The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 17

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘”From this day forward” is what I said, but we’re not going forward, we’re going back.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Begrudging congratulations to Mister Dark for finally out-classing Nathaniel Crozier in the villainous rebirth department. Ol’ Croz didn’t even have time to change for dinner before his vengeful ex came to chew him out, and here’s Dark, still ‘alive’ (in the loosest sense) after a Robin Jarvis finale, with a new name and a new face to match. I think somebody deserves a signature song.

A moment of silence, however, for those who didn’t make it. For every victim of the Devil’s Paintbox; for Verne, given that he’s almost certainly ‘for it’ now; for Cassandra’s relationship with her daughter; and finally, for Cherry Cerise. Rest in rainbows.

Matt’s Thoughts: Yes, indeed, we’re going back. Back to the … well, not really the future. More like back to the past. (Though I like to think the tracks of light that our heroes follow at the end is a nod to a famous set of flaming tyre tracks!)

I can’t wait – especially since everyone else seems to have read Time of Blood except for me! All the little hints and clues set up in this book about time travel will now hopefully be answered! And this does, of course, leave it wide open that if the past can be altered, there may just be a chance to reverse the fate of Cherry?

We’ll see. Either way, nice to see that Lil and her mum made up, even if only briefly, and even if everything else was left on an almighty cliffhanger.

See you in December, Re-Readers!

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The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 16

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Another lost soul, searching for meaning. There really are too many of them in this modern age.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: To be honest, I had doubts that this book might succumb to the awful curse of being The Middle: Part One of Two. Devil’s Paintbox sits at an awkward angle in Robin Jarvis canon for being book two, not in a nice symmetrical trilogy, but in a quartet. This means that it not only has to lift the introductory first book into high-stakes sequel territory, but support two more afterwards. There’ll be no neat wrapping-up next book, because we are not done. What happens here has to tell its own story while sustaining the overall themes, mood and plot of the Witching Legacy – a devilishly difficult task.

That said, it works, and works extremely well. This finale could pass for the sort of large, theatrical trilogy ending for which Mr Jarvis is so well-known, and yet, since this is book two of four, we as readers can still anticipate the inevitable escalations that will surely happen over the course of the next two books.

We’ve got everything – a limelight moment for Cherry, for Lil, and for our villain. Burnings and transformations, storms and earthquakes, and a clever connecting of Whitby’s past to its human inhabitants, rather than through the fantastical lens of the aufwaders.

My favourite moment of the chapter is definitely when the torrent comes and Whitby beings to ‘smudge and dissolve like a watercolour painting.’ What a wonderful image!

Matt’s Thoughts: Where to begin with a finale like this? There was something to love on every page. Firstly, all the talk of tea, teabags, knitting, etc. all comes together as we realise the genius of Jack Potts.

Then the Hot Chocolate entry of Cherry Cerise, which makes me slightly nostalgic – not for the 70s (of which I was really too young to remember) but actually the 90s. ‘You Sexy Thing’ made a brief comeback in my teenage years, courtesy of The Full Monty, the British comedy about out-of-work Sheffield miners who decided to become male strippers. The film itself may have faded a bit from memory, but it had an awesome 70s disco soundtrack.

And then just everything: the shock of Jack being out of the story (a NOOOO! moment for me), the YES! of Gansey Blue, and the final heroic act of Cherry.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, the beautiful conversation between Cherry and Cassandra, which made me a bit misty-eyed on my morning bus ride.

I also really liked the quote (which I’ve put above) by Mr Dark about how annoying it is to run into modern types ‘searching for meaning’. This is a slight mini-variation on a theme that gets a full exploration in the Dancing Jax trilogy, so I won’t go into it much here, but it’s an interesting spin on the latest Jarvis villains that they can work their ancient supernatural evil by tapping into modern discontent.

So absolutely top-notch Jarvis finale material, and we still have another chapter to go!

