The Fatal Strand | Chapter 2


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!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 28


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Over Glastonbury the celestial, shining being was revealed in all its apocalyptic, dream-like glory and the living plane shuddered at the violence of its reawakening.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So now we get the Valkyries chanting about death! Good call, honestly, there couldn’t have been a better moment to bring that detail up. The manner in which Thought finally expires is also a good touch – he doesn’t just keel over, tongue out, but we get a sizeable paragraph about him gasping sawdust, turning back into a wizened relic, and finally disintegrating all together.

It really emphasis that in this series, Woden is a god of illusion and decay, a false Captain who flies bright banners but wears only bones beneath his gleaming armour. It’s an excellent contrast to the Nornir, who appear crumbling and decrepit, but are in fact the opposite. Fair is foul and foul is fair in Robin Jarvis canon, after all.

Now we have the culmination of all this book’s foreshadowing in the finale – Reverend Galloway really does do brave and holy deeds, Tommy, in a David Almond-like twist, turns out to be a genuine, honest-to-god angel, and, unhappily, only Edie returns to the Wyrd Museum. Alas for Verdandi, and alas for the Spinners of the Wood now that one of their number is no more. What fatal strand is woven into the great tapestry of the Wyrd Museum and all who dwell there? There’s only one way to find out.


Matt’s Thoughts: Cleverly done, Mr Jarvis. The set-up with Peter about angels not appearing as we expected certainly led us to expect something like the Valkyries, but to have an angelic three-headed dragon?

This also is enough of a massive serpent / dragon reference for me to put the Robin Jarvis Universe back on the table. Does this now give us the prospect that Morgawrus was some sort of fallen angel? Interesting concept, if it is.

Regardless of how – or if – all the Jarvis mythologies tie together, nonetheless, this one has been quite a trip. I would have loved to know more about some of the characters, such as Aidan, Tommy and Peter, but the danger ramped up so quickly and fiercely, they were all pulled into action before we had a chance to get to know them too well, sadly.

I was also hoping to see an appearance by (the real) Woden, given that he caused all this mess, but apart from his sinister epilogue, it appears that I must wait on that front as well. As in, wait till tomorrow. After all, we are moving on to Book 3!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 27


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘… the most powerful instrument of destruction there hast ever been …’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So the truth is revealed at last, and poor Veronica sees all her dreams crumble before her eyes. It’s a heart-wrenching moment; she has spent half the book believing that she might yet find some happiness with her Captain, and escape from the drudgery she has endured for centuries, only to be deceived at the last. Even Edie’s comic turns of phrase (‘we’ve been ‘ad’ has got to be the best reaction to a Robiny betrayal ever) cannot lift the atmosphere of abject despair that this chapter leaves us with. As for poor Reverend Galloway, just because we all saw it coming doesn’t make his final breakdown any easier to read. It’s a bad time all round, and there’s only a chapter to go.


Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, the old spear of Longinus. I haven’t seen this in action since I read The Spear a few years ago (in which said object was being used to resurrect dead Nazis). Actually, there are any number of Nazi-connected stories about the spear (but we sort of did our dash of Nazis in Book 1, so I’m glad that doesn’t come up again).

There is also a Wagnerian connection, in that the spear (and the grail) are all part of the rather ponderous plot of Parsifal, Wagner’s last opera. (Apologies to people who love it – I know it has some fantastic moments, but there are some long, long stretches in that one.)

But no long stretches in this chapter, though! Quoth is being a hero, Thought is being something I won’t describe on this blog, Peter is losing his marbles, Verdandi realises she has been betrayed and Edie is being spectacularly brave. (Is there nothing that worries this girl? What an awesome character.)

Can’t wait to see how this all untangles in the last chapter!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 26

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

And with those words, the leader of the descendants of Askar died.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: That was brutal, Robin. Brutal! Aidan was so likeable, so courageous, a font of history and legend, a true and loyal servant to the Nornir, and you snuffed his worthy life like so much used candle stub! I am upset, and aggrieved, but sadly not surprised. I’m going to be very cheesy and dedicate this track about the journey of the soul to Hel to our deceased descendant of Askar, because if anybody in this trilogy deserves a Norse dirge to accompany them to the underworld, it’s Aidan. So passeth a noble knight, indeed.

