The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 18

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Those malevolent creatures the Gallows God created to overthrow the Nornir are back amongst us.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The start of this chapter is one example of why I like Aidan so much. Thus far he’s been interesting, but somewhat overshadowed by, well, everything else. We are aware that he is a descendent of Askar, but up until this point we were never really shown what that entailed, other than alternative fashion sense and a propensity to hold forth at length about the histories of small English towns.

In the scene with the policemen, however, we get to see Aidan display some real power, trifling though it may seem in comparison to the Spinners of the Wood. What I like best about it is that it’s a little ambiguous – there’s no waving of hands or incantations, and it’s difficult to tell what he’s actually even done, but that somehow makes it all the more compelling. There’s also his jibes at the rotund sergeant – can he see into the man’s future, or is he simply ‘a good reader of people’?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I strongly suspected that this was going to be the identify of this book’s nocturnal terrors, but when the word Valkyrie was first uttered, I got a thrill. Being only familiar with these creatures from the Wagner operas, where they are normally portrayed as warrior women on flying horses, it’s clear that Mr Jarvis has created his own dark incarnation of the creature.

Which is just brilliant, isn’t it? In fact, I almost feel like some Wikipedia editing is in place for the Valkyrie page to add another entry to the Valkyries in popular culture.

However, while I was excited by this part of the mythology, because it is placed in the context of a rather gruesome and serious police investigation, it doesn’t simply become a layer of mythology to this tale – it becomes a layer of dread.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 17

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Perhaps it is we who are the children. Sometimes we’re the ones who need guidance.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Something occurred to me about Edie and Miss Veronica’s epic journey to Glastonbury – it’s as if they are being deliberately held back, prevented from reaching the hill at the appointed time.

We’ve all been on trips like that; someone reads the map wrong, sleeps through their stop, or gets locked in a loo, and what started out as an easy trip swiftly descends into chaos. Enough things go badly in a journey and we’re inclined to make jokes about ‘fate being against us’, and I can’t help but wonder if that is in fact what happens to wayward Verdandi here. Ursula is involved in luring her to Glastonbury, we know, but evidently the decision to betray her sister does not sit well with her. Perhaps the journey’s many setbacks may be Ursula having, if not a change of heart, then at least a wobble.

Back with Lauren, there’s a juxtaposition of the grave mythology of the main plot with the trappings of earnest but commodified belief going on here that I really appreciate. The same town which was once the Summer Land and over which the servants of Woden fly is replete with tacky new age shops; the tramp who collects angel-themed paraphernalia may in fact be something ancient and divine.

I’ve noticed this motif in almost all of Mr Jarvis’s work in some form, from the contrast between Madame Akkikuyu’s phoney magery and the real terror of Jupiter, to the irony of Lil’s parents running a ‘witchy’ shop in a town where true witches have been undercover for generations. It’s a remarkably complex theme that Robin handles very well, and one of the many things that make his work unique.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: So many plot strands here! We have the humorous journey of Edie and Veronica to Glastonbury – but now that they’ve arrived, their story could go anywhere.

And now Lauren and the creepy gift shop. If ever anyone gets a Jarvis merch shop off the ground, I’m buying myself a crow doll! (Yes, I know, it doesn’t really help you get a good night’s sleep, though.)

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 16

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Alas, alack! Large and terrible these nightmares doth loom in mine mind.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter’s opening made me smile – being a hill-walker, I can well relate to toiling up some steep slope only to feel that the cairn of the summit is sliding away down the other side. And, worse, getting to where you thought was the top and discovering that it’s only a plateau! I don’t envy Neil, freezing to death in his blazer on the Tor.

Then there’s the enigma of Tommy. I had forgotten that we find out he was present during The Woven Path, and what a clever little detail that is. Good on Neil for recognising that he obviously has something to do with the business of Woden and the Nornir – our young hero has been a bit sidelined on this book so far, so it’s nice to see him finally taking the initiative.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: In this chapter, I feel as if I personally have climbed the Glastonbury Tor. Maybe it’s just because it’s so far away and exotic, but this chapter is even more magical just knowing that Glastonbury exists and that you can physically walk up that hill and see that tower. Extraordinary.

