Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Outside the immutable confines of this strangling reality, is there an end to care and suffering?’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Something is up with Neil’s dad, and it’s definitely sinister in origin. Like Reverend Galloway, Brian Chapman strikes me as the sort of weak-willed individual that Woden would immediately single out for his nefarious ends, and judging by Mr Chapman’s behaviour in this chapter, it’s either the Gallows God or something worse who has taken hold of the malleable museum caretaker.
In The Woven Path, Mr Chapman was short with his sons, but he seemed to genuinely care for them and do his best, in his hapless, bumbling way, to be a semi-decent father. Here, however, we learn that he barely noticed Neil’s long absence, let alone thought to look for him. What’s more, the Mr Chapman of two books ago would never have stood barefoot in the cold for an extended period without good reason – he’s too practical to daydream, and too meek to be treating Quoth violently, however disturbed he might be better the raven’s powers of speech. No, there’s something going on there, and it can only lead to further rack and ruin.
Matt’s Thoughts: I’m not sure whether it tied in with personal circumstances for Mr Jarvis, but in this book and in his next one, Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, there is an extended sequence of grieving and saying farewell to a departed loved one. (Similar also to the overnight vigil in Time of Blood as well, now that I think about it.) In a day and age where we tend to gloss over death and its aftermath fairly quickly, I quite like an extended passage of funeral rites being put into a book for younger readers. It gives you a frame of reference for something that all of us will experience multiple times as we get older.
But most fascinating of all is Ursula’s meditation on immortality. It’s a great concept – when you’re immortal (or at least very long-lived!) and never have to face death, do you really know what happens to anybody after they die? In fact, you’re facing the prospect that most people will find out the answer to that before you.
However, we’re not stuck too long in the world of philosophy and mourning, before that horrendous end-of-chapter twist occurs … yikes!