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The Great Grand Robin Jarvis (Re)Read

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final reckoning

The Final Reckoning | Illustration Nominations

Aufwader’s Pick:

hunted
‘Hunted’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I have a faint memory of this illustration being on the inside cover for the cassette of this book, but my tape of The Final Reckoning is being lent out to a friend at the moment, so I’ll get back to you all on that. Anyway, what an image! Those empty-eyed, ice-spear-wielding spectres are enough to give anybody the heebie-jeebies. No wonder the mice turned and fled!

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‘Battle on Board’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

There’s a lot to appreciate about this. It’s a fantastically cinematic action sequence, it’s got depth and movement and bats falling to their deaths and ghostly claws reaching and Thomas cutting a swathe through the foe. I love Oswald up in the corner there, chucking bits of the Book of Hrethel and dodging ice spears.

Matt’s Pick:

 

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‘Duel in the Storm’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I mean – just look at this illustration! Piccadilly, looking more savage than you’ll ever see him and Morgan, looking more vulnerable than you’ll ever see him. The details are just awesome: the snow angling down, the knife poised over Morgan’s throat, which Piccadilly has bared by pushing Morgan’s head back, the famous anti-cat charm that did away with Jupiter the first time.

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‘The Final Reckoning’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

We kind of know that Jupiter is a lot larger than a regular cat this time around, but it really hits home when you see this picture of his immense gullet and the tiny silhouette of Audrey standing in front of him. There’s only one word for this one: Apocalyptic. I can still dream that maybe one day we’ll all have beautiful cloth-bound editions of these books complete with illustrations to take us back to our childhoods.

 

 

Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | The Final Reckoning

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance 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 deceased of The Final Reckoning are as follows:

MR KEMPE  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 5 – The Final Reckoning | Prologue) The first victim of the the undead spectre of Jupiter, Mr Kempe travels no more. He is settled at last in the Green, and will be missed by all who knew him.

PIERS  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning Chapter 4) Slain with twenty-two of his fellow Greenwich squirrels during the sacking of the Starwife’s chambers by the Unbeest, Piers was a loyal and devoted aide to the Handmaiden of Orion until the end. Speed to the Green.

THE MICE OF HOLEBORN: AGNES TRUMPER, CHARLIE COPPIT, ‘ENRY (THANE OF THE CITY), NED FIDGIT, FLO, EDNA, AND MANY UNNAMED  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning |  Chapter 8) May the Green bless and keep the innocent denizens of Holeborn, who were massacred by Morgan’s rat horde.  May they be forever remembered in our prayers to the Spirit of Life and Hope.

SMIFF  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) Born under the House of Mabb, this unlucky wretch was slain by his own brethren and was made to answer to the Lord of the Pit in the name of Bauchan. He now endures in the barren wastes of the Lady of Nightmare.

KELLY  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) Kelly met the same fate as his comrade, Smiff. However, as he was born in the House of Hobb, Kelly remained in the thrall of the Lord of the Pit after he and Smiff had conveyed Bauchan’s report. He has become acquainted with Skinner and Smiler, and the three of them are quite content as minor demons of the Unlit Regions.

THE RAT HORDE OF OLD STUMPY [INCLUDING: VINNY THE STANDARD BEARER]  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 3 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9) These bloodthirsty raiders and killers suffered the agony of enslavement to the Unbeest before they were permitted to return to the Three. Never having been rats of Deptford, they were not entirely lost to Jupiter, and thus they are welcomed before the Unholy Thrones.

MARTY  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8) Another innocent who fell victim to the claws of Morgan’s horde, this poor mouse was peeled before he could warn the Holeborners of the rats’ impending attack. He was mourned by Piccadilly in Chapter 10, and is mercifully gone to the Green.