Almost as extraordinary is that old Tommy should turn out to a) know all about Neil and his talking companions, b) have been in the Wyrd Museum when it was a hospital and c) be nearly 100 years old. He didn’t look that old in the illustration in chapter 6!

But then again, is anything what it looks like in this trilogy? A teddy bear? Or a reincarnated US airman? An old building in the East End? Or the site of the root of Yggdrasil? An English country town? Or a place where great magical forces are at work?

Who even knows if Tommy is everything he is cracked up to be at this stage?

Really, all I can say is that everything is … weird. Or is that Wyrd?

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 15

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Somerset holds the most inspiring spot you’ll ever see outside of dreams.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  I hadn’t really thought about anything in this series as a 2D animation (as I said in The Woven Path, I’m not too fussed about adaptation speculation for this trilogy), but this chapter convinced me that, were this book to be adapted, a mix of animation and live action might be an interesting and creative decision.

This was mostly brought about by the fact that certain characters keep slipping into Askar Storytelling Mode with only the weakest of prompts, and that necessary exposition might be best represented on-screen through a different medium than the story in the present. You know, for contrast.

Inspired by Aidan’s waxing lyrical about the history and mystery of Glastonbury in this chapter, I’d like to nominate Cartoon Saloon for the challenge of bringing the Summer Lands to swirling, folkloric life. If any of you have seen The Secret of Kells or Song of the Sea, I’m sure you’ll agree that studio would uplift the Tor and make it as Aidan sees it.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: If there’s one thing we get a bit envious of as Australians, it’s historical UK towns. We simply don’t have anything like them here.

Our country has many historical sacred sites for Australian Aboriginals which date back thousands of years, which hold one level of history. But these are fairly unchanging until the next major wave of history arrived with the British and their convicts in 1788. So it means no matter where you go in Australia, any town or location you visit was created only in the last couple of hundred years.

So we simply don’t have anything along the lines of Glastonbury, where there are layers upon layers of different beliefs and mythologies all piled on top of one another. Reading a chapter like this, I feel like Mr Jarvis didn’t have to dig too deep or look too hard to put together the mythology for this book – you only have to wander around a place like Glastonbury for a day and and stories and legends from many religions – pagan, Christian, etc. – all leap out and take shape.

In fact, this chapter reads like a spectacular recipe made of familiar ingredients re-packaged into something new and completely compelling.

Not to mention it also brings us almost up-to-date on the Webster back story and sets us up for just how freaking dangerous this town is at night.

Onwards!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 14

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

She felt herself travelling high above the ground, riding upon the wind, while all around her large shadowy shapes called on harsh, cruel voices.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  I feel like I or someone else has said this before on here, but a theme that’s apparent throughout all of Robin Jarvis canon is the loss of self, of identity. This is often combined with the loss or transformation of one’s physical body, for example, Madame Akkikuyu being forced to host Jupiter’s unquiet spirit in The Crystal Prison. This also turns up in the Whitby Witches with Sister Bridget, the half-aufwader child, and with the idea of the Mother’s Curse itself – a seemingly natural change turns out to bring certain death for the fisherfolk women. More recently, in the Witching Legacy, we had both out-and-out spiritual possession, and Verne being grotesquely operated on.

Here, we see the loss of identity and the horror it brings with Sheila’s rather visceral morphing into Hlökk. Like the unfortunate witches of the Coven of the Black Sceptre, she can neither control the change nor fully recall what happens when she is transformed. It’s the stuff of cheesy werewolf- or vampire-related horror films, but works incredibly well here as the prelude to the rest of our main characters arriving in Glastonbury.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’d be interested to know other reader’s thoughts, but I feel that there is a theme that runs through Mr Jarvis’ books to do with the tearing part of the family. It’s there right from the start of The Dark Portal where the father of a perfectly regular nuclear family, familiar from most stories – Mum, Dad and a couple of kids – was brutally torn apart with the death of Albert Brown.

Ever since then, we’ve seen this theme a bit more – dysfunctional parents such as Isaac Nettle, death of children (like Oswald), orphans (Ben and Jennet). If the ideal in a Jarvis book is a tight-knit community, then the peril often strikes at the very core of that community – family members.

