Warning: Contains Spoilers!
From the steaming earth – to the terror of all – the god of the rats, the Lord of the Raith Sidhe, slowly emerged.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Well, he’s been very patient with us, and now it’s finally time for the Lord Hobb, Father of Wrath and Mightiest of the Raith Sidhe, to take centre stage. I can suggest no more apt soundtrack to accompany that cataclysmic event than Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. To me, it is the definitive ‘Lord Hobb, Arise Now From The Pit’ piece, and I feel that the original, rather than Rimsky-Korsakov’s later version, captures the moment in all its true devilish glory.
I have to say that for all she doesn’t survive it, Morwenna really is on top form during this finale. Last chapter we had her own rather theatrical reveal as High Priestess of Mabb (is it just me or did anybody else laugh when she dramatically whipped off her tiara?) and right up until she is crisped to a cinder by Hobb’s fiery breath, she really villains her heart out. It’s incredibly fun to read, and a fitting final performance for a truly diabolical Handmaiden of Darkness.
Like with Morgawrus, I had actually forgotten that Hobb does a fair bit of talking, IN UPPERCASE, NO LESS, during his brief time on the surface. What I found very interesting about his exchange with Ysabelle is that it mirrors Audrey’s confrontation with Jupiter in The Final Reckoning.
Our heroine is tiny, our arch-villain is enormous, and yet her small voice, possibly combined with the glow of Starwifeship, intimidates him. Both baddies gloat, and both call their nemeses ‘witch’ before being vanquished in a storm of sparks. Neither the Unbeest nor the Lord of the Pit actually die, but in Jupiter’s case there was no question of his returning to the living plane, whereas Hobb can only be contained as long as his prison remains whole. As we will discover when we read The Deptford Mice Almanack next year, that detail, like the acorn itself, will turn out to be more than it seems.
During the last chapters of The Final Reckoning I may have mentioned wailing and gnashing of teeth, but that was nothing, nothing, compared to the garment-rending, hair-tearing, chorus-of-professional-mourners-employing anguish which resulted from this epilogue. To this day, The Oaken Throne gets ‘I am still traumatised by Vesper’s death’ more than it gets any other response, and frankly I think we are all justified, for never was a story of more woe, than this of Ysabelle and her Vespertilio.
Matt’s Thoughts: I think Aufwader has said almost everything I could possibly say about this chapter. The only thing I would add is that the other Jupiter / Lord Hobb similarity is the little moment where Ysabelle calls Hobb the ‘father of lies’, which is another old King James Version description of Satan that Mr Jarvis cleverly throws in for those who are watching.
Also, I would add that I was one of those readers who got a little bit of satisfaction when I read about Fenny looking for a meadow and Griselda heading off for the Deep Ford and knowing where all that will lead.
And, of course, the Shakespearean tragedy of the epilogue is so true. It’s the fact that the Vesper’s death was unnecessary and avoidable that makes it all so bad. Like, couldn’t Ysabelle have thought about it a little faster, couldn’t Othello have had a chat with Desdemona, couldn’t the Montagues and Capulets have done some conflict resolution work a bit earlier in the piece? And the answer always, is a resounding and fatalistic NO. (In Hobb capitals.)
Anyway, there we have it: The Oaken Throne. I feel like using the word ‘pastiche’ about this one, because are so many nods to other familiar stories: WWII air raids, Tolkienesque quests, the Bard himself. But at the same time, it has all the unique darkness and drive of the other Jarvis novels as well.
And what’s especially amazing is that while all this medieval squirrel and bat action was taking place, there was another final Whitby book brewing as well, which we’ll jump into next month! See you then.