MORGAN [OF CORNWALL]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10) Lieutenant and left claw of the Lord of All, he was unintentionally flung from his master’s altar and drowned during Jupiter’s defeat in The Dark Portal, but that was not the end for this wily old sinner. Surviving the Unbeest’s transmutation of his rat horde and the vengeance of his nemesis, Piccadilly, Morgan realised at the last that the Unbeest would not favour him forever. After a lifetime of suffering, he took his own life, freeing himself from the thrall of Jupiter and fulfilling the curse laid upon him in his youth.

PICCADILLY [OF HOLEBORN]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10) This flawed but valiant city orphan was the first victim of the wraiths of the Unbeest. Cut down before his time, he will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him, but especially by the new Starwife (née, Audrey Scuttle) who cherishes his memory to this day.

THE STARWIFE [NÉE: AUDREY]  (The Crystal Prison | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 11) After uncounted centuries of devoted service to the Green and to her people, the Handmaiden of Orion, last of the black squirrels, perished in accordance with her own wishes at the claw of the Midwinter Death. Orion shines for her.

OSWALD CHITTER [POSTHUMOUSLY: ‘THE MIGHTY’]  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13) This young hero sacrificed his life to bring ruin to the Unbeest, and although his attempt was in vain, Oswald shall forever be remembered as one of the bravest mice who ever lived. Too young to wear a brass in life, he was posthumously awarded the Sign of Bravery and Courage by the Green himself, and his parents cherish it as a treasured memorial.

HATHKIN  (The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13 – The Final Reckoning Chapter 14) This valiant moon rider’s renown is equal to the honoured companions of Oswald, Orfeo and Eldritch. Hathkin it was who saved Audrey from death in the cold upon the Day of Deliverance, and aided her in her last struggle to face the Unbeest at the height of his power. Though he gave his life in the attempt, Hathkin’s name will be sung by all his kind upon the anniversary of that terrible day, and his place is set high in the sight of the Heavenly Lady.

ALGY COLTFOOT  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14) A brave victim of the battle with the wraiths of the Unbeest aboard the Cutty Sark, this simple but stalwart mouse will be mourned by all who knew him. May the Green receive his spirit.

MASTER OLDNOSE  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 2 – The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14) Mousebrass maker and tutor of the Skirtings, Master Oldnose was another who perished during the battle of the Cutty Sark. Honourable and upstanding to the end, he died protecting his fellow mice, and he will be fondly remembered by the whole community.

JUPITER  [SELF-TITLED ‘LORD OF ALL’]  In life, also referred to as the God of the Rats, the Prince of the Dying, the Lord of the Rotting Darkness, etcetera. In death, spoken of as the Unbeest. Self-titled ‘Lord of Death’, ‘Genius of the Black Winter’, etcetera.  (The Dark Portal | Chapter 1 –The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14)  Vanquished threefold by water deep, fire blazing, and the power of the Green wielded by Audrey Scuttle on the Day of Deliverance, the Unbeest’s outcast spirit shall be forever tormented by the flames of life. By the will of the Green he is condemned to an eternity of suffering in the bleak void. May his terrible legacy fade with time.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I come to call down my destiny – and it is tall and dangerous!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: We have come this far. We have had burnings and betrayals. We have faced the Midwinter Death and soared high through lightning to glory undying. Now the unknown path awaits. Now does Audrey face her greatest trial.

If I had to choose one chapter to set to music, to write a script for, to bring to life on the stage or in film, or even animate to nightmarish effect for the trauma and amazement of the young viewers of a children’s television channel, it would be this. We are about to have a final reckoning with The Final Reckoning, and it is monumental.

From the outset, things look bleak. The Book of Hrethel has failed; even the ancient wisdom of the bats, who have seen their fair share of strife in their time, has proved to be no more than a vain hope quickly vanquished. As the world darkens for the last time, Audrey embraces her destiny and makes her tall and dangerous stand.

Following Hathkin’s sacrifice and the loss of the last scrap of support our heroine had, there’s that long, bitter, unrelenting climb over the Observatory dome. I’ve been to Greenwich, I’ve seen that dome. For a human, that climb would be barely-achievable with proper ropes in good weather. For a fairy-light mouse in a howling snowstorm with the surface of the dome cracking and quaking beneath her, it’s nothing short of supernatural. To this day, I maintain that the Green came to Audrey’s aid in those crucial minutes, just as, I surmise, the divinity of the Heavenly Lady came to Oswald during his final charge.