I didn’t really take to Reverend Galloway, I have to admit, but now I cannot help but pity him. Like Neil, he’s had his entire worldview shaken and stirred, but unlike Neil, it has made him less able to make sound decisions or stick to his own compassionate and brave moral code. Really, it’s telling about the sort of person he is. The Reverend was apparently always zealous and a little too overenthusiastic in his faith, and, sadly, when things go awry for him, he just isn’t built to cope. It’s a real low point when he does as Thought orders despite the evidence of his own eyes, but it’s also a very in-character thing for him to do.

Amongst all the gloom, it’s heartening to see Quoth sticking by Neil, and then realising that he can finally fly. Zooks-hurrah for that most stalwart of corvids!


Matt’s Thoughts: Not much to say except that I’m jumping on to the grand theatricality of this finale and seeing how it all works out.

Everything you could possibly want is in this chapter: the two raven brothers fighting each other, Peter doing something cowardly, Aidan doing something important with his last breath, Quoth flying (best bit of all!) and Tommy refusing to do anything, giving us that ‘Oh no!’ feeling. Two chapters to go!


The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 25

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

”Tis better to nibble a morsel of sweet pudding than gorge upon the stale and wormy pie.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Did anyone else catch that the light of the Holy Thorn is ‘rose coloured’? It’ll be many months until we come back to that and in a different series entirely, but we will come back, so hold that thought.

That aside, it’s such a fantastic moment when Neil lays hands on the puny sapling, only to have it burst, burning-bush-style, into flame, repelling the loathsome Valkyries in a manner that honestly deserves some sort of dramatic crescendo and perhaps a choir. At long last, there seems to be a bit of benevolent power to protect the poor kid from all these supernatural dangers. Hang in there, Neil!


Matt’s Thoughts: While I know Mr Jarvis has taken a very different track from the composer Wagner, one thing that he has thrown in here and there is a bit of alliteration. Thus we have the ‘battered, beleaguered’ van and – best of all – the ‘harrowing, horripilant’ screams of the Valkyries. (I had to check the dictionary on ‘horripilant’ but it’s a great word. Even if my spell checker doesn’t seem to think it’s a real one. What would it know?)

Also, loved Quoth standing up to his brother. I was really thinking that one could go either way, so to see him stand his ground was brilliant. (Because he’s been a phenomenal character and the replacement for Ted, really.)

Finally, I was going to ask – did this book cause a whole bunch of young readers to head up Wearyall Hill to touch the Glastonbury Thorn? But in getting curious about this tree (which I had no doubt really existed), I found out that the story was actually much sadder than that. The Thorn, according to Wikipedia, had been kept going for centuries, with many people working out how to graft branches from old versions of the tree into a new one and thus keep the original trees alive. (There’s a few of them.)

But then in 2010, sadly, vandals cut off all the branches on the tree on Wearyall Hill and, unless someone’s heard otherwise, that is the end of that particular strand of the tree. I found that quite sad.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 24

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

A pair of large, round eyes were staring up at her from the solid murk below.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’ve got to say, Edie is probably one of Mr Jarvis’s most peculiar characters, and that’s really saying something. She’s just fallen into the belly of the earth, and yet she chuckles at the thought that she might be mortally injured and face a slow, lingering death underground. It’s moments like this that make us wonder how much of her is regular human child and how much is mythical Askarian (?) spirit. Even the most courageous and doubty of young heroes would surely balk a little at the thought of perishing alone in the depths of the earth, but here’s Edie, happy to one day be picked up as a fossil. Odd girl.

I also like the moment of bleak humour where Miss Veronica hoves into view exclaiming about strawberry jam… as opposed to the ‘jam’ that her fall might have made her into. Things are getting so intense at this point that it’s strangely charming to find that even in the direst of circumstances, Miss Veronica can still be thinking of her favourite teatime snack, then declare that she ‘did enjoy that little fall.’ (I’m rather glad she and Celandine never did experiment by leaping off the roof of the museum, however. They might’ve found that their invulnerability only stretched so far.)

