The Fatal Strand | Chapter 19

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From some remote region, deep within the museum, there came the distant sound of a rhythmic knocking.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I definitely get shades of The Final Reckoning from this chapter.

Onceagain, our heroes are forced together by an unnatural cold and crouch, breath bated, around their meagre fire as the forces of darkness assail them from all sides. Once again, they summon the powers which safeguarded them in ages past, while their ancient matriarch, grim and grieving, despairs beneath the weight of her years.

We’re really at the finale now. Will the Nornir triumph, or will all who huddle around that fire be ‘besieged by death’?

Matt’s Thoughts: All I’ll say on this chapter, which nicely ramps things up, is that there is definitely a profound creepiness to the old song ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ Such a nice extra touch having the lyrics of that song being sung by the kids as Tick-Tock makes his way through the Museum.

Which is actually the second time in a month that I’ve encountered this particular little ditty being used to create a sinister atmosphere. Down here in Australia, we have two films and now two seasons of a TV show called Wolf Creek (definitely not suitable for children!) which I think exists solely to scare Australians from ever leaving the cities and visiting remote outback areas of Australia and to scare anyone from overseas to even contemplate visiting Australia full stop.

It’s probably the closest thing we’ve got to those horror stories that make you terrified of visiting old moors.

But, interestingly enough, for the title sequence of the TV series, they used the Cock Robin song quite effectively. What can I say? It’s just a creepy song.

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 18

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

KILL THEM ALL

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I once jokingly referred to our esteemed author as ‘Robin ‘Kill ’em All’ Jarvis’, but I had forgotten that that ominous phrase had root in this trilogy. I daresay that nickname is well deserved – with the protection of Durath negated and even the museum itself turning against them, who of our small and motley band of heroes will survive the coming onslaught? I’m holding out for Neil, at least. That kid can survive anything.

Matt’s Thoughts: I loved this chapter, because it more or less sets up the rest of the book as being a classic haunted house story – from here on in, the evil things lurking around the corners are going to break free and attack. There is also the masterful bottom drop-out when we find out that Pickering has inadvertently (we assume?) gotten rid of the last thing that could hold back Woden’s evil forces. And we’ve got what, a quarter of the book left? This is going to be a long night, folks.

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 17

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘The prophecy tells us that the Paedagogus shall be the saving of us.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: It’s rather heart-wrenching to see Edie have this sacred time in the past with the Websters as they once were, but that scene is also necessary to show how she, too, is connected to Nirinel, and to expand upon the mythology of the Nornir. Trust Robin to shatter that magical peace, however, and catapult Edie back to the museum prematurely. She had just met Skuld, her mother, and almost got to see the Loom of Doooooom. Bother and drat it all!

Matt’s Thoughts: I know they’re somewhat tired, but I always love the concept of ghost hunters and exorcists. They’re the characters that show up mid-way through a haunted house story and their function is that they help us, the audience, feel a bit braver. They’ve seen all the bad stuff before, and so when everyone else is freaking out, they know the words to say, or the incantations that are necessary.

Pickering is a bit of a comedic spin on this, because clearly his concept of what can happen in a haunted house is absolutely not up to the reality of what is going on in the Wyrd Museum, and yet he braves it out anyway! But cold coffee is a different thing. Are the ice giants back?

Phenomenal scene with the younger Norns and Edie, as they start to set us up for the finale. It’s interesting to see that the Gogus – who, if you have the original front cover looks very much like the monster of the piece – is quite possibly going to be the hero of the finale. As always with Mr Jarvis, first appearances can be deceiving.

Finally, I’ve got to say, that the time-shifting nature of this book is starting to do my head in a bit. Not that I can’t keep up with it, but there are so many different flashbacks to different eras, that it’s starting to unsettle the feeling of location. This is somewhat unusual for a Jarvis book which – despite anything else going on – will usually have a very strong sense of location and time period. But both those things are constantly shifting.

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 16

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

And in that rousing instant, his heart was determined.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What a shame that Woden has ended up right down at Least Fun on the Jarvis Villain Scale. The pageantry of this chapter, the blazons and gleaming artistry of war, are ever so evocative and compelling. The relationship between Thought and Memory is really quite entertaining, and the deference with which Memory is treated really shows us Woden’s side of the battle for Quoth’s allegiance – in the days of Askar, Memory was a lord among ravens, second only to the Gallows God himself. No wonder Woden seeks to beguile him back into his service, and no wonder Thought was so outraged in The Raven’s Knot when Quoth defied him.