Then there’s the shade of Piccadilly. Boy oh boy, Robin, way to rip out our hearts and chuck them across the room! As with poor Dilly-O’s demise, it’s the little details that get me; the ‘gouts of black blood’ matting down his hair; the empty eyes where once a mischievous warmth burned; the gleaming, rat-like fangs, harking back to how near he came in life to becoming one of those murdering wretches.

Look me in the eye, Readers all, and tell me you didn’t shed real tears when Audrey at last brings her beloved back, if not to life, then at least to the light. Then, as if all that were not enough, her father has to appear too and join in the misery. At this point we are almost wishing that Jupiter would just hurry up and do Audrey in – at least then she could be with her loved ones again and this excruciating ordeal of a finale would be over!

It is over though, and quickly. Unlike Matt, I do not find the toss-a-plant-and-save-the-world reveal all that anticlimactic, because if you really think about it, there was no real way it could have worked.

Audrey never had any great plan, only her instincts and the odd turns that came over her and made her all commanding. I think it’s incredibly poignant that the final reckoning between our heroine and our archvillain involves not a magical sword or a mystical talisman, but a crumpled snowdrop sprout; ‘the herald of spring and symbol of death.’ Audrey was never expecting anything to come of her last, desperate action, yet her tall and dangerous destiny decreed that something must, and it set at naught the designs of the Lord of All.

To me, the epilogue is perfect. If everything had been sunshine and rainbows, it would have felt false and forced after all that had been lost to get there.  As things stand, the Deptford Mice will certainly live ever after (if not happily) and for that we must be thankful.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Because it’s not a British finale until evil is vanquished and everyone else is left traumatised for years to come …

Perhaps a bit harsh, but I still remember the mixed emotions at hitting the end of this chapter. Jupiter is defeated, it’s all over, but yet half the characters are gone, the Chitter parents are in mourning and Audrey is essentially called to be the Deptford Mice equivalent of a Mother Superior in a convent somewhere.

It’s both triumphant and bleak at the same time.

What can I say? It’s an extraordinary finale and I’m in awe of the whole achievement of this trilogy.

The first time I read it, I will admit, I did think the burning flower that takes out Jupiter was a bit of a cop-out. Normally, the villain is taken out by something we understand and see coming from a mile away. (Think the chink in Smaug’s hide and Bard’s bow and arrow.) Whereas, there’s not a lot of foreshadowing that something as simple as a flower could take out something as mighty as Jupiter.

But then, that’s how this world of the Mice works, isn’t it? The Mice and the Squirrels both venerate the Green, the life-giving power of spring overcoming winter. That moment when the days of winter start to warm up and we realise there will be warm days returning. The power of life. And thus Jupiter is cast into Robin Jarvis’ version of Hell – eternal flames, but eternal flames of life and growth.

And I think I know my readership enough here to know that plenty of people will be echoing this sentiment – but let me say it, anyway – Audrey: what a magnificent climax to her story arc. In many ways, it was her stubborn nature that caused so much trouble in The Dark Portal (how many trips got instigated through the Grill because of that girl?). Her stubbornness was partly to blame for the non-starter romance between her and Piccadilly.

But when it came down to finding a character with the sheer backbone and nerve to stare down Jupiter and curse his name, there could be no more fitting character than Audrey to take him out. Extraordinary.

Which is also a word I’d use to sum up the last poignant moment with Piccadilly. Brilliantly handled and Mr Jarvis throws in Albert Brown as well – thus tying us thematically all the way back to The Dark Portal and giving us a solid bit of emotion before the finale. Story-telling perfection.

