The Power of Dark | Chapter 8

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‘Old truths have been forgot. Land sakes, people, you threw away what was real and ran to embrace cotton-candy whimsy instead. This island’s bones are cemented over and y’all were happy to let it happen. That’ll cost you mighty dear.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Whenever I remember that Cherry Cerise is based on a real person I feel as bright as Lil’s knitted creations. Of course, the fictional Cherry has a bit of Robiny magic in her to blend her with the setting, but there are people we meet in our everyday lives who have other kinds of magic in them, who instantly snazz-up your day (as Cherry might put it) and make you think ‘which story have you stepped out of?’

Having said that, I like that Lil isn’t immediately comfortable around her, and that Cherry is blunt and rude, rather than a Miss Honey-like mentor figure. Miss Boston was rather short-tempered and grating too, at times, but she was officially Ben and Jennet’s guardian and they were lumbered with her. Lil, on the other hand, already has parents, and I like that she stands up for them even despite the peculiar upbringing they foisted upon her.

Speaking of Miss Boston, I love the recreation of that scene at the start of The Whitby Witches where she and her new charges huddle in the selfsame graveyard – probably even sitting near Lil’s bench – and have their first heart-to-heart. You can really feel history overlapping. I’ve never been to Whitby, but I’ve often felt that certain very ancient sites hold some memory of the happenings they’ve seen, and the scene between Lil and Cherry in the cemetery evokes that feeling.

I have to laugh when Cherry says of Scaur Annie’s head, ‘Word is, the skull’s gone AWOL’. Matt already made the joke about Annie having a second job as Robin’s book-tour accomplice, but it’s pretty hilarious to imagine her being late to haunt Lil’s mirror with the excuse, ‘I have a life, you know.’

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Who would have thought that the Morgawrus and his filthy tear-pool would get a second look in? (It is a great concept, though, so I’m glad to see it back again.)

Also, what sort of Canadians has Robin met in his lifetime? I go to an international conference every few years and I always found that Americans were good for the enthusiasm and hype, people from the UK were good for a night at the pub and Candians were good when you wanted to calm down a bit. They’re normally so mild-mannered!

But Cherry, with her wild colours and slightly obnoxious manner (which cleverly mask the depths of her personality) is quite a character!

 

 

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The Power of Dark | Chapter 7

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‘Oh, far out!’ she cried. ‘That is so funky. Lookin’ good, Whitby, lookin’ good!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: All right but I really, really hate that scene with the diorama. It terrifies me, a grown adult, so that I can’t read it over and have to zoom past that page in order to not even lay eyes on it for a second. Lordy.

That side, here’s a spooky story for you all: last summer, literally the day after I had read this chapter, a bench in the park I frequent was yarnbombed. Just one bench, and not even in a busy part of the park. It was a beautiful job too, all colours of the rainbow and very sturdy. It lasted all through the Scottish winter, and I don’t know about you, but I reckon there was magic involved.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Great little creepy  set-piece with the electric chair automaton, but my favourite line of all is ‘Our Verne isn’t a wizard … it’s just his hormones.’ But then again, what would our parents have said to us if we’d started doing weird stuff like this when we were younger?

On the whole, I find this book has a more intriguing set-up than some of the others. While most Jarvis books would be in dark and dangerous territory by this stage, we have a lot of flashbacks to the past, but not necessarily anything super-life threatening in the present. But, of course, for those who’ve read the rest of the book, all of these bits and pieces become increasingly significant.

 

The Power of Dark | Chapter 6

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‘Just one brief glance within,’ she told herself. ‘None shall ever know and I won’t never doubt him again.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So all that promotional business with Nettie was a beastly swizz and the aufwaders only appear in flashbacks, hm? Hmm, Robin? Hmmmm? 

I wish I could feel swindled, but honestly the alternative was that there were some aufwaders who missed the boat at the end of The Whitby Child, which would rather dampen the mythic glory of their final departure in that finale. So thank you, Mr Jarvis, you did this story and your readers a good turn.

