Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Down there she dwells,’ the Tower Lubber breathed. ‘My beautiful Clarisant, the one and only love of my life. Alone in the caves and caverns, sitting out these despairing, sundered years in the dark, far from the spying eyes of her sister’s agents.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: This kind of thing is what makes a Robin Jarvis book a Robin Jarvis book. ‘Once upon a time, a beautiful princess and brave knight where cursed by an evil queen’ is all very well, but it’s the details that give this oft-repeated staple of legend a new heartstring-plucking pull. The yellow flower and the little bullfinch who delivers it. The melancholy melody rising up from the depths. The long, long years.
I’ve always loved Robin’s favourite ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ motif, but it really shows here, with one of the most tragic couples in the canon. The way he redefines storytelling concepts that we think we know, like nobility and beauty, is what makes the world of Hagwood so special.
In this world, the blind and grotesque goblin hermit is really a deeply lonely and sad lover, whose care for his feathered companions is the only thing that gets him through the endless days away from his beloved. In turn, the mad old crone who rules a subterranean empire is really a lost princess, slowly sinking into the dark waters of her own mind. It’s not enough that Clarisant and Tammedor have been separated for three hundred years, we also have the possibility that they might never get the chance to be reunited. I’m already weeping and we’re not even at the end of the second book.
Matt’s Thoughts: In lesser hands, this would have been a fairly interesting piece of back history. Because after this chapter, we now understand the Lubber, we understand Meg, we see how everything fits together and have a glimmer of how Rhiannon might be stopped.
But it’s the overwhelming sense of tragedy that pervades here in the details that makes this memorable: A love that can only be communicated by a dropped flower and a returned song. The idea that Clarisant might have gone insane down in the deep.
Maybe it’s because there is an irreversibility to these proceedings. Even if Rhiannon is stopped – and she clearly needs to be – it’s doubtful that there will be a simple return to the way things were in the past.