Anyway, as we finish up this book – with The Whitby Witches coming up next on the horizon! – were there any final thoughts that you wanted to share upon finishing the series? I know a few of you have been patiently holding out on a few theories along the way!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 13

 

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The albino was no longer afraid. This was his destiny and he accepted it courageously.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The moment you read this chapter title, you just know things are going to get epic. I envy new readers here because this is one hell of a penultimate sequence. However, beneath the desperate and saga-worthy fight between the House mice, the bats, and the undead wraiths of Jupiter, there is glory of a deeper and more personal kind.

Let’s start with Thomas taking charge on the Cutty Sark. Honestly, bless this mouse. Barely an hour ago he was on his deathbed, freezing horribly from the inside out, and yet he bounces right back as the House mice’s natural leader; posting those who can fight at their stations on deck, giving orders with grim stoicism. Mr Triton knows that the wraiths of the Unbeest are on their way and that none of the mice (himself included) are likely to live to witness the apocalyptic final act Jupiter has planned for that evening, yet he chooses to set an example by putting a brave face on things, and the mice find the strength to go on as a result.

Bless Mrs Chitter, too, while we’re at it. As always, nothing is ever arbitrary in Mr Jarvis’ work, and that gossiping mousewife is no exception. Here we see the gentle and weary core beneath her seemingly-vapid outer shell, and we feel for her as we feel for Gwen, at the end. They are both grieving mothers, and Mrs Chitter has grief aplenty for the fact that she almost lost Oswald once already.

Finally and most painfully, bless Oswald. The Unbeest has grown mythological in his might; he hauls the stars screaming from the sky and commands the very sun to bow down before him, yet still there is one who would seek to do him harm.

When you get right down to it, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Oswald and the bats finally defeat the Tyrant of the Cold. What matters is that sickly, gawky, put-up Oswald; laughing-stock of the Skirtings, disappointment to his parents, albino runt, had the courage to try. In the claws of Orfeo and Eldritch he is calm and determined right up to the end, but do you suppose that perhaps a part of him was constantly surprised by his own daring? Maybe, as Jupiter shrieked in agony and Oswald plunged to his death, he thought, dimly, ‘Oh heavens, will they all be calling me something great and grand now? Oswald Never-knew-he-had it-in-‘im? Oswald the Thin-of-belly-but-stout-of-heart? Oswald the Brave? Oswald the …Mighty? Yes, I do believe I like the sound of that.’

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’m not sure I have a lot to say except that Oswald was my favourite and I’ll be over in the corner having a sniffle and observing a minute of silence. Such a great showdown, but Mr Jarvis, did we need to lose Oswald as well? Surely, anyone but Oswald?

Sigh. ‘This was his destiny and he accepted it courageously.’

Also, one of those random musical moments, when I was reading this on the train, this track started from the awesome Max Richter remix of The Four Seasons, which (once you get past the first minute, which is sort of a slow intro) seemed to fit Oswald’s last charge quite appropriately:

See you all for the Grand Finale, people!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 11

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘In my raven youth they called me … Audrey.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: As if we had not learnt enough Harsh Lessons last chapter, ‘The Midwinter Death’ brings us another, namely, that mentor figures are not as infallible as they may initially seem. Sometimes one must count on one’s own wits and resourcefulness to pull through, and so it is with Thomas and Arthur here.

The effects of Thomas’ injury make for deeply uncomfortable reading. The sturdy mariner mouse whom our young heroes had come to trust, respect, and rely upon quite literally shatters before their eyes, involuntarily revealing the dark and guilt-gnawed heart he has been hiding for decades. Despite the Starwife’s callous manner, we recall that she knew Thomas before the Deptford Mice knew her, and in our heart of hearts we recognise that she will not abandon the midshipmouse in his time of dire need.

As we all hoped, the Starwife does indeed come to Thomas’ aid, but in doing so, dooms herself, bringing home the Harsh Lesson of this chapter. I feel like this is quite a unique aspect in fantasy, middle-grade or otherwise. In the usual course of things, the wise and seemingly-immortal mentor figure would gracefully fade and die only after the hero had proved to be a worthy successor for them, or after the main conflict had been resolved completely.