This trilogy is full of the juxtaposition of the glories of the past with the decrepitude of the present. Woden, like the Websters, was once magnificent; Thought and Memory were once revered. Now Thought is dust, and Memory a balding, beleaguered husk, silenced by the power of his once-doting master. Perhaps, however, the shabby banner that Quoth flies for ‘Squire Neil’ is really nobler than all the vivid pennants of Woden’s force.

Matt’s Thoughts: Robin, is there no end to the misery you will inflict on your characters? Quoth – easily the most lovable character from this book – and you take away his power of speech?

And we’ve got TEN MORE CHAPTERS for you to do more bad stuff to your characters? Who or what is going to be left standing at the end of this trilogy?

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 15

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Pretty soon that blade will kill again.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: There’s a wonderful air of creeping menace to this chapter. From Mr Pickering’s grim possession to the crooked writing returning to Neil’s wall, there’s a real feeling of the museum closing in around our young hero. He might have changed his mind about leaving, but I don’t think he’s going to get the chance to so much as pack his things.

Matt’s Thoughts: Ursula going senile as well? Could the stakes get any higher in this? She’s been the one person in all of the trilogy who has known exactly what is going on and how to deal with it all along – even if her methods are somewhat heavy-handed. But if she’s going off her rocker, it could all come down to our young heroes to sort everything out. Keen to see how this works out.

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 14

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

With a shake of its splendid antlers, the beautiful creature began to walk majestically down the corridor, with Edie riding high upon its back and Gogus trotting cheerfully behind.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This is one of Tick-Tock Jack’s most nightmare-inducting iterations, for sure. The greasepaint, the outfit, and then (oh no!) the Spear of Longinus, as if we hadn’t seen enough of that last book. Mister Dark was never, at least in my opinion, so deeply grotesque, but I think Dark would approve of Timms’s trick with the taxidermy. (Plus, have you guys heard howler monkeys? Imagine a mouldering version of this chasing you down that darkened passage. Yikes, yikes, and thrice yikes!)

Matt’s Thoughts:  I must admit, I quite appreciated the detail that the exhibits are simultaneously falling apart while also coming alive. In other words, they don’t turn into real monkeys and tigers, they turn into animated mouldy taxidermied figures.

And the combination of the stag, Gogus and Edie – really good. Edie has been such a strange little character so far, that to get a glimpse of her potential power is quite jaw-dropping. We can finally see the next generation of the Nornir in her.

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 13

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I wanted you to see that my home is not wholly filled with ugly memories.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Who else reckons that something will prevent the Chapmans from leaving the museum? Brian can fume all he likes, but the Nornir’s domain is now essentially a fortress, and Ursula still has a use for Neil. To paraphrase Quoth, depart that grooly abode they shall not. At least, not any time soon.

The rest of this chapter is the narrative equivalent of passing a difficult school test as a kid and then being given sweets as a reward. Well done, readers all, we’ve made it through the grisly description of Mary-Anne’s incarceration and demise, time for some Tudor revels to lift the mood.

And what delightful revels they are. Exquisitely detailed, with even amusing Tudor colour names making an appearance, Celandine’s last ball almost makes up for the ghastly shocks of Mr Pickering’s previous findings. It’s also interesting to see a bit of development regarding what Ursula was like before her sisters deteriorated with Nirinel. We really get a sense of all that the Websters have lost over the ages, and the blazing splendour of the past makes their present seem all the more shabby and ignoble.

This chapter is perfectly balanced. If I had to choose a chapter to represent this trilogy, it would be this. Ghost-hunting, family feuds, time travel, heartwarming and horrifying moments – it has everything. At the end of it I feel almost as overwhelmed as Mr Pickering. What will the Wyrd Museum throw at us next?

Matt’s Thoughts: Another Jarvis black/white chapter, where horror and beauty dwell side by side. The horror: discovering the fate of Mary-Anne Brindle, one which we almost would rather not have known. But then the beauty: the final ball of the sisters Webster before they became reclusive.

I’m glad, amidst all the darkness, that there was a pause for a scene like this. It gives us a rare moment of kindness by Ursula, where she allows Celandine a chance to relive her happier days. It’s finally convinced me that she is driven, not by a desire for power, but just a dedication to duty regardless of the great personal cost to her. That, I can understand.