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 15

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘My place is here,’ she said. ‘This town is under my watch.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: In true Robiny form, things get ever more cinematic and intense as we zoom toward the finale. I have to say I really like the transition of Cassandra’s little mini-cult from a sort of gothy Crystal Prison outlook to full-on Felixstowe Jax Weekend, with her seaside altar and ‘oxblood leather’ getup. She might’ve missed the Black Sceptre by a couple of decades, but she’s holding her own as a high priestess of a different sort, and now as secondary villain to Mister Dark.

Speaking of, he’s one of my least favourite villains in all Robiny canon, so I do feel rather smug that Jack Potts is deceiving him over Verne. Who would’ve guessed Mr Potts had all his ichors aligned to nobility and justice? Well then!

(Finally, I have to laugh over Cherry’s little spy mouse being chewed by Catesby. I suppose Robin ‘mouse killer’ Jarvis couldn’t resist that one.)

Matt’s Thoughts: I’ve got to say, the steampunk/goth showdown in Book 1 is starting to feel like the distant memory of a Sunday picnic compared with the goings-on in this chapter.

All the townsfolk out for some public burnings? It’s like Summerisle on the mainland!

Actually, I think what I like most about the Whitby stories is that things will go absolutely insane within the village, but there’s always some reason worked out why nobody in the outside world realises what is happening. For instance, there was the giant reset that happened at the end of The Whitby Child, where the town was back to normal and nobody could remember anything. Or in this case, there’s a military quarantine going on, and the outside world presumably knows bits and pieces due to social media, but nobody really believes that there are dark magical forces at work unless you live in the village.

The best part of all these goings-on is that Jack Potts finally joins the good side. He’s such a great character, it would have been a dreadful waste just to have him as a villain. The worst part is the loss of Ziggy the mouse …

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 14

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘He intends to eat her.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: For me China White is the second most horrifying paintblock after Scourge Yellow, especially when Verne’s dad asks him if Noreen is ‘aware’ in there. Is she? Are the others? We have no idea. How ghastly is that? And then some of the transfigured people get stepped on and there are little ceramic organs in them? Yikes and thrice yikes!

Here’s our Whitby Witches veteran theory for this chapter: Mister Dark is referred to as a ‘devil’ quite a few times throughout this series. He is dark-haired, has the ability to put on a suave persona, and has time travel in his repertoire of evil gifts. I’m probably way off the mark, but readers, I’m thinking of Miss Wethers’ charming man.

Matt’s Thoughts: Because I’m assuming we all have illustrated editions, we won’t need to do a dedicated post on illustrations at the end, but I do want to point out that if it comes to picking favourite illustrations, the two in this chapter rate pretty highly for me.

First up, the broken china figure with anatomically correct internal organs is chilling. (It’s also a nice way to sneak in some gore without actually having any blood. Nice one, Mr Jarvis!) The concept is horrific, and also adds a real sense of danger to what would otherwise be a more pedestrian fight between Verne’s dad and Clarke and the dodgy Rory Morgan.

Second great picture is the one of Lil on the mantelpiece, especially because we don’t get many full picture of Lil and Verne (too many horrific villains and ugly characters to go around).

The fight between ghost dog Sally and Catesby is also now the top thing from this book that I would like to see on film. They’re both great animal characters, utterly improbable in one sense, perfectly logical in the scheme of this book.

But most of this stuff in the chapter was wiped away because of the last line. We knew Dark was creepy, but a cannibal??? Shudder … What sick person dreams up these ideas? 😉

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 13

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

She did not hear the noises of the night that scratched over the roof and outside her window, nor sense the long insect limbs that felt their way round the frame, seeking entry.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: It’s good to see Cherry on the mend at last (I like that Lil thought to include as many colours as possible in her healing blanket) and at least Lil has some motherly support in Noreen meanwhile.