The undine is an interesting addition to Jarvis canon. The closest we’ve seen to his like before would be the Lords of the Deep and Dark in the Whitby Witches Trilogy, or Zenna’s deep-sea companions in Thomas. I hesitate to compare the noble undine to the mallykin, though in terms of appearance I’d hazard that he is closer to that flesh-eating sea demon than to, say, the aufwaders or squalbiters. I would love to see a painting of him in the style of the Deathscent cover, but perhaps he’s shown in The Fatal Strand, so bear with me on that.


Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter caught me out a bit. I thought last time we’d been following Edie that Veronica had disappeared down the hole and Edie had not. That was clearly wrong.

And then, like another layer down in a Russian doll, this chapter gives us even deeper mythology. Last chapter seemed fascinating, with the idea of a long-hidden corpse with a magical artifact hidden below Glastonbury. It was a fascinating location just by itself.

But now we find there’s another cave underneath that one with an ancient sea monster thing? Bring it on.

I do wonder whether something like the undine could tie in with the Lords of the Deep and Dark somehow, but I would of course be trying to stretch things too far. Still, I do wonder …

And I’m just going to assume that neither Edie nor Veronica are out of the story yet, despite the merciless cliffhanger at the end of the chapter.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 22


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The circlet they had come so far to find was sent spinning out of her grasp.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Back with Edie and Miss Veronica, in a chapter unlike anything we’ve yet had on this project. It’s curious and fascinating to see the way in which Christian and Norse mythologies have been blended together here, so that you get Verdandi taking treasured artefacts from the tomb of a supernaturally preserved Joseph of Arimathea in order to save Woden, who is in turn deceiving her. It’s a complex weave, and a new foray in the Jarvis canon, unless you count the brief appearance of the cherubic celestial messenger in The Whitby Child.

All that aside, we end on a dire cliffhanger. Who of the intrepid pair will make it out alive? For as we know, one does not return to the Wyrd Museum.


Matt’s Thoughts: Nice little pastiche of elements in this chapter:

  • A nod to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • A reference to the old Catholic belief (which I always found incredibly creepy TBH) of the Incorruptibles – the saints whose body will not decay. (Photos here – but be warned, they’re a bit unsettling.)
  • Plus every other Jarvis book where they go looking for The Magic Item that will supposedly wield great power.

And I was expecting the Magic Item to fail in the end, but to have it disappear within a few pages of finding it? Ouch! The stakes are high now.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 21


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The Valkyrie was a malignant vision of despair and hopelessness.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter is such a horror movie classic. The reveal of Hlökk, several pages long and excruciatingly grotesque, is just begging for the accompaniment of some strained strings and a sickly red filter streaming from the top of the stairs. Lauren and Neil both do an excellent job against the monstrosity (Neil is what, twelve? Thirteen? And in comparison to what he faced in The Woven Path, a noisome, razor-feathered Valkyrie is all in a day’s work). As for Tommy and his ‘collection’, I had a feeling they would turn out to be more than they appeared. I also love the detail of the animate crow doll; that gimmick s somewhat overused these days, so it’s good to see a genuinely unnerving example here.

Then there’s the soap opera element of this chapter. Who guessed that Sheila would turn out to be Neil’s mother? Certainly not me, and it came as a complete surprise since I haven’t reread this series in quite a few years. At first I couldn’t really suspend my disbelief for it (after all, what are the minuscule chances?) but then it occurred to me that this entire trilogy is strung, as it were, upon fate and destiny. I’ll let it pass this once since there is a moment of emotional closure for Neil, but once is enough for these kind of dramatics. If I wanted a family drama, I’d just read the Nibelungenlied!


Matt’s Thoughts: Robin Jarvis can be known to be a tease when it comes to illustrating his villains. He’ll describe them minutely in words but then only give us a glimpse in the illustrations. Case in point: Jupiter, where we waited for three books before we got an actual picture of him. Morgawrus, whom we never saw at all. And I’m pretty sure nobody has seen anything of the Lords of the Deep and Dark either.

