The Fatal Strand | Chapter 20

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Tap-tap-tap.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’ve muttered about ominous chapter titles before on here, but this one really, genuinely takes the jam and pancakes for this trilogy. You can ‘Crimson Weft’ all you want, but there’s something about the combination of last chapter’s cliffhanger, that ghastly illustration of skull-headed Galatea, and the fact that there’s only ‘this much left to go’ that puts ‘The First Wave’ at the top of the list.

In The Woven Path we all guessed that the Separate Collection and its inhabitants might return in the trilogy finale, and here we finally get to see that happen, in as grand and theatrical a manner as could be hoped. Best moment for me has got to be Galatea stepping into the light as Ursula charges her to lead the defence against Woden. Really, could the Nornir have a better general than the beautiful, hollow-eyed scourge of Paphos? I have to side with Edie this time – I’d run up to the statue too!

Matt’s Thoughts: This finale is reminding me more and more of the end of Fighting Pax, in that the last third of the book is really just one unrelenting sweep of action, without pause for breath, without letup of the tension.

Also, another whole sweep of old mythology is thrown in here. I do wish I had learned more of these ancient myths and legends when I was younger so they would come more readily to mind. (Alas, my somewhat conservative Christian curriculum as a youngster tended to de-emphasise the great myths for fear of us all becoming Satanists or something like that.) But, I managed to work out that the skull-topped beauty of a statue is a reference to the famous story of Pygmalion (or Pumiyathon, which is how he is referred to here) who fell in love with a statue that he had created.

The twist here, of course, is that in the same way that the Valkyries in the previous book are monstrous versions of their mythological counterparts, so here the statue – instead of being classically beautiful – is rather terrifying and warlike. It’s never stated explicitly in this series, but there’s an undercurrent here that all legends are based on some sort of truth, but that over time, storytellers have taken the edges off the stories to make them more palatable.

Having just watched Darkest Hour, in which the story of Churchill in WWII is portrayed in the most perfectly-lit, perfectly-costumed, beautifully-shot visual version of events, there is a definitely a truth to the idea of us liking to smooth out the past into a more palatable re-telling.

And as for that last set-piece where Ursula has to choose between a roomful of school children getting killed and defeating Jack Timms …  yikes!

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The Fatal Strand | Chapter 19

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From some remote region, deep within the museum, there came the distant sound of a rhythmic knocking.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I definitely get shades of The Final Reckoning from this chapter.

Onceagain, our heroes are forced together by an unnatural cold and crouch, breath bated, around their meagre fire as the forces of darkness assail them from all sides. Once again, they summon the powers which safeguarded them in ages past, while their ancient matriarch, grim and grieving, despairs beneath the weight of her years.

We’re really at the finale now. Will the Nornir triumph, or will all who huddle around that fire be ‘besieged by death’?

Matt’s Thoughts: All I’ll say on this chapter, which nicely ramps things up, is that there is definitely a profound creepiness to the old song ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ Such a nice extra touch having the lyrics of that song being sung by the kids as Tick-Tock makes his way through the Museum.

Which is actually the second time in a month that I’ve encountered this particular little ditty being used to create a sinister atmosphere. Down here in Australia, we have two films and now two seasons of a TV show called Wolf Creek (definitely not suitable for children!) which I think exists solely to scare Australians from ever leaving the cities and visiting remote outback areas of Australia and to scare anyone from overseas to even contemplate visiting Australia full stop.

It’s probably the closest thing we’ve got to those horror stories that make you terrified of visiting old moors.

But, interestingly enough, for the title sequence of the TV series, they used the Cock Robin song quite effectively. What can I say? It’s just a creepy song.

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 13

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I wanted you to see that my home is not wholly filled with ugly memories.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Who else reckons that something will prevent the Chapmans from leaving the museum? Brian can fume all he likes, but the Nornir’s domain is now essentially a fortress, and Ursula still has a use for Neil. To paraphrase Quoth, depart that grooly abode they shall not. At least, not any time soon.

The rest of this chapter is the narrative equivalent of passing a difficult school test as a kid and then being given sweets as a reward. Well done, readers all, we’ve made it through the grisly description of Mary-Anne’s incarceration and demise, time for some Tudor revels to lift the mood.

And what delightful revels they are. Exquisitely detailed, with even amusing Tudor colour names making an appearance, Celandine’s last ball almost makes up for the ghastly shocks of Mr Pickering’s previous findings. It’s also interesting to see a bit of development regarding what Ursula was like before her sisters deteriorated with Nirinel. We really get a sense of all that the Websters have lost over the ages, and the blazing splendour of the past makes their present seem all the more shabby and ignoble.

