The boy smiled. He liked the Holy One and thought he looked very wise and serious, even if he was a fieldmouse.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Yes, this book gets a special epilogue post, because it has not one, but two of the things, and oh boy do they deserve their own write-up.
As if the finale in the Black Temple and the heart-rending (to some) conclusion to Thomas and Woodget’s voyage across the globe were not enough of an emotional roller-coaster, we now learn that not only will Thomas live out his life believing that he murdered his best friend and turn to drink as a result, but that Woodget himself will have a sort of semi-existence as the Sadhu of a ruined Hara, with no memory of who he once was. If this book’s beginning is ‘gleefully bitter’, then its end is gleefully miserable. This has to be one of the most depressing endings in all of Robin Jarvis canon, and I love it to bits.
So, what about that, Robin? You wrote in the notes for this book that we ‘haven’t seen the last of Simoon’ and that you didn’t think it was right for Thomas to end his days in suffering. If it is Woodget’s destiny to someday remember everything and for he and Thomas to be reunited just as Thomas takes a death wound so that Thomas believes Woodget to be only a vision of his dying mind, then happily I will read it and cry along with everybody else.
As it is, though, no suffering can be greater than having one’s beloved cruelly shoved off a mountain and one’s lizardy kin thoroughly crushed before one’s eyes, so I’m content to let Mr Triton sob into his rum for the time being. Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have an appointment in a secret room above the Lotus Parlour.
Matt’s Thoughts: Sixteen chapters and two epilogues! What can I say?
Actually, what I can say is that this ending has such a level of ambiguity about it, that I do wonder how younger readers made sense of it. (I only ever read it when I was in my 30s, so I don’t have the experience of knowing what it would have been like as a young adult.)
It’s the questions that I find haunting. First of all, the one that Thomas himself articulated: were the Green Council really above-board in their actions? Was there really no other way to defeat Sarpedon then to let hundreds of innocents be slaughtered as the Scale ravaged back the pieces of the egg? And given that it was a gamble whether that would even work, was it really the only thing that could have happened? I’m not sure on the answers to that question, but even if Jophet and the Holy One are now seen to be playing a long game, it does seem like awfully high stakes.
And then there’s those couple of paragraphs in the second epilogue where Gwen looks in despair at Thomas – he hasn’t written anything down, he hasn’t ‘made peace with the past’. There’s no guarantee he won’t stay alcoholic and haunted forever.
About the only slight ray of hope is that we instinctively feel that Woodget has a beauty of soul that makes him perfect for the role of the next Sadhu. But even that is tinged with melancholy, because it means Thomas (and Bess, for that matter) never realised that he survived. I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: it’s not a British children’s story until evil has been defeated, but everyone is still unhappy.
I think I need a soothing cup of tea and a long walk after this one. (Which is all to say, I loved it.)
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