Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Is Torture Master’, he hissed.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: If anybody’s having nightmares based on this book, you can guarantee they’re going to be about Don Gomez’s nice little ‘friend’, the mechanical torture chamber on legs. The Torture Master has got to be top of the list of things that punted this book up an age rating from middle grade to young adult, and I reckon even some cynical teenagers would be gripping their childhood cuddly toys, whey faced, after plowing through this absolute horror movie of a chapter.
I’ve got to say it was a lot less bad on reread, when I knew that Henry and Adam would come out alive. To be honest, a lot of my shrieking about the Torture Master was kind of in hindsight – as a young’un I visited a lot of historic castles and ruins, and heard a lot of alarmingly-made-up tour guides cackle about bodysnatchers, the plague, the witch trials, and a litany of other historical horrors. It being Scotland, I knew about the grisly end of Mary Queen of Scots and the practice of witches being burnt at the stake as a fairly young kid, so I suppose I was more set up to take a science-fantasy version of the Spanish Inquisition in stride than readers raised with gentler versions of Elizabethan history.
Torture Master aside, it was only while rereading for this project that I fully noticed the gleefully evil Count de Feria. I wouldn’t have picked up on it in my teens, but it occurred to me while rereading that he’s not so much a person as an Elizabethan anti-Catholic propaganda caricature. Everything about him, from his pointy wee devil-beard to his glittering black outfit to his endearingly broken English, just screams ”Ware ye the nefarious Don Gomez, notorious papist, torturer of small children and kicker of puppies!!!’. This is fairly hilarious to me, because de Feria is actually pretty useless as a villain.
Sir Francis Walsingham cuts more of a sinister figure than he does, and even the lovable Lantern is a match for his oh-so-scary interrogation prop. Sure, he does terrible things to hapless apprentices, but he does them so cheerfully that you sort of end up treating him as a stage baddie rather than a genuine threat, regardless of the ‘friends’ he tries to introduce you to. Pardonny, but taking Don Gomez seriously I am not, and I hate to say it, but I actually quite like him.
Matt’s Thoughts: Well, that could have got a lot worse! Of course it makes sense that the Spanish torture masters would have torture mechanicals, right? While I wasn’t keen to see much more torture happen, I was curious to learn a little bit more about the Spanish side of the story and what was going on there …
But I’ll take a spectacular hand-to-hand combat between Lantern and the Torture Master, a moment of pure Jarvis cinema. I’d pay to see movies like this …