Myth & Sacrifice

The Great Grand Robin Jarvis (Re)Read

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 3

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘It’s paints!’ she exclaimed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’m so sorry everyone, but I read and absorbed Deathscent first, and for that reason Jack Potts will forever come second to the mechanicals of Englandia in my esteem. Then again, if you enjoy Jarvis Universe Theory (as Matt has aptly named it) it’s pretty fun to imagine Potts getting sidetracked on his way to the Uplifted Isles and deciding that he’d be more at home in Whitby. Somewhere out there, Gloriana’s royal household is one butler short.

In this chapter we also have the return of Lil’s love for forgotten and obscure words. One of the strongest and most enjoyable aspects of this quartet is the wordplay and tinkering with dialect that goes on – we’ll see this most prominently with a character in Time of Blood, but we’ll get to them next month.

Then there’s that box. That vile, fiendish, malign, maleficent and positively diabolical box. I hate it. I ain’t ready.

Matt’s Thoughts: I love the ambiguous nature of what goes on in this chapter. Jack Potts shows up, but it’s not immediately obviously how his game is going to work. And then the parcel in the fireplace with its letters from the past … how did they come to get there? We’re clearly going to get a bit of time travel, because we’re encountering the famous Time Travel Paradox, but under what circumstances?

And how dangerous could paints be? This is my second time through, but I distinctly remember reading this the first time and having no idea how deadly a paintbox could be…


The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 2

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

And the left eye flickered.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter starts with something really interesting that we haven’t seen much of in the reread so far: ordinary characters having to deal with the practical aftermath of last book’s showstopping finale. In the Whitby Witches Trilogy, the whole business with the Lords of the Deep was wiped from collective memory. Ben even lost his second sight, but ended up with two living parents in compensation. In the Deptford Mice, the heroes might’ve had a lot of emotional baggage as a result of Jupiter’s defeat, but the sun was restored to the sky and everybody lived leafily ever after.

Here, however, the finale of The Power of Dark has had mundane, practical consequences. The taking-apart of Whitby’s tech in the name of Melchior Pyke’s age-old grudge has cost Verne’s parents the family business and caused a deterioration of their relationship, affecting Verne’s well-being in turn. Sure, it’s not epic angst over the supposed murder of one’s best friend, turning one to the bottomless rum bowl of depression, nor the noble shouldering of indescribable grief in order to ascend to a sacred spiritual sovereignty. But parents with money troubles is something a lot of young readers have likely suffered in their own lives, and Verne’s plight resonates.

Then there’s the fascinating mystery of the Nimius. One day it allows Verne to soar through the night’s sky, the next, it tips him head first into the world of (here it is again folks) Dancing Jax, with blank-eyed, zombie-like strangers pursuing him.

This whole chapter is unbelievably creepy, but what punched me in the gut was Mrs Gregson’s rather pathetic cameo. In A Warlock in Whitby, she was unwilling landlady to Nathaniel Crozier, who kept her husband in a suspended magical stupor to ensure her compliance. Now, we learn that Mrs Gregson is a widow, scraping out a difficult life alone. I’d wish her and all Whitby a quiet, magic-free existence, but we all know that’s never going to happen.

Matt’s Thoughts: And it’s just another day in Whitby, where people throw money at you. But we’re also seeing a reversal of the nice family situation that was set up in the first book. Back then, whatever happened to Lil and Verne, their families were always there (albeit oblivious to what was going on). But the fighting between both halves of the two couples, plus the fights the couples are having with each other – it sets up an unstable world for our two young heroes. And that’s before we even get to the Paintbox of the title…

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 1

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Rise and dance the jig of Dark for me.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This summer I had the spine-chilling experience of hearing this chapter read aloud by Mr Jarvis himself at a book festival, and I must now strongly argue for a set of Witching Legacy digital audiobooks narrated by the author. (What about it, Egmont?)

Great as this chapter is and fantastic as it was to hear it read aloud to a crowd of silent, breathless new Witching Legacy fans, I do rather weep for Tracy and the Empress of the Dark (to call back to Roslyn Crozier) that she might have been. She was all set up in the first book to be a major, albeit unwitting, player in the machinations of Mister Dark and the Triad. I can’t help but feel that she has been unceremoniously disposed of here, and I would have loved for her to have stuck around for a bit and had a full arc in the style of Pear or Alison Sedge.

All that aside, this is one ghoulish chapter, and a good setup for the overall tone of this book, which is a lot grimmer than the relatively fluffy Power of Dark. First of all, a run-down scrap metal yard at night is a Dancing Jax setting if ever there was one, and the casual murder of the night watchman has that classic Robin Jarvis Grew Up On Horror Films And It Shows feel.

Mister Dark himself also seems to have acquired a bit of the gravitas afforded to semi-major Robiny villains. We’ve seen what’s at stake for him in the prologue, and this knowledge lends all his actions a hint of true menace, tinged with desperation. If he fails, he will be forfeit to the pettiest and most sadistic deities of the Whitby Witches universe, and we all know what happens to paltry warlocks who displease the Lords of the Deep.


