Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Lucifer ascended the Waiting Throne.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Whenever I describe this series to people who’ve expressed an interest, I seem to always start off with some variation of ‘yeah it’s the one where literal Satan appears in the finale’. They tend to look mildly startled, then intrigued, and then, when I explain a bit, positively galvanized to start reading. Somewhere, the spores of Austerly Fellows must be laughing.
The Dancing Jax trilogy will forever and always be remembered as that time Robin really went there, a big ol’ finger in the eye to everybody who ever mocked his books for their grim cults, evil rituals, and sorcery in the highest degree. Forget the flayings, the plagues, the burnings and poisonings and sacrifices – if the YA rating means we can have devilry in the literal sense, then by the Ismus’ mouldy shirtsleeves, we’re having it.
Merry Christmas, one and all.
Matt’s Thoughts: Even though we’d seen it coming since Book 1, still there’s something breathtaking when Robin Jarvis – inventor of any number of memorable evils gods and demons – decides to go the whole hog and wheel out Lucifer as the ultimate villain. Fascinatingly, he pops out of the Dark Door which is described as having ‘a glowing symbol of a serpent and a crescent moon’ on it. This is the closest we get to having any connection with the Deptford universe and may be coincidental, but it is a nice touch to have a sneaky reference to a serpent in this book.
But what fascinates me most about this chapter is the actual nature of the Satanic plot that is being unleashed – namely, the idea of a world of guilt with No One to grant forgiveness. This is the most unlikely plot twist I have ever seen in a book of this type and I’m staggered. Bear with me while I explain why.
Growing up Christian, there were really two great fantasy series that reflected my belief system – Narnia and Middle-Earth. I could read these and either very strongly (the Narnia books) or more obliquely (Lord of the Rings) I could find Christian themes. But most fantasy nowadays – if not most fiction – even if it veers into the realm of the religious, is still coming from a secular point of view.
And one of the most divergent points, I think, between Christianity and modern secular thinking is the idea of sin. Go back 100 years, most people in the West had an understanding of the concept of sin – bad stuff we did with varying levels of severity. And between the Church and our own conscience making us feel guilty, the message of Christianity spoke into that: Trust in Jesus and He will forgive your sins.
However, secularism, among many things really rejected the idea of a ‘sinful nature’ and ‘sin’. In fact, despite the fact that we know that we don’t treat each very well on the whole, we still tend to talk and think about the human race as being inherently good. It’s well documented that one of the biggest difficulties the Christian church has faced in the western world in recent decades is that when it tries to wheel out the old message about needing sins forgiven, most people say: What sins? I’m a pretty good person most of the time. Why do I need to be forgiven?
Thus, a lot of narratives in film and books have moved from the story of someone fighting to be a better person to stories about people accepting who they are and having other people accept them.
And so it’s fascinating to me the plot here in this chapter. It would be horrible enough for the Fighting Pax ebook to send everyone on a killing spree. That’s quite bad enough. But the real horror that Lucifer and Fellows want to unleash on the world is a world with no forgiveness. A world where everyone sees quite clearly that they are a sinner (except for the psychopaths!) but there is no one to forgive them.
A desperate need of mercy but none to be found.
I would never have seen a plot twist like this coming and it totally caught me by surprise.
Which now throws what’s going on with Lee into even greater relief. The idea of taking out the Bad Shepherd is no longer just an anti-religious move. It is to rob the world of a redemptive force.
There are levels of profundity here.