Fleabee’s Fortune | Chapter 5

FleebsWarning: Contains Spoilers!

The crimson eyes flashed in the portal and with that, their fears were forgotten. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Ah, what a heartwarming chapter. So nice to see the rats of Deptford bringing up their young’uns proper, teaching them their bad manners and putting the fear of Jupiter into them at a suitably formative age. It brings a tear to my eye to see those wan little milksops turn to the path of tooth and claw so readily, ensuring that blood will flow in the underground for another generation. Sure, I’d always rather they turned to Sarpedon the Mighty, but it makes me proud all the same.

Speaking of blood flowing in the underground, it occurred to me that the infamous ‘bloodlust’ which Morgan brings to the City rats in The Final Reckoning was maybe more than just metaphor. Perhaps, having been so saturated for so long in Jupiter’s malevolence, Morgan unwittingly acquired a smidgeon of his Lord’s mesmeric power? It’s one explanation for the sudden and dramatic change in the City rats, anyway.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I love that this chapter – in true non-spoilery fashion – doesn’t give you any hint of Jupiter’s true nature but if you do know all about Jupiter, then it’s extra thrilling.

You get the idea that it’s not just sheer force of personality that made Jupiter become God of the Rats. He has a dark, malevolent streak of magic that inspires hatred – it’s compelling stuff.

Fleabee’s Fortune | Chapter 4

FleebsWarning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I’ll tell you what that shameful, soap-livered piece of scum did with those mice – he made friends with them!’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I really, really, really, bleedin’, bloomerin’, blitherin’ love Scabmona. I love how she and Fleabee are total opposites, and I love how Robin seems to have such fun writing our heroine’s horrible little sister. If this book were a 90s Saturday morning cartoon for all the little rotters of the sewers, Scabmona would be the star, having increasingly nasty adventures each week and facing down such nefarious always-do-wells as the traitorous ‘Orace Baldmony.

It makes me chortle how the idea of ‘Orace befriending the mice is positively tear-inducing to her – it’s not the killings or the peelings that make this little goblin cry, but that a fine, upstanding rat would go singing and dancing with prissy, goody-goody little mice. Then there’s the part where hardened ratwife Klakkweena describes being summoned before Jupiter for the first time in a traumatised whisper, only for Scabmona to exclaim ‘Can’t wait!’. Same girl, same.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I had completely forgotten the story of ‘Orace in this chapter. That actually explains quite a few things that I hadn’t fully appreciated before:

  • Way back in Chapter 1 of The Dark Portal, Albert Brown was telling Piccadilly about how bad the rats were around Deptford, and Piccadilly was quite skeptical of this. But now if we know there was a story passed down to the mice (if not in living memory of people like Master Oldnose) of a massacre caused by a bad friendship with a rat, that would explain their fear.
  • It also explains the origin of the enchantment on the Grill (with no e, regardless of what the book says!) and why that particular house had a cursed Grill, not all the houses in Deptford alike.
  • It also means that that particular community of mice were always in the back of Jupiter’s mind from a long time back.

And speaking of Jupiter, guess we’ll see him in the next chapter!

Fleabee’s Fortune | Chapter 3

FleebsWarning: Contains Spoilers!

There were no words in her clumsy rat vocabulary to describe her first sight of the stars, but tears brimmed in her eyes and she held her breath. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: My favourite moment in this chapter is when Fleabee has that confrontation with the mallard, and Rancid Alf just kind of looks on, knowing that his daughter is saving his skin, but not how. It’s almost as if there’s something supernatural around Fleabee, especially when Alf later says that he doesn’t understand her and never will. As much as her parents always go on about her being an embarrassment, there’s a kind of respect there; an idea that Fleabee might be more than merely odd, that she is different for a reason. Let’s see where that takes us!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: You’ve got to feel sorry for the local wildlife in Jarvis books. We had foxes being picked off in Hagwood and now a troupe of rats having a go at a duck.

However, it all worked out well in the end – just – for the duck. It is also the turning point for Fleabee where we can tell there’s no way she’s going to follow in her parents’ footsteps…

Fleabee’s Fortune | Chapter 2

FleebsWarning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I reckon I know what a peeled mouse feels like, except them lucky little beggars only get to be skinned once!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This book is 90% rat sitcom, and I love every second. The arguments between Rancid Alf and Klakkweena are the kind of thing small, Deptford-cassette-listening me was imagining taking place between cultist couples over a decade earlier, and they’re a delightful (or should that be despicable?) antidote to the prim and proper mouse families of the original trilogy.

In terms of behind-the-scenes stuff, this book is notable for being the first since the original trilogy to have a heroine in the limelight. Yes, we had Ysabelle in The Oaken Throne and Edie in the Wyrd Museum books, but they co-starred with the male heroes. We will also have Lil later on, but at this point the Witching Legacy wasn’t due for another twelve years, so Fleabee counts as a break in the pattern. Furthermore, three years after Deathscent, Fleabee deals with a similar conflict: here is another gentle, troubled character, born to murder and bloodshed but not too happy about the prospect of killing things. (It’s amazing what you notice about these books when you read them in order of publication!)

So now we must ask: will Fleabee turn out to be an Audrey in miniature, perhaps not slaying the Unbeest and saving the world, but at least rising above her upbringing? Or is she just as much of a bloody-clawed little heathen as her family, deep down?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: And our first crossover characters from The Dark Portal arrive as Vinegar Pete and Leering Macky make a return. Which is a good time to point out that I really enjoyed the cast of characters in this book, with an illustration per character. For instance, I knew Leering Macky was a bit funny-looking, but who knew he had that epic squint? Mr Jarvis’ ability to come up with endless variants on these rat characters is quite impressive.

It’s all good fun, what with flaking scalps, overlong tongues, and ‘runny stuff with chewy lumps’, but we’ll see what happens in the great outdoors.

 

 

Fleabee’s Fortune | Chapter 1

FleebsWarning: 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?

Up Next | Fleabee’s Fortune

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From the Uplifted Isles of Englandia, we now descend, returning to that old, familiar and best-loved lair; the sewers of Deptford. Here we have the other unfinished Robin Jarvis series besides Intrigues of the Reflected Realm – the mysterious and oft-overlooked Deptford Mouselets. Though marketed to younger readers and sadly disregarded upon release, do not be misled by this series’ unassuming appearance. Behind the curly title font and fluffy-looking 3D models lies a dark well of tyranny, bloodshed, and ancient heathen lore.

In this, the first of two books to be published in what was conceived as a quartet, we move in nose-by-tail with the rats of Jupiter. In the crooked grots and twisting tunnels where the likes of One-Eyed Jake and Black Ratchet gasped and died, we will get far more acquainted than we ever wanted to be with the growling, snivelling, cackling subjects of the Lord of All. We will earwig their arguments, raid their putrid and oozing larders, gloat over their plundered spoils, and of course, grovel with them before the Dark Portal.

But fear not, O kind and gentle Rereaders, if such a prospect strikes horror into your Green-fearing hearts. Not all denizens of the underworld delight in cruelty and slaughter …well, at least one doesn’t, and it’s her fortune we’re going to be following, so that’s all right then.

Fleabee’s Fortune is available second-hand from pretty much everywhere, but in this case I’d use it as an excuse to annoy the staff of your local library. Where there are libraries, there are little rotters young readers like we once were, for whom the Deptford Mouselets might be just the grim and grisly initiation they’ve been waiting for.