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.