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.

 

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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.