This is Robin Jarvis, however, and even the mightiest of oaks shall fall. The Starwife is exhausted in her very bones; she has done all she can, but ultimately, she can do no more. We must respect her for continually giving her all in even the most desperate of circumstances until she has no more to give.

The scene where she is visited by Barker in the falling snow is, I feel, one of the most poignant in this entire trilogy. The Handmaiden of Orion, revered queen upon the Oaken Throne, finally comes face to face with Bauchan the Ever-artful, third branch of the suppurating, blood-fed tree that is the Raith Sidhe. And yet, there is no great confrontation. No grand battle commences, no spells of might and ruin are exchanged. What do these ancient and terrible beings of power do instead? Grimace at each other over Jupiter’s Unbeestly head, and mutually give up.

It really jolts a body. Up until this point, our heroes may not have had a lot to hope for, but at least they had the Starwife. Now not even she can hold back the encroaching night, and even the agent of the Unholy Three flees before the prospect of Jupiter All-powerful. For the Deptford Mice, and for the world, the future looks as bleak as midwinter.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Another deep mythological chapter. In a way – at least if you’ve never read any of the other books – much of the mythology is unknown. Who is Hagol, whose midwinter death has stricken Thomas? Bauchan turns out to be a real character, not just an imaginary god. Well, how many other gods are there for other creatures? How does the cosmology of the spirit-life work in the Deptford universe? Is there a significance to the name Audrey that echoes through history?

But in a way, these are questions for the nerds. (Which we all are over here at Myth & Sacrifice!)

What’s far more striking about this chapter for me is that moment that often occurs in the third volume of a Jarvis novel – the cutting off of all options. If you follow the thread for this book, we thought the Book of Hrethel might defeat Jupiter. It was blank. Then we thought the mousebrass would defeat Jupiter. It failed. Then we hoped it might be the Starwife or something.

But the Starwife is now dead and Bauchan has declared that the Raith Sidhe have given up hope.

Like, what the heck else is there that we can try?

Jarvis is a master at doing this as his stories draw to a close – where the darkness is so thick and the way so unknown, no one can know how it’s all going to end.

I find this to be such a contrast to most other young people’s stories, where the heroes are so heroic, and the ending so telegraphed, that you can tell where it’s going from a mile away and how it’s going to end. Not so here.

Three more chapters to go till we’re all done!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 10

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘My name is Piccadilly,’ he shouted proudly, ‘and by the power of the Green Mouse I banish you forever!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth in a moment, but first, I feel I must point out the opening scene of this chapter in which Audrey is caught preening herself. For our heroine, this small sequence is the beginning of the end of her coming-of-age.

Gwen is understanding about Audrey’s desire to make peace with Piccadilly (for which my love for that little mousemum reaches new heights) but she also makes a very percipient point that, I’m sure, resonates with many of us. Audrey can do nothing to change her situation. She is married to Twit for good or ill until the grass grows green over them both, but instead of drowning in despair and feeling sorry for herself, she should try to accept that which she has no control over and find what harmony she can within herself.

Harmony seems rather distant, however, in the face of Audrey’s final meeting with Piccadilly. Ow! I tell you what, OW! If you’re wondering what that ripping noise is it’s the sound of my heart being shredded into tiny pieces. I bet I wasn’t the only one yelling ‘JUST TELL HIM!’ out loud during this part. Nor, I surmise, was I the only one groaning in frustration when Thomas and Arthur appeared at precisely the wrong moment to drag Piccadilly to his doom. And Barker! Shame upon ye, shame and fie!

On to the weeping and gnashing of teeth, then. I admit I’ve been putting it off. Honestly though, for an epic showdown between two main characters you could not wish for a more dramatic setting. The mice fleeing for their lives; the vicious wraiths of the Unbeest shrieking in fury; fire blazing and snowstorm whirling and Piccadilly, oh Piccadilly, consumed with bitterness and the lust for vengeance, turning back at the last minute to avenge or so perish in the attempt.

