Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘For the final time I will say this: you are the lowest form of unwelcome parasite to crawl upon the surface of this dream world.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Another chapter, another soul destroying say in the New Forest. And it really is soul destroying. These children may not have had their identities sucked out of them by Dancing Jax, but their morale and will to live is being destroyed in other ways. Jangler and the Punchinellos are definitely thorough, not just in their punishments, but in depriving the aberrants of the things that have kept them going since Austerly Fellows took over and the world went to rack and ruin.
Alisdair having his guitar and then his hand broken is a truly awful moment, but what’s just as bad, in a different way, is Spencer having his Westerns literally and figuratively taken off him.
Alisdair has enough fibre and backbone left to have a chance at recovery if he ever gets out of this ordeal alive, but Spencer was clearly hanging on by a thread, and now that thread has been cut. To my mind what Garrugaska the Punchinello does is a kind of mental torture; making it so that Spencer has nowhere to escape to even in his imagination. It might get not be as visible as Jody’s wounds or Alistair’s hand, but it’s torture all the same, and Spencer is just a kid. They’re all just kids.
Matt’s Thoughts: I think one of the elements that makes this book so potent is the real-world nature of its brutality. If they were just up against monsters, that wouldn’t be so bad. But this chapter’s guitar-smashing, hand-breaking, solitary confinement and other assorted horrors tend to cross the fantasy barrier for me. There’s not a lot left in this book that is fun.
Also, I can’t clearly remember who the Fellows splinter is – though I have growing suspicions. So there’s a certain anxiety for me every time they start talking about their plans in front of each other.
The bright spark in all of this is that Mr Jarvis inserts wonderful character interactions that we wouldn’t get otherwise if it wasn’t for this series of events. So the conversation between Charm and Maggie is beautiful to see. Personally, I think the characters in Freax and Rejex are some of the best Robin has ever written and their arc of growing and trusting each other is one of the highlights of the book.