Aufwader’s Thoughts: Plenty of grand events going on this month, among them Audrey’s marriage to Twit beneath the hanging tree, the siege of Hara, and a multitude of deaths, including Imelza, Jenkin and Young Whortle. Oswald is also commemorated on the 11th, his birthday – it is both heartwarming and heartrending to hear that that mild, timid young mouse was awarded the Sign of Bravery and Courage after his death.
Most ominous to me is the very last entry for this month – Thomas and Woodget arrive at the Lotus Parlour, and are apprehended by the Scale. We all know where that led, and in true Robin Jarvis fashion, the knowledge makes us both dread and anticipate turning the page.
Matt’s Thoughts: Well, that was a momentous month – all the events of The Crystal Prison, plus all the gruesome battles from Thomas, all in the one section! The continued joy of this book is the extra illustrations of scenes that we know well but have never seen – the unhinged Madame Akkikuyu wandering through Greenwich Park, Piccadilly with his sad farewell note, Twit standing up to the mob and offering to marry Audrey.
I couldn’t help but check my own hand out to see how I fit on the rat zodiac – a good dose of courage and a sizeable amount of cunning as well …hmm.
Finally, this was the month that Young Whortle was murdered by the corn dolly – which is rather grim, considering that next month’s book is the tale of that young mouse.
The list of the deceased in Fleabee’s Fortune is mercifully slight, seeing only ‘ORACE BALDMONEY return from the grave to advise our intrepid heroine. In origin a vicious follower of Jupiter, ‘Orace turned to the Green after meeting and befriending the mice of Deptford in the year 1789.
For his change of heart, ‘Orace was cruelly slain by his rat kin, along with many of the Skirtings mice. In mouse calendars, the 30th of November is remembered as ‘Orace Day, and ‘Orace thereafter became a figure of high regard for all young outcast creatures. The night of that first Skirtings raid is also remembered as the time when Jupiter placed his terrible enchantment upon the Grill, dooming all mice who ventured into the cellar to serve him beyond the candles of the Dark Portal.
Fleabee gazed into the golden eyes of Mabb and her own gentle brown eyes blinked away a single tear. The choice was not so difficult for her to make after all.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I want to be like ‘Aw, c’mon Robin!’ I want to be like, ‘Aw, what a disappointment, Robin!’ But I actually can’t, because of that blistering epilogue barely a page long.
Instead of moaning about wretched squirrels not dying and wretched, ungrateful ratgirls not taking up perfectly good offers and failing miserably to resurrect magnificent Empresses of Darkness from their eternal sleep and so forth, my little brain is full of glorious confrontations between Mabb and older, ratwitch Fleabee while everything burns at the Grand Deptford Finale. I can see it in full colour now, and if Fleabee rejecting even Mabb is what’s needed to get us there, then I’ll take it.
Up the rats, all right.
Matt’s Thoughts: This might actually be groundbreaking. I think I’ve just read a Jarvis finale in which there is no violent showdown. (All right, so Lickit might have got killed offscreen, so it’s not 100%.) But the point of this final showdown is Fleabee’s getting mastery of herself and rejecting a path of violence.
I couldn’t remember exactly how this book ended in the past and, for some reason, thought the final chapter was going to be Mabb encouraging Fleabee to take out Scabmona. (How messed up would that have been?) But she made it through the trial and we’re left with a beautiful final illustration of the sunshine streaming in through the sewers.
And the world’s most frustrating epilogue. To think that there is some epic battle still to come with Mabb and a future version of Fleabee (which would make the first grown-up good rat to make an appearance in the Jarvis canon) is mouth-watering. But to know that no such book (currently) exists is … aargh!
We can live in hope, but for now that will just have to exist in the same place as the horde of raiding Iribians heading towards Uplifted Spain.
Screaming at the tops of their voices, the ratlings went charging along the ledge after the squirrel.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’ve had a lot of moments in this project where I’ve just wanted to hug a Robiny villain and kiss them on both cheeks like a proud aunt, and I’m definitely feeling that with Morgan in this chapter. Sometimes, having cameos of best-loved old favourites from an original series in a spin-off can come across as pandering, but honestly even if it was pandering here, which it isn’t, I wouldn’t give a squirrel’s tail. The rats of Deptford are such a bunch of snorting, snaggle-fanged, sour-snouted scumgripes that you’re kind of forced at peeler-point to love them, and I for one never tire of their raucous, bloodthirsty ways.
