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!

 

The Power of Dark | Chapter 1

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‘No such thing,’ she said for the umpteenth time. ‘There’s no real witches in Whitby – or anywhere else. Just annoying people like my mum and dad who like to dress up and dance round fires making twits of themselves. Tragic, yes; magic, no.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Little-known but probably unsurprising fact: I used to be a goth. Or rather, during my university years, I entertained an eccentric style that was loosely based on the ‘fancy historical goth’ look. I still enjoy the melodramatic, gloomy aesthetic, and appreciate the music even if it’s not my absolute favourite thing. Mr and Mrs Wilson, I raise my ruby-encrusted, spider-web engraved goblet to you both. You chose a lifestyle and you went the whole hog with that lifestyle, and I can respect that. The same goes for Mr and Mrs Thistlewood, despite that steampunk and its offshoots are a much-contested and oft-maligned subject these days.

What entertains me enormously about this series is its almost anthropological look at the goths and steampunks of Whitby. Every page speaks of Mr Jarvis’ gleeful delight in the sort of celebration of the macabre that I daresay he’s lived and breathed since the start of his writing career. (Admit it, Robin, you’re a goth at heart.)

Long-suffering, sceptical Lil is a great contrast to this, and she and Verne make a wonderful ‘spooky happenings duo’, something we haven’t seen that much of in Robin Jarvis canon so far. Usually, his heroes are vulnerable and alone, or vulnerable and in a group. But of course, despite that Lil and Verne do face a threatening separation in this chapter in the form of the storm, they have a connection that Ben and Jennet, Neil and Edie, or even the young protagonists of the Dancing Jax books did not have – they can text each other.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: First up, do stop and pay attention to the little elegant artwork that surrounds the chapter number in each chapter. Obviously, we’ve spoken in the past about how the text of the Jarvis books have unfortunately been separated from the illustration side of things over the years, so it’s nice to see that in this new venture with Egmont, his illustration work has become an integral part of the book creation. They’re just beautiful to look at.

This first chapter tells us more about Verne and Lil and also does a heck of a lot of foreshadowing (which you will either spot straight away or it will become clear as the story progresses). They’re obviously not Ben and Jennet, and Cherry Cerise is most definitely not Alice Boston, so it requires some adjustment, but by the same token, it’s not the same Whitby either.

They’ve had a Whitby Goth Weekend since 1994, which has since taken off to become a spectacular mix of goths, steampunks and other subcultures. (Check out these amazing photos!)

So while it’s a different Whitby, in some ways, it’s become even more interesting since the Boston days and a perfect setting for this dark tale that is about to play out.

 

The Power of Dark | Prologue

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‘All shall suffer, before the final end . . .’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I think I waited eagerly for the Witching Legacy to begin for about a year before this book actually came out. The first I remember hearing of it was a friend sending me a link to this article the day I came back from my summer holidays in the countryside, and needless to say that was my post-holiday blues out the window. The hype for this title was such that a few of us in the Robiny community at the time signed up to the pre-publication review site Netgalley solely because this book was being offered in advance of print to reviewers. I was duly accepted to read and review (won’t link it here as it’s a little spoilery) and of course The Power of Dark was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

That out of the way, let’s wade right in.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who, as a Whitby Witches old hand, gets Ben-being-chased-by-the-bullies-and-ending-up-with-a-dead-cat-in-his-face vibes from this first scene. Let’s be real that was probably the whole point, but what’s so clever about it is that even new, innocent readers who have never heard of Robin Jarvis in their lives and have no idea what they are letting themselves in for, will be instantly hooked.

Oh no, there goes our hero with three frizz-haired antagonists in hot pursuit! Oh no, he’s caught now, what will become of him! (‘Chuck ‘im in the sea’ say us bloodthirsty little die-hards, but never mind that.) Then, in the spirit of Jennet before her, our girl Lil steps in, not to thump the bullies, but to use her wits to out-smart them. Lightening of tone ahoy, though this is still the grim n’ grisly Whitby we know and love, as evidenced by the second half of this prologue.

We’ll get to the garishly-patterned delight that is Cherry Cerise in due course, but before that, there’s some plot on the horizon in the form of Zeer the squalbiter. That spiny cousin of the Mallykin may not have the staying power of Nathaniel Crozier’s beloved aufwader-muncher (we only see him once, after all) but he is a wonderful new invention for the modern reader, and an excellent addition to the overall mood of this book, which is a sort of Whitby Then and Now by way of archaic vocabulary and slot machines.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I think it’s the moment when Bev pulls out her mobile phone to film Tracy teasing Verne that we realise this is not the same Whitby as the one from the original series. It has its cobblestone streets, its cliffs, its Abbey. But it also has mobile phones, the modern world. It places the book more in a particular time and place, but maybe that’s me being nostalgic for the old days when nobody had mobile phones. (Much as I like my phone.)

But once we get to the scene with Cherry Cerise in the graveyard, we’re back on home territory. Strange creatures from the deep? Angry Lords of the Deep and Dark? (What is it with those guys?) Yeah, this is the alternative Robin Jarvis Whitby that we know, where a deep layer of mythology lies beneath a normal exterior.