So here in Raven’s Knot: the illustration for the chapter is a tantalising (and terrifying) image of a claw and feathers descending a stair. And that’s it. I get the idea – if everything was given to us on a plate straight away, all the work would be done for us. These books work best when our imagination goes into overdrive about what something looks like, where something is, what’s going to happen next, etc.

Still, the showdown with the Valkyrie is great monster-movie stuff, which goes to show how originally Robin has created his creatures. There’s no way you could imagine something like his Valkyrie fitting into the Wagnerian picture of the noble warrior women on horses. (Certainly I can’t see you getting 2.5 operas worth of romance out of this one!)

Speaking of Valkyries, this is probably a good time to share this little short story Initiation, which is tucked away on Robin’s website. It was possibly originally intended to be a prologue for The Raven’s Knot, but I suspect would have given the game away too early about the crow dolls. (As a first-time reader, I didn’t immediately make the connection between the dolls and the Valkryies.) But it’s a great back story of how Woden first unleashed his terror on Glastonbury.

Finally, I did not see that Sheila would turn out to be Neil’s Mum! A twist of fate worn by the Nornir? A great idea just to up the peril? It feels like more than just coincidence.


The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 20


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Death approacheth,’ the raven cawed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: That small paragraph describing the ‘crimson weft’ is quite the image, and I was surprised (and pleased) to discover that it is not just artistic licence on Robin’s part, but appears in the Njáls Saga. The Valkyries apparently also intone their grim intentions while weaving – considering some of the shrieks Sheila is described as making, I’m not sure I want to know what a singing Valkyrie sounds like!

In this chapter we see the loss-of-identity theme taken a little further, as Lauren’s stepmother turns on her. I’m reminded slightly of Meta and Pear, though I daresay Lauren is somewhat stronger in sense, and has perhaps more of a grip on the ordinary, having thus far lead a magic-free life.

I will say here that I would have liked her to have more of a voice in this book, and would’ve liked to have got to know her better as a character. Her dependability in a crisis and compassion for Sheila – despite her step-mother’s less than admirable qualities – really endears her to me. In among the ‘crimson wefts’ of this series, I feel we could do with a few more Laurens to stand against the foe, even in their own kitchen.


Matt’s Thoughts: There are certainly elements of classic horror films in this book and this chapter is a great example. It has everything we love to dread – Lauren wants to go back to the house, we’re all thinking, Are you crazy?

Then Neil follows and we’re thinking No!

Sheila is at home? Aargh!

We’re holding the book as far away from our face as we can possibly get when Lauren goes to speak to her mother.

And when Lauren announces there is no freaking key for the bedroom door and the NOISE STOPS?? Well, at that stage, I start getting unprintable. But I love it.

Especially Quoth. After all, if he’s worried, we all should be.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 19


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Yet the crest of the Tor was not deserted, for a single, tall figure was standing up there waiting for them.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’d like to nominate this chapter header as my favourite for this book. There’s something about Verdandi, her serene expression and graceful pose, that arrests me every time I see it, and I can’t help but feel that this is a portrait from life. Who is this classically-beautiful woman who stars in The Raven’s Knot as the fairest of the Fates? It’s a curious mystery. I like to imagine that Miss Veronica might be based on an elderly lady that Mr Jarvis knew, and, in creating Verdandi, he drew from photographs of her in her youth. (I can only hope, if this is in some way accurate, that severe Miss Ursula is not also based on an acquaintance!)


Matt’s Thoughts: Well, this is getting more tragic by the minute, isn’t it? Veronica/Verdandi makes it to Glastonbury, uses up the last of her magic to appear beautiful for Woden and then it isn’t even him.

The thing that’s starting to stand out to me about this series is the way the kids get dragged into these extreme situations, all of which are engineered by adults attempting to out-maneuver each other – setting up elaborate plots and counter-plots, tricks and deceptions.

We know Woden – and particularly his Valkyries – are horrendous. But we’ve seen from Book 1, that Ursula can be pretty manipulative as well.

What there doesn’t appear to be is anyone who actually has the welfare of the kids in their mind. So Neil and Edie just seem to be alternately abandoned or dragged into increasingly dangerous situations. We get a feeling that those two will draw the most strength when they finally pair up and help each other, but as to how long that’s likely to take, who can tell?