Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Upon her perch, the small figure held her breath: she marvelled at the new blossoming colours, the rich reds of the bricks and the yellow foam that crested the bronze rapids below. And then the swelling light reached her.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: The Mouselets have had a rum deal. Unfinished spin-off series to the much-lauded, the original, the one and only Deptford Mice Trilogy, this 2004 offering had a very tough act to follow. ‘Who is Fleabee’s Fortune for?’ everybody must have asked when it came out. Considering that it vanished almost as soon as it was published, I can only surmise that fans of the Deptford Mice were unimpressed with its seemingly tame premise, while newcomers were confused by mentions of gods and monsters whom they had not yet spent three books, three prequels, and an Almanack getting to know.
So, who is Fleabee’s Fortune for? Robin Jarvis, that’s who.
Critics and old-time readers alike may sneer at her, but I find it’s much easier to stand in Fleabee’s corner when you look at the Mouselets as neither an attempt at a sequel, nor as a censored version of the Deptford Mice, but as a bit of self-indulgent fun. If the Almanack is ‘Mr Jarvis throwing a party in honour of his own world’, then the Mouselets are a well-deserved holiday. Robin has packed up his grand battles and epic quests, and gone to the sewers of Deptford to mingle with the unsavoury but lovable rodents who started his career in the first place. For neither fans nor newcomers, Fleabee’s Fortune is the the kind of story that, as a writer, you say ‘oh wouldn’t that be fun to do’ but never get around to – but Mr Jarvis got around to it, and I’m very glad he did.
Matt’s Thoughts: Who would have thought after a whole trilogy, a whole other Histories trilogy and a beautiful Almanack, that Mr Jarvis would have more to say about the world of Deptford?
The two book in this series were sort of in-print and then out-of-print before you could bat an eyelid so I’m not sure what happened with them. They also are a slightly different feel than the others – shorter, focus on one character.
So none of them move into the grand epic territory of the former book but they do allow us to spend a bit more time (often from a different angle) in a place that we know very well.
In this case, the world of the rats. I’d read this book once previously and remember it being full of fairly grotty characters so it was nice to read the opening segment (which I’d completely forgotten) which shows young Fleabee setting out to find morning sunlight. Given that everything about the sewers is darkness and misery, a rat that seeks out sunlight is unusual indeed.
But then, you’d want to be, with Fleabee’s family, right? There was always something slightly comic about the rats in the original books. Their larger than life personalities and obsession with slaughtered foods. But given the necessity of moving the plot along, any time a rat appeared it was always because a mouse was in grave peril. Whereas here, we get this rather humorous picture of rat family life. Everyone is being obnoxious to everyone else, but with the twist that if they weren’t being obnoxious, they wouldn’t really be proper rats, would they?