Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘What would she want you to do?’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Characteristic of this series, we go right from the bleakest horror into only slightly less bleak parody, as Maggie and Spencer end up pulled into Mooncaster with Lee. As well as the already-mentioned YA trends, the Dancing Jax books also riff on the conventions of children’s classics, and the main one I’m getting on my parody-detecting bakelite this chapter, is the infamous and much-discussed Chronicles of Narnia.
A while back I mentioned that the four Jacks and Jills resembled a warped echo of the Pevensie siblings, and a couple of chapters ago Lee actually describes Mooncaster to Charm as ‘Narnia on crack’, but here is where it really shows.
The winter weather coats all the realm in picturesque chill, but there are no surprise fur coats or fauns offering tea and cake for this intrepid trio. Peculiar and enchanting forest rituals pass before their eyes, but none of these creatures have been sitting around waiting for sons of Adam and daughters of Eve; they’re too busy welcoming the sun at another Winter Solstice. A sleigh draws up, and it definitely isn’t the White Witch, nor, as Maggie points out, is it Saint Nicholas, for as we all know, there are no churches in the Dawn Prince’s Kingdom.
What I love about this how you can sense the quiet glee in all of it. Robin has created a Satanist Narnia in Mooncaster, a devil’s fairyland where the powers of Abrahamic evil have bulldozed their way through an ancient pagan Otherworld and twisted it’s inherent magic to their own advantage.
It’s probably a little on-the-nose of me to say that this is a mirror held up to the way Aslan rules Narnia, but what is the purpose of analysing this series if not to point out the many and varied ways in which it’s awfully cheeky? Narnia is ruled by four kings and queens from a white castle. There is a silvering sea, trees that are aware, strange outcasts beasts from bygone pagan times living in the forests. The whole place is a clumsy, narrow allegory for the afterlife, spoilt by the presence of beings which are not part of its apparent Creator’s grand design.
It’s all there in the text, as Austerly might say, and it’s wickedly clever.
Matt’s Thoughts: In some ways, this marks the first return to familiar Jarvis territory in the whole book. There is now an Artifact to find (in this case, Malinda’s wand) and our heroes know what they have to achieve. (That said, I can’t think of a Jarvis Artifact that has worked exactly as expected, can you?)
I know we haven’t spent a great deal of time following Spencer in the last few chapters, but I love the way he has come back from his dark place of suicidal thoughts and is now proving his courage. ‘We can be your posse!’ he says and we all feel a spark of hope in the midst of the darkness.
And then, at that very moment, the incident with the Jill of Hearts occurs, giving them a magical object they need to get to Malinda. Is something working in their favour? Or is this all too easy?