Hi all, Matt here. It’s with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I announce that we have finally arrived at the beginning of the astonishing Dancing Jax trilogy. Excitement, because I believe that this trilogy – and particularly the second book – is the greatest piece of writing of Mr Jarvis’ career. Trepidation, because I find this trilogy to also be one of the most bleak, traumatic and troubling things that he has ever written. Those two things might sound like a contradiction, but you will understand what I mean as you read.
By way of background, the last thing Robin had written previous to Dancing Jax were the two Deptford Mouselets books, and nothing in those books – or really, anything in the Jarvis canon up till then – prepared his readers for the tonal leap that he took with the Jax series. Writing now for an older teen audience rather than his normal 8-12 age group allowed Robin a freedom to experiment with edgy and potentially controversial material in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in his earlier books.
In the course of a gripping and darkly magical tale, which moves along with the trademark pace, characterisation, and rising intensity we’ve come to expect from a Jarvis novel, the Dancing Jax trilogy also touches on a whole range of topics that are very relevant to the modern world. Belief, morality, religion, control, family, race – it’s all up for discussion in this series.
Dancing Jax is also not just relevant to the modern world, it’s set in the modern world. Prior to the introduction of mobile phones in the Witching Legacy series, or the particular historical setting of some of his stories, it was difficult to work out when Jarvis books were set. They were so much in a realm of magic and mystery that the real world seemed sometimes to disappear. But pop culture references abound in the Dancing Jax series. TV, movies, music, the state of world politics in 2010 when the first book was written, not to mention a broader diversity in the background and sexual orientation of his characters – all of these are drawn upon in this tale of a sinister children’s book, found in the basement of a creepy house, that starts to extend its influence in an ever-broadening reach.
I don’t want to spoil the plot if you’ve never read them – I envy anybody coming to it for the first time – but I do need to warn you that if you’re under the age of 15, particularly sensitive, or deeply religious, you may find this series confronting.
With regards to editions of Dancing Jax, you can buy it brand new in paperback, or on ebook. There was also a limited hardback version, which is still available on the secondhand market. However, the caveat with the hardback is that sadly, the publishers put out books 1 and 2 of this trilogy in hardback, and then only brought out book 3 in paperback, thus ensuring that the more perfectionist Jarvis fans would forever-after feel exasperated looking at their incomplete collections…
So, yes, it’s going to be a grueling test for us bloggers, trying to write through every chapter of the Jax books (they are also a deal longer than regular Jarvis offerings!) but I can’t wait to tackle it.