Speaking of the historic segments, goodness me but I wish Annie and Melchior would communicate like an actual couple. Would it have killed ol’ Melchy to just say something like ‘I wish I could tell thee but forsooth tis probably very dangerous and I would fain die rather than see harm come to a hair of thy fair head’ or something equally gallant, and left it at that? Not that Annie is any better, I mean – Nettie’s questionable advice aside –  she could’ve handled things more openly all together.

On a final note, who doesn’t love Catesby? What a devilish little abomination! Can I keep him?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Clearly I’m not the only one who thought that picture of Scaur Annie’s head was freaky, given that Robin happily carts the replica around. But can you imagine it playing out on TV or in a movie? Eurghh ….

Also, I also have to throw in a vote for Catesby as one of my favourite Jarvis creations. I don’t know where he came up with the idea, but it’s just brilliant. I loved the idea of Catesby as a name for him just when he was a cat (‘because he was always lurking in the cellars, like that traitor with the gunpowder’). But when you add in bat wings as well? There’s just something quirky and great about it.

The Power of Dark | Chapter 5

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I  W-I-L-L  B-E  W-I-T-H  Y-O-U  S-O-O-N

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Tracy and friends are honestly so much fun to read. Their sullen posturing contrasted with the childlike glee they take in laughing at Lil and sniping at each other, reminds me strongly of the adolescent characters in the Dancing Jax trilogy. In those books we learned that Mr Jarvis can write teenagers extremely well, and this shows here to, albeit in far different context to the life-or-death trauma of Freax and Rejex and Fighting Pax.

I really like the mirroring we’ve had so far with Lil and Verne. Lil is head-butted by Scaur Annie and ends up in her mind, then Verne brings home the Nimius and lands in The Life and Times of Sir Melchior Pyke. It’s all leading up to something momentous, but in between, there’s Mister Dark to consider. Cut down from the gallows, eh? Revived by ‘electricus’ on the operating table of an alchymist and natural philosopher, eh? Frankly, I’m with Annie on that one. Pyke ought to have let sleeping evil lie.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Another layer to the backstory. Quite enjoying the structural side of this one – flashes between both past and present, between West Cliff and East Cliff, Lil and Verne, Scaur Annie and Melchior Pyke.

This structure is no accident, of course – you may have noticed the two opposing cliff faces on the cover, so it all serves a purpose.

Rather like the old-but-never-tired trope of the spooky homemade ouija board. I think ever since Captain Howdy showed up to freak people out in the 70s, those scenes always freak people out. Well, they certainly give me the creeps. You couldn’t pay me to play with one of those things!

The Power of Dark | Chapter 4

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He reached down and scraped more of the mud away. The revealed gold reflected the sunlight up into his eyes. Verne caught his breath and took the strange find in his hands. What could it be?

Aufwader’s Thoughts: There are some absolute gems in the dialogue between Lil and Verne as they walk along the beach, but my favourite has to be when Verne reassures Lil that he believes her when she says she didn’t steal Scaur Annie’s ‘manky head’, and then mutters that it’d be a cool thing to have. Bless.

Then there’s the nimius, or, as I like to call it, the result of somebody’s black-market deal with the Scale. Look at it, though. Nobody else in Robiny canon does gold filigree so fine. Even if whatever powers it holds are in no way Scale-related, the mark of the Serpent is on it, or I’m not a faithful forktail!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Well, it turned out that Scaur Annie’s head was down at the local bookshop being guarded by some grim-looking fellow with a beard…  (It’s okay, we checked and there was no tweed jacket, so it’s not Nathaniel returned to town.) 

So that solves that mystery! But it leaves us with the mystery of the Nimius. What is it? What can it do? What’s inside it? What is it with Whitby and severed hands?

I wouldn’t mind having a Jack Potts costume but I wouldn’t have the patience to assemble the whole thing. Also, did anybody else get reminded of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by the automaton? Or is that just me?

