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.