If the finale of The Crystal Prison was like an opera, Piccadilly and Morgan’s ‘Duel in the Storm’ is like a painting. White, for the blizzard. Black, for the grappling silhouettes of the fated nemeses, locked in their final, dreadful reckoning. Gold for the flash of Audrey’s brass, silver for Piccadilly’s trusty knife. Red, for the dying flames and the bright wounds and the twitching claws of an old, tired rat who saw no other way out.

An ending for Jupiter’s left claw, and an end to hope with the sudden and merciless murder of our young hero. The detail that hurts me the most is that he died with his little face ‘turned heavenward.’ Green keep you, Dilly-O. You will be missed.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: In almost every Jarvis book there seems to be one chapter that sears its way onto my brain. And there’s possibly even a statistical consensus amongst many of us fans what The Chapter is in each book. (Maybe?)

So if the Blackheath Ritual was the shocker from The Dark Portal, and the Audrey/Twit Wedding was the one from The Crystal Prison, then this would be a strong candidate for That Chapter in The Final Reckoning.

There was simultaneously no preparation and every preparation for this happening. In one sense, we would expect – in almost any other book aimed at young readers – that young Piccadilly would have his death-defying encounter with Jupiter and get rescued / escape at the last minute. (Especially since he’d survived that extraordinarily powerful Semi-Final Round with Morgan.) But, no. A few strokes of the old Jarvis pen – or did you break our hearts on some accursed old Mac or PC, Robin? – and Everyone’s (Arguably) Favourite Character is obliterated.

And then we realise that it’s all been set up. The awkward romance between Audrey that went nowhere, the last conversation that she’ll always regret, his deep scepticism about the Green Mouse that transforms itself into faith at the last minute, his move from vengeance to grace and forgiveness. All of it rushes back and reminds us that, for all of us, we never do know when our number is up. Or if not ours, those whom we love.

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The icicles broke from the ceiling, raining bitter death on the rats below.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I was worried for a moment there – Smiff and Kelly really did look as if they might succeed in their plotting and ‘do for’ Morgan as he did for Black Ratchet. But no Robiny second-in-command goes down that easily, and Old Stumpy lives to snarl another day.

I actually didn’t realise until several years after I read this trilogy for the first time that the Deptford Power Station in this book is not, in fact, the same structure as the edifice we see from Greenwich Hill. Greenwich Power Station really does resemble a malevolent, crouching cat, and at first I wondered why Mr Jarvis chose not to house Jupiter there, it being a mere shuffle from the Observatory Dome of Doom. Apparently, however, the deceased power station at Deptford was even more grotesquely feline, and heck, perhaps Jupiter is just comfortable in the area. He’s been holed up in the sewers there for long enough, certainly.

So, Morgan and his lads arrive at Jupiter’s lair. Smiff and Kelly try to gut their leader and fail gorily all over the bank of the Thames. Morgs leads his army into glory and subjugation, only for his beloved Lord to turn all cold (sorry) and ruin his perfectly decent rat horde. Finally, Barker and Piccadilly arrive in their pudding-bowl boat and Barker invokes Hobb and HOLD ON JUST A MOMENT.

We all knew there was something dubious about Mr Lumps-On-Me-‘Ead, but the little scene with the bodies of Smiff and Kelly proves beyond doubt that there is devilment at work. What is this grizzled old wretch doing, calling upon the Father of Wrath and making hocus-pocus signs in the air? Furthermore, if he is indeed nefarious, why is he being so chummy toward Piccadilly? The plot thickens, Readers all.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  While I could say a bit about the ironic tragedy of Piccadilly and Audrey meeting up again – with Picc not knowing that Audrey is married – or the increasingly sinister Barker, I thought I might throw in the last of my happy snaps from my trip to Greenwich.

When I was up at the Observatory last April, I saw a sign pointing out historical buildings to look at. One of these, which is clearly visible from Observatory Hill, is an old power station. (Though I understand this is not the same one as in the book, which was a now non-existent power station at Deptford.)

