Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Behold the city of cities,’ Thomas Herrick half sang under his breath. ‘Fair London, the great seductress – is she not a ravishing beauty? Tempted and destroyed far too many men, she has, and will ever continue to do so.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: The dynamic between Henry and Adam continues to fascinate me, because at this point their characters have been completely swapped around, defying all expectation.
On the face of it, it seems as if Adam should be the one longing to see London and idolising Brindle. As a talented and studious apprentice of Motive Science, Adam has the greatest cause to feel stifled by Malmes-Wutton, and as an orphan, the greatest cause to be latching on to mentors and parental figures wherever they might appear. I feel like it should be Henry; older, more worldly, and with familial support behind him, who ought to be the cautious homebody. But no, we’ve got sensible, suspicious Adam and rash, childlike Henry, and they’re hurtling into something from which they will both emerge changed, one way or another.
Then there’s the literal set-piece of this chapter; the apprentice’s first sighting of London. It was the scene with Gog and Magog which got me interested in London-based folklore, but what I hadn’t recalled and only noticed on reread is that Greenwich (at this point a Queen’s residence and not yet an Observatory) is separate from the main city, out on its own little island. I have to wonder if, in a later, unpublished Intrigue of the Reflected Realm, Mr Jarvis might’ve had a grisly fate in store for that isle, in keeping with his favourite pastime of destroying his home turf in writing.
Matt’s Thoughts: May I first up make a comment about the typeface of this book? I’m not sure what the font is called – though it reminds me very much of the font used for the Les Misérables musical – but it makes the experience of this book so immersive. When you see the slightly crumbling nature of the words, as if they came off an ancient printing press a few centuries ago, you are instantly drawn into the Elizabethan age.
I also am a huge fan of the chapter titles – never enough detail to give the story away and, in fact, nearly always enigmatic until you’ve read the chapter. In some sense, there is more of an air of mystery and, dare I say it, intrigue, that lurks over this story than any previous Jarvis novel I can think of.
It’s a shame this was never made into a film, because the Iribian deserves his place among the great sci-fi ‘monsters’ (though that’s too simple a term for him) of things such as Alien and Predator. The difference here – and it’s what makes it all so intriguing – is that the potential danger of this character is hidden beneath a veneer of charm and courage. And quite possibly …sincerity.
The hunter-like elements of Brindle remind me of sci-fi creatures, and the duality of his personality (sinister behind the scenes, noble in person) reminds me of the likes of Jekyll and Hyde. His sadness and inner conflict also put him in the realm of a kind of Frankenstein’s monster, perpetually isolated from humanity by what he is, despite his very human thoughts and feelings.
And this is before we’ve even thrown in the historical element, what with the Tower, Elizabeth I , and so forth.
Finally, seeing as I haven’t read the book all the way through yet, and the end of the chapter has foreshadowed that only two of the four will make it back, I might as well place my bets and see how it all turns out. My money would be on Adam and Henry being the ones to survive. Richard, well, I’ve been worried about him since he left on this trip. Brindle is a survivor, but I’m not sure if someone with his ‘skills’ can really be left alive. We’ll see how it goes!