Crispy squirrel-ear, anyone?
Matt’s Thoughts: There’s a level of black comedy in this chapter, isn’t there? The gloriously revolting description of the rat feast, the rat wives and their decorations, playing ‘Ticks’ with real ticks. It’s all quite amusing.
But then there’s the reminder that all the young rats have to go out and kill a squirrel. The Mouselets in the series might indicate that this is aimed for a slightly younger audience, but there is no stopping the bloodthirsty nature of the Jarvis nniverse!
Summer has come to the Northern Hemisphere, and what better place to spend our holidays than in goode olde Fennywolde.
Whortle’s Hope, the second of the Deptford Mouselets series and the last to be published, follows poor, doomed Whortle Nep of Crystal Prison fame in the blissful and carefree summer before his death. In this, a pastoral horror shamelessly masquerading as a friendly mouse adventure, we follow Whortle and chums as they compete in the Fennywolde Games for the position of Head Sentry.
More than a quaint rural custom is at stake here, however. Our mousey heroes will also have mysterious encounters with inhabitants of their fair field far older and wiser than they, discover their blood-soaked heritage, come a cropper with various ancient evils, and generally be scared out of their wits.
Whortle’s Hope is surprisingly rare in the UK, but can still be found secondhand at all the usual places with some digging. Definitely bother your local library for it though, in my experience you’re more likely to find copies there than online.
‘It’s the blade of a High Priestess,’ she said. ‘A sign that Mabb is watching over you.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’m really interested in the presence of feminine power in this book. In the original trilogy, the centre of that was Audrey and the Starwife – working for good, and working for the Green. But here, it is the witches and the ratwives and the goddesses of evil who literally hold the cards.
The morning after Fleabee’s dream really shows this; Scabmona, too young and big-mouthed for Raith Sidhe-related doings, is bundled out, and Alf, no real Hobber and definitely not a Mabbist, is similarly banished. There’s an implication that Fleabee’s dream, like the visit to Akkikuyu a few chapters previously, is Secret Women’s Business Passed From Mother To Daughter, a little like the cottage remedies and folklore passed down in British villages in days of yore.
I also really like the tender moment between Klakkweena and Fleabee. In order for the rats to be relatable there has to be a little ‘honour among vermin’ in with all the screeching and belligerence, but the scene where Klakkweena admits she was actually proud of her daughter is something more. Without even realising, Fleabee has had the courage to be something other than just one more rag-eared villain, even if that something meant that she would never fit in anywhere. Klakkweena is right; that does make her braver than the whole accursed lot of them. Brave enough to sit at Mabb’s left claw? I do hope so.
Lastly, did everyone catch the mention of One-Eyed Jake and notice how antsy Morgan is at the end of this chapter? I’m not sure how long before the events of The Dark Portal this book is set, but I think I know what ‘summat’ Jupiter is plotting.
Matt’s Thoughts: I can feel the finale coming on here: Fleabee has a particularly nasty knife, Scabmona is looking forward to the night as if it’s going to be awesome and Jupiter feels Some Force that is moving against his power. It might be Mabb, but is it possible that there are other forces at work as well?
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Being 90% rat sitcom, this book is wish-fulfillment for the more bloodthirsty Robin Jarvis fan in many ways, but this chapter is like every cultist’s wistful dreams brought to life. It’s like Mr Jarvis admitting that yes, maybe most of us were rooting for the villains all through the previous Deptford books, and that yes, the Raith Sidhe do kind of out-class Jupiter, and that yes, all that wishy-washy Greenie nonsense does get a bit tired after a while, and that, well… yes, it would be a lot of fun if Fleabee was actually to be destined to be Mabb’s High Priestess the whole time.
When I first read this I can remember not quite believing that, finally, we were actually going to ‘go there’ and address what is so appealing about Robin’s evil gods. It’s a beautiful moment for me, a devoted forktail, so I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for those who considered themselves Hobbers. Up the rats, all right. Justice for Mabb and the Three! Team Evil Fleabee! Woo!
Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, there’s Mabb. Great appearance by the second branch of the Raith Sidhe. But also a beautiful scene with ‘Orace trying to persuade Fleabee towards the Green.
The whole thing for me conjures up a familiar situation in Jarvis books – that even if you wanted to follow the good in this world, it’s a small, fragile flicker. Meanwhile, evil will always be large, tangible and seem more than capable of winning. And in the middle, will be a small frightened individual with a choice…