As soon as I had a look, The Final Reckoning popped into my head. Because , as Aufwader pointed out – look at that building there – does that not look just like an evil cat’s face?

power-station

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

He had come to the edge of despair and stared into the devastating eyes of madness – just one blissful plunge and he would be gone forever, lost in the comforting maze of lunacy, never to return to the harsh, cruel world where his body suffered.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter really pulls no punches. There is such a sense of dread in the opening pages – we hope that Marty returned to Holeborn in time to warn the community, but, deep down, we get the creeping feeling that he did not.

The appearance of Barker brings hope, until the grisly truth is drawn from him. The round-about way this is written is really quite painful to read; Piccadilly growing more and more desperate, grasping at straws, and Barker insisting that he ‘wouldn’t touch mousey meat’, moaning that he can still hear the cries of the Holeborners as they are cut down. It’s horrendous, but then, that’s the idea.

Piccadilly’s despairing walk through his former home is just as bad, and by the time it’s over his rage and loathing for Morgan and the rat army reads like the most natural reaction in the world. We’ve already seen that Piccadilly is not one to curl up and cry if he can be doing instead, and here we see that side of him taken to its extreme. The Holeborn massacre has opened up a new and darker path for him, one from which he may not easily turn away.

It’s just me rooting for Mr Jarvis’ villains as I do, but the scene where Jupiter beguiles Morgan back into his service touches me in my dastardly little heart. Old Stumpy and Old Mogs were a team, and seeing them ‘get back together’ is like finding out that one’s favourite doom metal band are coming back for a reunion tour. By himself, Morgan was passable, but with Jupiter he becomes great; the left claw of a power strong enough and cruel enough to carry out villainies vaster than Morgan’s tiny rat brain could ever comprehend. I sob for Piccadilly with the rest of you, but I can’t help but grin in bloodthirsty joy when Morgan leads the hordes to Deptford in a sloosh of freezing, scummy river water.

We also get a much closer look at Barker. ‘If only the mousey boy would go away somewhere, he could finish what he had been sent to do’, the wily old codger thinks to himself. Sent? By whom, and to what purpose? Then there’s the scene where he hides Piccadilly from the rat horde as they pass by on the rampage.

Personally, I do not at all buy the explanation that the rats were simply too busy making fun of Barker to notice that he was awkwardly and suspiciously perched against the tunnel wall. The tunnels are not that wide, and the rats are all different heights; someone was bound to clap eyes on a protruding elbow or toe of Piccadilly’s before long. No, summat’s up, as Thomas would say. Tread carefully, Piccadilly – there is more to ol’ barmy Barker than he would have you believe.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I must have blanked this chapter out somehow when I was younger – either that, or I was a lot less desensitised back then. Maybe it’s getting older and realising that, actually, massacres do occur in real life? Is it because I’m a parent of three now, and more aware of what would disturb my kids?

Whatever the reason, all I can say is that the unspeakable grimness of this chapter really struck me this time. As well as the brutality of the rats, Piccadilly is caught between madness and hatred. Barker saves him from the madness – only to hand him over to the hatred. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced it – to be wronged so badly that the hatred courses through you in a physical way – but it is a miserable path to follow.

Revenge might be entertaining in a Tarantino film, but in real life, harbouring the desire for vengeance costs, and we see that in poor Piccadilly. Hang in there, my grey friend!

And Barker – the comic/pathetic rat character – suddenly turning out to be something more? A brilliant touch, even if nothing more were to be explained.

When we were reading The Crystal Prison, I was commenting that the story takes a while before you realise who the bad guy is and what’s going on. But here in The Final Reckoning, it’s been relentless from the first chapter. Well, that’s sometimes what it takes to defeat evil. Stay strong, Deptford Mice!

