Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The words of Austerly Fellows embraced her, drew her in, loved her as nothing else ever could, promised to sustain and keep her, to coddle and bless her through all of time.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: There’s a lot that’s pretty horrifying in this chapter, but the thing that stood out for me on reread is that Ashleigh and Kelley, Emma’s friends who died in the Disaster, seem to have ended up in Mooncaster. Living a nightmarish half-life as animate dolls bound to the soul of the Jill of Spades. What in the hell is going on there?
I have a theory and it’s fairly alarming, so let’s share. At the very end of Chapter 7, after the Disaster takes place, there is a brief mention of some unknown person or force, ‘walking unseen among those young people that hour, choreographing the entire show.’ My theory is that everyone who died in the Disaster, an act of evil choreographed by the Dawn Prince, ended up in Mooncaster. Being dead, however, and unable to read the quote unquote sacred text, they filled such inconsequential roles as magical sidekicks, talking animals, or nameless creatures inhabiting the area around Mooncot, and their identities(?) souls(?) are now trapped in an endless limbo. (Told you this theory was alarming.)
Then, as if life in Mooncaster didn’t already have enough ghastly implications, there’s the main arc of this chapter, which revolves around all the ladies of the court – including those who are married and those who are underage in the real world – flying off to spend the rest of the night on a tower with the Ismus.
There’s something about the casual way this is described that makes it about ten times worse than it already is. Compare and contrast the Coven of the Black Sceptre (here they are again). Granted, they were magic-ed into fancying Nathaniel Crozier (you’d need to be magic-ed to look twice at that grody mess, yikes) but they still retained their personalities to an extent, and were all adults. Crozier preying upon Jennet also stops short of actual physical harassment. Here, however, the implication is that these Ismus-led orgies happen on a regular basis, and that all the ladies of the court are obliged to be available to him whenever he so chooses, regardless of age or marital status. As Emma might put it, that’s well wrong that is.
There’s also an element of misogynist shame and blame to the whole escapade, with Haxxentrot being involved and the flying women being ‘punished’ by the Jockey, who is in himself a riddle. What kind of world is Mooncaster?
Matt’s Thoughts: So there goes Emma!
Most of this book is taken up with her journey into Mooncaster, but it’s bizarre, isn’t it? First up, are the escapades in this story an actual incident from the book? Or is the book just a gateway into Mooncaster and strange things happen to those who are collectively part of the world?
And what kind of world is this? So all the women have some sort of orgy with the Ismus every night after a party? The Jockey plays jokes on people? Haxxentrot plots against Malinda? And the bad magician with the hungry ermine? I mean, who came up with these sorts of OTT caricatures for characters? I might have missed the point, but I can’t help but wonder if Mr Jarvis is having a go at creating characters who are much more simplistic in their motivations in the Jacks world – almost an off-set against the increased realism of his real creatures.
I’d love to know what others think about whether there’s any sort of more subtle logic to the way Mooncaster holds together, but I find it to be a mass of rampaging egos, all simultaneously after their own agendas but simultaneously respectful of the hierarchy in the place – thus their mostly polite real life treatment of each other in our world.