I also enjoy the developments up at the Abbey enormously. As a Whitby Witches old-timer, the irony of gothy, how-I-wish-I-were-a-real-witch Cassandra forming a sort of coven and overseeing midnight dances around bonfires is by no means lost on me. Sorry Cass, the Black Sceptre got cleared out years ago, you’ve missed your chance for the real deal. But then, I don’t think beardy, unkempt Nathaniel is your type somehow…

Matt’s Thoughts: A moment of warmth in the midst of the trial, with Verne’s mum suddenly becoming a supportive player, and Jack Potts turning out to be a master tea-maker. (And possibly a master foreshadower as well.)

It also is a nice way of giving Noreen a moment in the story. Given that everything is so magical, it would be easy for Cassandra to be the parent that gets the most story-time because of her goings-on up at the Abbey. But Noreen isn’t sick and isn’t possessed so can actually do things. So not to write her off as a typical parent who lectures the kids on leaving things up to the grown-ups is really nice. She reminds me somewhat of Gwen Brown, to be honest.

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 12

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The Esk Valley was filled with sand.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I have to say that I felt a little swizzed when I realised that the waves on the cover of this book were sand and not, as I had originally guessed, a river of blood. (You could’ve had a river of blood, Robin!)

I can’t help but admire how stoic Lil and Verne are being throughout all this. Cherry’s still recharging and their parents are on a sliding scale of mildly helpful to, well, Cassandra, but neither of our spooky happenings duo have had a full-on breakdown yet. Here’s hoping they can keep their chins up – or at least, above the sand.

Matt’s Thoughts: Now this chapter I really enjoyed because I couldn’t find a precedent for it in any other sort of story. Bugs, sickness and mist are a nice nod to the Ten Plagues but, Mr Jarvis, where did you get the idea of turning Whitby into a giant sandpit? It’s a great visual idea and I can just picture it all. (Perhaps because I’m a fan of Lawrence of Arabia, so anything with sand.) It’s almost fun, but then when you throw in giant insects  as well? Eurgh …

Meanwhile, I should say something about Jack Potts. There is always a difficulty with robots in stories – how many feelings do you actually give them given that they’re not human? So the scene with the teacup and how it teaches Jack about human mortality is a really nice touch. It also sets up another subplot – will he fight against his possession by Mr Dark?

Finally, blood-stained glasses might be just one of the great illustration gems in this book.

The Devil’s Paintbox | Chapter 11

devils paintbox

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I call upon the warmth and protection of the First Mother!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter hit me like a tonne of bricks. We’ve all struggled and had times in our lives when we’ve felt despair and hopelessness, and I can remember thinking the first time I read Cherry’s speech to the two women on the bridge; ‘If there’s some young person out there having a bad time and they’re reading this, I hope it helps them’. Sometimes, that’s the most important thing a story can do.

With Cherry out of commission and The Crystal Prison happening all over again (now with an all-new goth cult) the little interlude with Jack Potts and the tea is a welcome distraction. Who’s side is that bargain-bin mechanical even on at this point? What is stewing in his kettle of a head, and what’ll happen when it inevitably boils over?

Since we aren’t doing illustration nominations for this series, I’d like to mention the art for this chapter as a favourite. There goes Catesby over the rooves of beleaguered Whitby, silhouetted against a classic Robiny sky with the little crosshatched clouds. Love that!

Matt’s Thoughts: A beautiful moment of sacrifice by Cherry (always bound to happen to a Jarvis character once we find out their back story!) and Despairing Black is stopped.

The mist here actually reminds me of notorious British horror novel The Fog by James Herbert, which featured a fog which came out of a crack in the ground and sent most of England mad / insane.

Of course, now with mental illness, depression, anxiety and suicide being an unfortunately common experience, these things are harder to turn into pure entertainment. I feel Mr Jarvis handles the topic really delicately in this chapter.

We realise – from the several suicidal people in this chapter – how badly this particular colour plague is affecting the town but I also feel there is a sense of Jarvis not revelling in this one to the same degree as the more physical horrors that he would normally inflict on his characters.

Finally, you could argue that there is madness in town as well, especially from the crowd gathered outside the Abbey …