The Final Reckoning | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The constellations were quenched, snuffed out by the tremendous powers of both Jupiter and the age-old Starglass and all who witnessed it fell to their knees and prayed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I had to admire Arthur’s stoicism in this chapter. Look at him, shimmying up that freezing fence, paws bleeding, probably getting skelfs all over, just so the Starwife and the rest of the mouse community can get an idea of how the dread Unbeest intends to bring about the world’s end. Then, he invites himself to wade through malevolent magical mist and stand under Jupiter’s chin with Thomas as if he does this sort of thing twice-weekly at six!

He may not be forged by the Green for a destiny tall and dangerous like Audrey, blessed with shining innocence like Twit, or chosen by the bats like Oswald, but Arthur’s stalwart willingness to help out in any way he’s able should not be disregarded. I’ve always enjoyed faithful friends and sidekicks in fantasy – those who don’t necessarily have any special magical gifts or precious artefacts bestowed upon them, but without whom the heroes would likely not succeed in their endeavours. A toast to the Arthur Browns of the world, says I.

With Arthur and Thomas, we experience the cataclysmic second half of this chapter. At this point we’re about a hundred pages shy of the trilogy finale, and there are a few final reckonings in store, for good or ill. This is where the Deptford Mice Trilogy really shines as a single, beautifully woven story. Jupiter was frightening in The Dark Portal, and The Crystal Prison demonstrated his staying-power as an antagonist even when we as readers believed that he was gone for good, but in The Final Reckoning it’s go big or go home for the deathless Lord of Winter, and if big means absolute world-domination, then so be it.

(As a final note, I researched the incantation which Jupiter recites from the Observatory dome and the fell-sounding names he invokes, but the only conclusion I could come to was that they must be Mr Jarvis’ own creations. As always, if he or anybody else can shed any light on the matter, do not hesitate to do so.)

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I could write an essay on this one chapter alone, because there is so much mythology and history thrown into this chapter. And that’s in a chapter that moves at a rapid clip and deepens the peril of the main characters. That’s what I love about these books – they are, first and foremost, gripping adventure stories, but you can stop and look at the layers on the way through and there’s plenty of stuff to dig into. My shortlist:

  • Black squirrels! I had to read up a bit on black squirrels, because I was wondering how rare they were. You can check the Wikipedia page on that one, but it seems that they’re around, but much less common than the greys, making it a perfect idea that they’re part of a ‘noble race’ of squirrels. (Or perhaps, looking at it from our modern viewpoint, was part of the problem that the black squirrels considered themselves better than other squirrels?)
  • First picture of Jupiter! While we saw his silhouette at the end of Chapter 14 of The Dark Portal, this was the first time we’ve seen a front-on illustration of him in the entire trilogy. Pretty horrific! (Apologies to anyone with no illustrations.)
  • Servants of the dark void! I’m assuming this is similar to the hellish guardians of the Dead that Jupiter escaped from at the end of The Crystal Prison. It appears that he’s taunting them, because they can’t escape their fate of death, whereas he has not only done that – he’s about to doom everyone else as well.
  • Curse languages! Help me out here – I’m looking to you, Aufwader! – is the incantation of Jupiter in a real language? E.g. some sort of Gaelic / old English?
  • Holding the heavens once more! Now this was a fascinating throwaway – Jupiter tells the Starglass to hold the heavens once more. So all the stars used to be in the Starglass? Was it used as part of the Creation of the world in some way? Was the Starwife the ongoing custodian, perhaps, of the singularity at the centre of the Big Bang? The original point of nothing from which all things sprang? I don’t really need to know the details – the hint of the idea is brilliant enough.
  • What about the humans? I love that line, which I’ve chosen for the chapter quote that all who witnessed the stars disappearing fell to their knees and prayed. Presumably, this means that humans – who, up until now, are probably relatively unaware that a bunch of mice in an abandoned house in Deptford saved them all from dying of the Black Plague – for the first time, see the power of Jupiter. This is a bit of fan fiction I would be interested in: what do the humans make of this level of cataclysm?

Anyway, no time for thinking about the answers, we’re at the end of Chapter 7. We are halfway. We are committed. On to the Final Reckoning!

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