Matt’s Thoughts: Well, any thought that Power of Dark was a bit light-on has been banished by this curtain-raiser. A few of us had hopes that Tracy might turn out to be an interesting character in her own right as this series went on, but she’s gone by the end of the chapter!

That said, I am very glad to see the return of Jack Potts. He was far too interesting a character to leave behind in Book 1, and this interesting mix of robots and witchcraft is fascinating. (That said, I haven’t read Deathscent yet, which I understand also shares a steampunk theme? Or is that my imagination?)


The Devil’s Paintbox | Triallum

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Know this,’ the emissary warned. ‘Should you fail, there is no returning. You will suffer Their full wrath and endure torment – forever more.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What immediately hits me about this prologue is how deeply Robin Jarvis it is. That might seem redundant, as of course all of this is Robin Jarvis, but that opening line is the voice of someone who has spent over two decades finding and perfecting a certain mood and style.

‘Indistinct shapes, blacker than the eternal night that reigned over this furthest region of the sea, guided the shadowy figure to the place appointed.’ 

Really, with an opener like that, you know you’re in for a grand time. Then we get a shadowy meeting in which an outcast doer of nefarious supernatural deeds comes into the presence of malevolent, godlike beings and so enters an unholy contract. What more could we possibly ask for?


Matt’s Thoughts: He seemed to be somewhat of a side character in the first book (despite having his name in the title) but Mr Dark has moved front and centre to be a new Jarvis villain for the modern day. Quite comfortable dealing with ancient forces on the one hand, while also handy with how to get to people via their smartphones …

I’m probably the last generation of teenagers that didn’t have a smartphone (and even  mobile phones in general only took off in my university years). So I read stories of the stalking and bullying and whatnot that happens nowadays – and I’m starting to worry about my own kids as they head into that age group! – but Mr Jarvis has taken the phenomena of our modern life and put his own supernatural spin on it with no trouble whatsoever. Great stuff!

Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | The Power of Dark

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance the names of all those who have fallen to the fatal stroke of Mr Jarvis’ pen. Hero, villain, or neither, we honour their sacrifice for the greater myth of the story.

The dead (and undead) of The Power of Dark are as follows: 

SCAUR ANNIE   (The Power of Dark | Ch 2 – The Power of Dark | Ch 14)  Whitby witch of long ago, Annie’s unquiet spirit lay dormant and seething for four centuries, awaiting the conclusion of her ancient feud with the alchymist, Sir Melchior Pyke. Hauled from death by the Lords of the Deep in their malice, Annie be-gothed and be-witched the East Cliff in an attempt to wage war upon Sir Melchior and all he stood for. Owing to the guidance of Cherry Cerise and Lil’s compassion, Annie saw the folly of her endeavour at the last, and was reunited with her lover in eternal peace.

SIR MELCHIOR PYKE  (The Power of Dark | Prologue – The Power of Dark Ch 14) Alchymist and natural philosopher, Melchior Pyke sought to create for himself a device which would bestow power beyond measure. Over the years, the pursuit of such consumed him, till at last he came to Whitby, destitute and desperate, and there delivered Annie from a fiery death. Despite his love for Whitby’s fair witch, Sir Melchior saw only the glory that awaited him upon completion of his life’s work, and this blindness was his downfall. Murdered by his former love, he, like Annie, awaited his rebirth in torment, and like her, sought to wage war. He is forgiven for his pride and heedless pursuit of power, and forsook all earthly treasures to rest with Annie.

SALLY  (The Power of Dark | Ch 1 – The Power of Dark | Ch 14)  Lil’s beloved pet of many years, this faithful companion sadly died in an accident on the night of Annie’s confrontation with Sir Melchior. Upon vacating Lils body, however, Annie left behind a little of her gifts, and with them, Lil’s awareness of her own powers. Lil found that Sally’s ghost had stayed by her side, a comfort to her in that painful time.

The Power of Dark | Epilogue


‘Welcome to the sisterhood. Lilith Wilson, you’re a bona-fide witch.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The thing I latched on to here was Cherry’s mention of the ‘guild of time witches’. There’s one instalment left to be published in this quartet, and if it doesn’t explain that in some way, I will be having words.

As for the rest of it – classic Robin Jarvis epilogue with the final twist snuck into the last couple of lines. Lil may be all right and Verne have the Nimius, but we’re only one book in, and soon our ‘spooky happenings duo’ will find themselves between the devil and the Deep Dark Triad.


Matt’s Thoughts: A great little teaser of an epilogue here – Lil can do magic, she’s somehow going to travel back in time, the Westie is a ghost, and the Nimius is still around. It’s a great setup for Book 2. Actually, especially the time-travel angle. While there has always been a lot of jumping between worlds in Jarvis stories, time travel is not something I’ve come across. (Unless it’s in Wyrd Museum? I’m still yet to read that one.) So seeing how that will play out – which always requires some clever plotting, will be awesome.

Anyway, this story has definitely put Whitby on the map again for me – if I ever get the chance to return to the UK again, I’d be very keen to stop by.

See you next month for The Devil’s Paintbox!