This chapter is perfectly balanced. If I had to choose a chapter to represent this trilogy, it would be this. Ghost-hunting, family feuds, time travel, heartwarming and horrifying moments – it has everything. At the end of it I feel almost as overwhelmed as Mr Pickering. What will the Wyrd Museum throw at us next?

Matt’s Thoughts: Another Jarvis black/white chapter, where horror and beauty dwell side by side. The horror: discovering the fate of Mary-Anne Brindle, one which we almost would rather not have known. But then the beauty: the final ball of the sisters Webster before they became reclusive.

I’m glad, amidst all the darkness, that there was a pause for a scene like this. It gives us a rare moment of kindness by Ursula, where she allows Celandine a chance to relive her happier days. It’s finally convinced me that she is driven, not by a desire for power, but just a dedication to duty regardless of the great personal cost to her. That, I can understand.

 

 

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 5

FS

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Think of all the suffering and anguish these walls have absorbed.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: A quiet, pre-plot moment with Edie and Ursula and Veronica’s jars. All through the first two books I had been wondering why Edie seemed to have that magpie-like fascination with shiny things, and whether that might turn out to be important in the series finale.

Now I have a new theory: what if she is drawn to sparkly, precious treasures as a sort of echo to the Nornir’s first wonder at the Loom? What if she too is enslaved to it, and forever unconsciously seeks to see the threads of life and death in their unparalleled splendor?

Also, let us all take note of that vessel she takes from Veronica’s pile. After all, this is Robin Jarvis. Even some grotty old eye salve might come in handy.

Matt’s Thoughts: The plot is on the move! From the moment Pickering walks in the building and says there are ‘hundreds upon hundreds’ of ghosts and tormented souls in the walls, we know it’s going to get hectic.

And this is after Ursula has said that the loom is broken and nobody knows how the future is going to pan out from here.

I love a good Jarvis third book finale – all bets are off, the stakes are high, darkness is almost overpowering. It’s anybody’s guess who will be left standing, or even how successfully evil will be dispatched. I have no doubt that Pickering is a catalyst, but is it to a cataclysm?

The Fatal Strand | Chapter 2

FS

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 Deptford Mice Almanack | February

the deptford mice almanack _0004
As I questioned the present Starwife about Piccadilly, her eyes became filled with sorrow, and when she saw the drawings of him which I had drafted from the various descriptions I had heard, she could not speak and rushed quickly away.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: For this little forktail, February is all about Scalian New Year, which I decided at age ten falls upon the 4th. Do not ask me what the significance of that date is because I’ve honestly no idea, but since then, ever year, I have done something to honour Sarpedon the Mighty.

It always seemed to me a bit of a swizz that every other god in the Deptford universe  should have so many festivals and holy days, while the Scale were left standing gloomily on the sidelines. Even Jupiter has the repurposed Hobber rights of First Blood and Goregut to look forward to. Blame it on biased squirrel scribes or ancient records now lost to mould in the Starwife’s archives, but the Scale have been short-changed for high days and revels, and over the years I have done what I can to rectify that sad state of affairs.

Speaking of First Blood, that falls this month, as well as the moon entering the House of Hobb in what should be the start of a new calendar year for all Children of the Raith Sidhe. It may also be noted that these events coincide with one another in a manner that I imagine was quite difficult for Jupiter’s lieutenants to gloss over in the past. Of final note is the birthday of Wendel Maculatum, right in the Peeler – well, that explains his gift for turning sacrifices into ‘art’!

Matt’s Thoughts: I love the illustration for this month – both because it’s possibly one of the single best illustrations of Thomas Triton you’re likely to see, and also because its corresponding entry for the 10th refers to the tossing of the coin to propitiate the Lords of the Deep. Those three can certainly do with plenty of propitiation, that’s for sure!

I loved the mix of the humorous (Madame Akkikuyu’s sniffles remedy) and the tragic (the burial mound of Mr Woodruffe and the entry for Piccadilly’s birthday). Also, given that 18th marks the beginning of the Ash Month, I was actually wondering to what degree the Wyrd Museum was taking shape when this was written?

The idea that ash trees are somewhat distasteful to squirrels because of some dim dark connection to the World Ash Tree, while being completely my own reading into the passage, is an idea that I find quite appealing. You could see somebody like the old Starwife (or even the current one) knowing the whole tale of Yggdrasil and thinking it a rather pathetic example of squabbling divinities engaging in power struggles.

The Raven’s Knot | Chapter 22

RK

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.