woden’s force.

Matt’s Thoughts: Robin, is there no end to the misery you will inflict on your characters? Quoth – easily the most lovable character from this book – and you take away his power of speech?

And we’ve got TEN MORE CHAPTERS for you to do more bad stuff to your characters? Who or what is going to be left standing at the end of this trilogy?

 

Up Next | Thorn Ogres of Hagwood

 

HagwoodWallpaper

Greetings intrepid Rereaders, Aufwader here! Having stumbled through the Woven Path, tied the Raven’s Knot and trimmed every Fatal Strand, we now embark upon a brand new quest, through the gnarlsome briars of Hagwood.

gammy.
This little model of Gamaliel is now under glass – one for the Separate Collection!

This is one to be excited about for a number of reasons. From the reader’s point of view, we’ve got a host of new and lovable heroes, some fantastically flamboyant and inventive villains, and a mythology that is a worthy successor to the likes of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper.

Behind the scenes, the Hagwood trilogy also has one of the most interesting publication histories in all Robin Jarvis canon, with rare collectable editions in circulation and a gap of fourteen years between the release of Books 1 and 2. It is also the most autobiographical of Mr Jarvis’s works to date – if you have the Open Road edition, there’s a little piece at the end that contains some interesting titbits about Robin’s career, including the aside that Gamaliel Tumpin, this trilogy’s bumbling hero, is directly based on Robin himself.

This would probably also be a good place to mention Open Road’s ‘Meet the Author’ video, in which Robin discusses the Hagwood trilogy and his general writing MO (and we get way too many amazing close-ups of unreleased illustrations.)

As well as the original Puffin edition and the Open Road ebook release, there’s also this lovely hardback by Silver Whistle Books. Go snag yourselves a copy (sorry) and join Matt and I on our wergly way.