Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Faith ain’t no easy thing.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I think we all kind of knew that Lee wouldn’t go through with the Ismus’ demand. When you look at it logically, what reason did Lee ever have to believe that the happily ever after Austerly Fellows promised him would come to pass? Lee has seen what people become in Mooncaster when they die, he’s seen the card-players in the tower and experienced the Ismus’ regime first hand. He was never going to buy what the Ismus was peddling, even .
I love that it’s the memory of Charm that has kept Mr Despair from taking over Lee completely. It’s a very sincere thing to have in a young adult novel, what he says about not wanting the pain to stop because it means his love was real. I think maybe Lee becomes an adult in that moment, and the fact that those feelings were some of his last makes his entire character journey all the more profound and compelling.
Also, it’s just now struck me that Lee having the Healing Ruby in him was actually foreshadowed – what did he keep in memory of Charm? A pink crystal in the shape of a heart.
Matt’s Thoughts: I’m not sure whether the editors raised an eyebrow at this chapter or whether it sailed through. But I remember my sister and I swapping notes over the finale of Fighting Pax when we’d finished reading it and felt that there was almost something blasphemous about it. The idea of turning Jesus into essentially a cannibal and having him devour Lee’s heart is a pretty brave idea to put in a book, even if it is perfectly in keeping with where the plot was heading.
So I’ll admit, my initial reaction to this chapter ending was one of real discomfort about the whole thing. I think I had a tweet back and forth with Robin about it and he reminded me that, for him, it was about Lee and his decision of faith.
Coming at it with fresh eyes, I understand what he means. In fact, Mr Jarvis might have seen more than I did. Robin has actually tapped into some of the Biblical use of language about surrender to Jesus. The Bible does talk about giving your heart to God. Romans chapter 12, verse 1 uses even more striking language: ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’
This is, of course, just a metaphor and refers more to the idea of wholehearted service rather than actual human sacrifice, but Robin has really turned the concept into something visceral in this chapter as Lee literally offers himself as a sacrifice.
Now reading it from that angle, I almost wept to see Lee – a character who has carried such anger and bitterness for so long – reach a point where he surrenders everything and finds something to believe in.
I’ll have more to say on all this in the next (and final!) chapter.
Meanwhile, I also enjoyed Spencer’s greatest moment and Martin and Carol vs Mauger. This multi-chapter finale surely must be Robin’s greatest achievement in terms of one sustained set piece?