So while we know Lauren and Sheila aren’t close and that there is an awkwardness over the family arrangement, at least it is what it is. But this sort of weird going-on makes Lauren’s home unsafe and creepy.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 13

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘If his mind ever recalls his true identity and nature, then he will undoubtedly turn against you.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Aidan and Quoth are my two favourite characters in this series, so having Neil be sent off with them on a grand and dooooooom-laden adventure bodes very well for the remainder of this book.

Celandine has had her moment in the limelight, and Ursula is evidently holding out for The Fatal Strand, so this is entirely Veronica’s section, and everything now revolves around her. I like that the action has finally moved away from the Wyrd Museum – fascinating as that setting is, I feel it can keep until the series finale. The Tor is where it’s at right now, and I can’t wait for all these plot threads to form a glorious and fateful design.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: It was rather a relief, after the intensity of the bus scene in the last chapter to go back to the museum. Though part of me feels like warning Neil: ‘Mate, you’re in a story where giant things with wings pick up buses.’ But then again, he faced up to Belial in the last book and is now getting bored, so he probably wouldn’t care … what can I say? He’s an adventurous kid.

I was much amused by the appearance of Memory. I’ll be honest – I did not see it coming that the second bird would return and then turn out to be a sympathetic character (albeit by the ironic loss of the very thing that he is named after).

His archaic dialogue reminded me of being seven and why I always thought The Horse and His Boy was the worst of the Narnia books because the Calormenes spoke in a sort of highbrow dialogue the whole time. However, I must have grown up now, because I thoroughly enjoyed the writing for Quoth and his turns of phrase which are just guessable enough for the smart young reader to work out. (My favourite from this chapter would be ‘Devil take the hindmost!’ but I’m sure everyone has their favourite line.)

It’s just enough light comedy before Aidan comes along and Ursula sends Neil packing to the increasingly creepy town of Glastonbury … From here on in, I have no trust that Jarvis will hold back for his young readers. The story will go as dark and deep as the villains of the piece (assuming they are villains?) take it.

On to Glastonbury …

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 12

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Through the open door and reaching down from above, a great repulsive talon came stretching.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Best. Chapter. Ever. Or at least, in this book. There’s such a lovely ‘rural horror’ atmosphere to the crow doll coming alive to claim Sheila’s soul for its own dark ends, and then that fantastic scene where the group of travellers we have come to like get gruesomely slaughtered in their own van. Oho, I love it!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I can’t work out whether Robin’s books were getting progressively more full-on as he wrote more, or whether I’m looking back now with young children of my own and getting protective.

The scene with the bus was a totally messed-up but riveting set piece if there ever was one. I was thinking to myself, ‘Wouldn’t kids be terrified of this?’ But then I’m remembering – that was the charm of Jarvis when I was younger. He made the assumption that for those of us that were brave enough to get into his books would be thrilled by the ride, no matter how dark. (Or regardless what our parents or teachers thought.)

I feel like there is a tale or two here of some particularly trusting editors and publishers as well, but I don’t know that one will ever be written!

Meanwhile, it’s starting to dawn on me what these massive flying creatures actually might be, but I’ll hold my theories until later in the book to see whether my suspicions prove correct or not!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 11

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Do you still not know me?’ the voice asked.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter is, well, cheeky. I appreciate it for its clever commentary of belief and the overlaps between Christianity and Norse Paganism, and just the sheer impertinent glee of having Wotan, the Gallows God, pose next to a cenotaph, but I can imagine offence being taken in less forgiving circles when this came out in the early 90s.

One detail I thought was interesting about the interaction between Reverend Galloway (nice one, Robin, just got that) and the Allfather, is that it has a distinct and disturbing cult-like flare. Peter is as incapacitated and downcast as he’s ever likely to get, and Wotan accosts him at his lowest point and proceeds to tell him exactly what he needs to hear in the moment. I sometimes worry about the research Mr Jarvis must’ve had to do to come up with scenes like this. I just hope it didn’t involve automobile theft or wandering in the rain until 2AM!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: And here it is – Peter Galloway gets drawn into the Allfather’s deceitfulness and begins his journey to Glastonbury.

This reminds me a great deal of a concept from the Dancing Jax series, but in the interests of no spoilers, I’ll come back to that later in the year.