The Power of Dark | Chapter 14


‘In the name of science,’ Melchior Pyke yelled, ‘let battle commence!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: First of all I am deeply offended that Cherry should compare the loathsome Mister Dark to a reptile. I am slighted and aggrieved. I throw down my gauntlet and demand satisfaction.

Second of all, what is this ending? What is this lovey-dovey, wishy-washy, namby-pamby balderdash about Melchy being all right after all and Annie just accepting him back after ‘four centuries of hate’? Where was Melchior’s apparent devotion when he was belittling Annie about her upbringing, or when he lied to her about his means, or when he refused to even try to explain his ‘great work’ to her? Would it have killed him, as I said in an earlier chapter, to communicate with her? At any point he could have expressed what was written in his journal out loud. Plus, I do not for one second believe that he found nothing sinister in Mister Dark – it was he who cut that Frankenstein’s monster down from the gallows!

Then there’s Annie’s side; admiration turned to infatuation turned to jealous, damaging obsession. She was willing to betray the aufwaders for her ‘fine gentleman’, and then, when he rejected her, poison him in cold blood. That’s not love, not even in a period drama. That’s a young, naive and troubled girl putting the first man who isn’t awful to her on a pedestal and then being unable to cope when the relationship inevitably falls apart.

The bottom line is that Annie and Melchior are not meant for each other. They are not love’s young dream, and one kiss in bodies that aren’t even their’s does not a healthy relationship make. Thank goodness they’re in their ‘everlasting peace’, because the alternative would most likely have been dysfunction beyond measure.


Matt’s Thoughts:  By Jarvis standards, a rather bloodless (and almost amusing) finale. We get the fun of a steampunk vs goths showdown – a nice nod to the real thing in Whitby – an ‘Awww’ ending to the love story – and it’s all over, bar a few broken skeletons and steampunks. However, this is a quartet, not a trilogy. So the rhythm of how much things will get ramped up is a bit different in this one. (As we’ll find in Book 2.)

And, look, it’s not entirely bloodless. After all that, it’s the Sally dog – who otherwise seemed destined to contribute a never-ending bunch of flatulence humour – who does not make it past the end of the book alive. There’s always a sting in the tail somewhere.

The Power of Dark | Chapter 13


‘Your pitiable colour magic is no match for the power of dark,’ he called after them. ‘All shall die!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I was right! I was right about the nimius having the mark of the Serpent upon it, and I was right about Melchior Pyke being too good to be true! Okay so it was a different Serpent than I was darkly hinting at earlier, and there’s still a chapter or so to go, so Melchy might turn out all right in the end, but let me have my moment this once.

There’s a little detail in Melchior’s confrontation with Annie that makes me smile every time, and that’s Melchy describing his great work as the ‘hazelnut of wisdom and inspiration.’ Who else was wise and revered, and wore the fruit of the hazel? The Lady Ninnia. And what did the first black squirrel find on the first tree at the dawn of the world? A shining hazelnut. It probably wasn’t intentional on Robin’s part (I’m rather adept at reaching where his worlds are concerned, as you all know) but I’m going to imagine it was.

While I’m here, I’m also going to take the image of Melchior being so besotted with his golden filigreed treasure containing serpentine magic that he cannot live without it and its promises and just …run with that. Make of it what you will, Readers all, but I know a motif when I see one, consciously applied or not.


Matt’s Thoughts: Who thought that Morgawrus’ tears would be so useful? Clearly, there is something to this idea that the bodily fluids of ancient serpents have immense power.

But I like the way that it’s not just about power and magic here – essentially the crucial turning point is Scaur Annie’s broken heart, and her feeling of being betrayed. So in the end, Melchior Pyke wasn’t stopped by a more powerful worker of magic – but simply by a girl who was deeply hurt.

The Power of Dark | Chapter 12


‘They’ll spit on my footprints in the sand and won’t never speak to me no more and I don’t blame ’em. The caves’ll be shut against me from now on. Landbreed, that’s what I am, hateful landbreed, never to be trusted. No different from the rest.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: First of all who are you calling a ‘gnome type’, Cherry? Second of all how great is it that in this version of Whitby, the aufwaders taught the early human settlers the sea-lore they needed to survive? In the original trilogy it’s implied that the ‘landbreed’ and the fisherfolk were at one point on civil terms, so that ties in as neatly as the ends of a net.

In this chapter we get more of the period drama that is Annie n’ Melchy, but at least Cherry says what we were all thinking when she points out that what they have isn’t love, but something ‘dark and obsessive and scary’. There’s certainly nothing romantic about Annie’s theft and her betrayal of her adoptive kin, nor about Melchior’s fanatical pursuit of power and view of Annie as an instrument to facilitate his own ends. As I said earlier I wish they would just have a talk, but it seems a bit late for that at this point.


Matt’s Thoughts: I’m glad I read The Whitby Child recently, because I had actually forgotten that all the aufwaders left Whitby at the end of that. So this is a chance to have them back in the story for a time (even if they are only there in a drugged sleep). But it does also remind us that they really get the short straw. Abused by humans, treated badly by the Lords of the Deep, the list goes on. There’s simply no sense that they will ever enjoy a peaceful, undisturbed existence.

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