Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘The Dancing Jacks will pave the way for His return among us.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter was quite a shock – pun very much intended – to me when I first read it, because it’s so different and yet so like the rest of Robin Jarvis canon up until this point. It’s got all the things he does well and is known for; devilry, period elegance, a grimy villain, terrified minions falling on their faces as their Lord approaches. Even a Rowena Cooper 2.0 in the character of Irene.
However, this is that, but with all the filters turned off. If there’s jokes about how the aristocracy are all cultists, there’s jokes about how the aristocracy are all cultists. If we’re mentioning skinny dipping and hard drugs in the same sentence, we’re mentioning skinny dipping and hard drugs in the same sentence. If Austerly wants to lick his mistress’s eyeball then by Satan he is going to lick his mistress’s eyeball, and no editor nor age rating on Earth is going to stop him.
I’m calling it now, if Robin wrote for adults it’d just be this chapter for four hundred pages – a no-holds-barred sleaze parade of 30s glamour, duplicitous journalists, weirdoes in animal masks, and human sacrifice. Absolutely atrocious. I love it.
Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter is extraordinary – not least in that you could almost drop it anywhere in the trilogy. It could have been an extended prologue at the beginning of Dancing Jax and it would have set the scene perfectly. However, there’s something about circling back to the origins of the evil book when we are at the height of the persecution of our aberrant heroes that just gives it an extra weight and intensity.
In other words, if we’d started with it, it would have been like many other occult bad guy scenes – the kind that used to occur at the end of James Herbert novels. There would be some sort of plot that threatens to take over the world but we wouldn’t have worried too much because plots like this usually get foiled at the last minute before they do much damage.
But located here in the midst of Freax and Rejex it’s pretty creepy. While it does provide a welcome relief from the POW camp, it also reminds us of just how long all this has been plotted and how dire everything actually is. Mooncaster is sinister, but the Dawn Prince is far, far worse.
It also introduces the idea that the Al Bowlly music might not have been Austerly Fellows’ idea so much as Augusta’s. Which leads to an interesting speculation about which musicians would the Fellows’ have picked to lock into their Bakelite devices had they done this in the 60s or 70s or 80s. What do you think they might have picked?