But I am curious as to how this plays out. One thing that Mr Jarvis has planted here both for Peter and his readers is the obvious idea that it’s possible the whole Jesus story was just a re-written version of a Norse myth about a man who was nailed to a tree in order to become divine.

I won’t get into the arguments on that one, but I’m curious how this story might affect Peter further down the track. I can’t see things going well for him, but if he does come to his senses and realise he has been deceived, will he have any faith left? Or will all gods be reduced to the manipulative power-grabbers that we have seen so far in this trilogy?

We’ll have to keep reading to find out!

Finally, a little note on locations – this chapter mentions Peter walking along the Roman Road, which I remember distinctly from my first day in London. So I had a look on a map and discovered that Victoria Park Square, where the car-jacking occurs is actually a park I’ve been to: it’s located right outside the Museum of Childhood, which I’ve mentioned on other occasions. Which is just up from the Bethnal Green Underground station.

See, when I was walking along Roman Road, I was just looking for drinkable coffee. Sounds like Mr Jarvis went for a walk there one day and saw many things that I didn’t!

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 10

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Yet from the dangers which lay ahead, only one of them ever returned alive.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Even though we know it’s probably all a swizz and Wotan is up to some trickery or other, we sort of can’t help but cheer for Miss Veronica in this chapter. Captain or no Captain, the message from Thought has finally given her the gumption to extricate herself from Ursula’s control, and personally I’m pleased for her. Why shouldn’t she and Edie go on a train journey to Glastonbury? If the signs are correct, the world is hurtling toward Ragnarok anyway. Let Veronica experience some of the outside world, even if it ends in disaster.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I think what I enjoy most about this romp through Norse mythology is the level of very grown-up emotions that Mr Jarvis has brought to the table. While it would be interesting to know more of the details about the Allfather back when he was the Captain and what happened and why he nailed himself to the tree, this is background detail.

What is much more potent is the emotional current here – centuries of bitterness towards Ursula, sadness at the aging process, mourning her lost love – all this Veronica has endured, barely suppressed beneath her senility.

So now she heads out on her fool’s errand to Glastonbury, accompanied by Edie. As soon as she steps out of the door, we have a feeling that this can’t go well. We don’t really need him to say it, but just to confirm our hunches extra quickly the Voice of the Author lays out the ultimate foreshadowing in the final sentence – ‘only one of them ever returned alive’. It feels like a Shakespearean tragedy, doesn’t it?

What’s striking about all of this is that we’ve been given all the internal feelings of the characters, but not enough information to draw a black and white Right / Wrong conclusion about the whole thing. Was Ursula really evil in her past deeds or were they necessary under the circumstances? What are the Captain’s motives? All is grey.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 9

RK

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘That site is like a great psychic sponge.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Neil’s words about belief at the start of this chapter are a small moment, but worth noticing. He has had everything he knows about the world fundamentally challenged by his journey into the past, and it’s very understandable that he might say ‘you can’t believe in one thing and not in the other.’

This also harks back to what Matt has said over the series so far, that there seems to be a lack of a balancing ‘good’ power to look out for our young protagonists in the midst of all the devils and despair. In the Whitby Witches and Witching Legacy, the Lords of the Deep and Dark might have been very terrible, but St Hilda or Irl or the Mother were there to balance them out. Who has Neil got in his corner? A trio of mythic semi-goddesses who would readily sacrifice his life for their grand ends, and his useless father. He hasn’t even got Ted any more – no wonder he’s hankering to believe in something benevolent.

Benevolence seems far away however, with the introduction of Austen Pickering (excellent name!) There’s definitely something shifty about this guy, anorak and soulless glasses aside. Like Tommy, there’s an indication that he is not all he seems, but unlike Tommy, Mr Pickering has a decidedly malevolent aura. I already know who he is, but like the museum itself, I’m keeping that secret.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: So I’ve no idea what we’ve got here with Austen Pickering. Is it the Allfather in disguise? After all, it’s pretty easy to nick Austen from Jane Austen and Pickering maybe from Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion / My Fair Lady.

Or maybe we have got an extra character of a ghost hunter thrown into the mix? (Which would just make things even more interesting.)

It doesn’t really matter to me. Each crazy little incident like this just serves to add to the atmosphere of the Wyrd Museum and draws me more into the story. Now I wish there really was a Wyrd Museum in London.