The Power of Dark | Chapter 3

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‘It was a woman,’ she muttered, her fingers touching a necklace Verne hadn’t seen her wear before. It was made of three ammonites threaded on a grubby string. ‘A young woman, full of rage and bitterness.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I love that Verne is so excited to see the putrid cadavers that’ve fallen from their ancient graves into the world of the living. Honestly if my idea from The Whitby Child holds true and the Deptford Mice books exist in the Whitby of this universe, you just know Verne would be their number one fan. What a great kid. I’m so proud of him already.

Carrying over from last post where I mentioned the vaguely anthropological approach to the subcultures of Whitby that we see in this series, we now get a searing commentary on the modern-day witch, as represented by Lil’s rather overbearing mum. I admit that I wince a little at this, because it feels a bit like reading about a slightly tactless stereotype.

However, people like Mrs Wilson certainly exist, and this is an excellent portrayal of how they can and do use labels such as ‘witch’ and, in other contexts, ‘goth’, as part of attention-seeking behaviour. As a character, I find Mrs Wilson fascinating, but she doesn’t get her development arc until The Devil’s Paintbox, so for now I’ll just give my honest review and say that I find her introduction a little awkward.

(On another note, who else gets an involuntary shudder down their spine when she mentions ‘three covens’ operational in Whitby? I mean, we know the Black Sceptre are disbanded… we know… we’re sure…)

As for Lil herself, well, I hope she’s all right after that tour of Scaur Annie’s memories. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I was just thinking that Verne and Lil might be the first kids in a Jarvis novel in a long while who have all parents intact (not otherwise divorced / drowned / killed by a dreadful god who lives in the sewers). But these are no stereotypical parents, and I love the idea of one set of parents running an amusement arcade and the other side running an occult gift shop.

 You can only imagine what sort of upbringing the two of them had, with the strange environments they grew up in. But by the same token, it’s that familiar sense of community. Maybe they’re odd, but they get on well because they’re odd.

And, as always, some sly Jarvis humour with the television news interview, before the rather more creepy question: where is Scaur Annie’s head?

The Power of Dark | Chapter 2

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‘Live them days long buried, long dead,’ the voice inside her head commanded. ‘You be Scaur Annie. See what I saw. Hear what I heard.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This is such a marvellous, grisly chapter. Rotting corpses in the cliffs, Lil becoming possessed by the vengeful spirit of Scaur Annie, and the drama of an honest-to-goodness witch hunt.

Is it just me or does anyone else get Crystal Prison flashbacks during the latter part of this chapter? Of course, the ‘young girl is accused of witchcraft and threatened with a fiery death’ angle has been used in fiction since the burning times themselves, but personally I chortle at the idea of Mr Jarvis getting to Annie’s introduction and thinking something along the lines of, ‘hm, we haven’t had a ‘burn the witch’ scene since Audrey. About time that was remedied!’

I love Annie and will protect her at all costs, but I’m not so enamoured with Melchior Pyke. As a character he’s an interesting enigma, but he’s just a little too pristine for my liking, like the love interest in a BBC period drama. I’d go so far as to say that he’s so perfect that there must be something shifty about him, but the old Robiny rules of deceit and betrayal don’t seem to apply in this shiny new series, or at least, not in the way that we at Myth & Sacrifice are accustomed to.

Of course, we can all tell that Mister Dark is shifty. But we’re only on Chapter 2, and there’ll be ample time to come back to him and his crooked neck.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Clever progression in this chapter. We start with Lil, who – despite her parents running an occult shop – doesn’t believe in any magic whatsoever. So unlike most Jarvis characters, who arrive on the scene with a belief in the supernatural, Lil does not.

But she is brave. I don’t know what you’d do if rotted corpses started being blown around by the wind in your backyard, but I’m not sure that I’d think of pulling out my phone! Maybe I’m too Gen X.

Then, bam! we’re back in the 1600s with Scaur Annie about to be burned (which is a nice nod back to Lil’s comment in the prologue about how they never burned witches in England).

As for the men in the chapter: Ashe, Pyke and Dark, there’s a lot to be said about them, but I’ll wait till the plot has advanced a bit more. It’s certainly a great setup!