Thomas | Chapter 7


‘Fare you well, Master Pipple,’ Simoon breathed in a soft, sorrowful whisper. ‘Many are the ordeals that yet await you. May such blessings as are in my power to grant go with you. But I dread that against the trials to come, their humble strength will fail. I pray that you do not.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The scene where Simoon spies on the ship of the Scale at the start of this chapter is hands down my favourite scene in the Deptford Histories. Yes, over all the other stuff that’s soon to happen in this book. Yes, over Hobb arising from the Pit in The Oaken Throne or Jupiter’s battle of sorcery with Doctor Spittle in The Alchymist’s Cat. It’s just. It’s glorious. I cannot stress enough how much I love that scene.

The way it begins, with Simoon being the only creature left awake on board the Calliope, cloaked in moons and stars in the deadly dark of night. The way the slightly archaic turns of phrase (‘a tranquil, moonlit country rising gracefully from the shimmering sea’) carry the reader along like breaking waves. The blending of the mundanity of the present with the darkly gilded past of which Simoon spoke to Thomas and Woodget, and the sudden revelation that every word of that ‘rattling yarn’ is completely true. Give me this book as a lovingly-rendered old stop-motion, and give me this scene and nothing but this scene for a trailer.

Then comes Thomas’s first storm on board ship, and his first meeting with the pitiless wine-dark sea. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Jarvis had gone so far as to research real shipwrecks for this chapter, because the nightmare moments in the hold of the Calliope are startlingly realistic, and at times quite queasy-making. The illustration that goes with them also haunts my dreams a bit, and when our heroes finally go down to the deeps, you find yourself fearing for them even though you can plainly see that there’s more than half a book still to go.

Matt’s Thoughts: You know, there was a time when all great old-fashioned classic books seemed to contain a shipwreck: Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson and – let’s face it – what would The Famous Five do in their holidays if there weren’t old shipwrecks to check out?

But I’m not sure that we do nautical tales like that quite so much for kids any more, so this chapter felt somewhat nostalgic but also quite sinister with the arrival of The Threat. It’s one thing to have a mysterious assassin with gold claws. But creatures that can control the weather? Another thing altogether.

Also, where are the humans in this section? It’s unspoken, but the ship being torn apart by an unholy storm really means that the entire ship got shipwrecked (perhaps with no human survivors) because some vicious followers of an ancient serpent decided to go after a few rodents hiding in the hold. Like, if you think about it too much, it sounds crazy. Like the world being torn apart by the ghost of a giant cat.

But the charm of Mr Jarvis is that his ideas always work. Of course the followers of the Scale are trying to sink the boat and rip the whole thing apart. It’s the ramp-up of the tension.

P.S. Sorry, Aufwader, I imagined the whole Simoon vision as a spectacularly engineered computer-generated 3D effect. But given the age of the book, your stop-motion wins, so I’ll give you this one.

Thomas | Chapter 6


‘Thomas!’ the maidens cried, taking up the name and singing it with their silvery voices. ‘A fine, sturdy title. Thomas Triton we now call you. A friend of the sea-daughters.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Mermousemaids! Halia! Dias! Enalus! Metaneira! Myrtea! Carmanor! Zenna the librarian’s daughter!

The mermice are some of the most intriguing characters in all Robiny canon, putting the ‘Myth’ into ‘Myth & Sacrifice’ and then some. I suppose it stands to reason that if there is a ‘secondary crew’ of mouse mariners on board most ships, then there must be sirens to go along with them, but if you really stop to think about it, the fact of the mermice brings up a plethora of interesting questions about the wider Deptford universe.

For instance, are there other mer-creatures? Are there merrats, merstoats or sundry other mervermin to entice the grog-fuddled wits of pirates and buccaneers who may not, in fact, be mice? Alternatively, are the sea-daughters able to change their appearances to beguile any creature of  ‘the clay’ who might lean too far overboard? Robin’s favourite themes of transformation and deceit do show up very strongly in this book, after all.

Further fascination lies in the idea of the maidens’ grim-sounding father and his halls beneath the waves. There he rules, unnamed and unknowing, a watery enigma about whom only Mr Jarvis probably kens the whole truth. To be honest I like the ambiguity of the mermice and their mysterious undersea doings so much that I don’t think I ever want to know more about them. I am content to consider Halia a secret devotee of the Scale and Zenna the one being in all creation for whom the Lord of the Frozen Wastes has a soft spot, and leave the rest to the murky depths.

(The same cannot be said of Mulligan’s adventures, however. There’s a whole series lying in wait there!)

Matt’s Thoughts: I was a bit afraid that the interactions with the sirens was going to end worse than it actually did, but I feel like there is more to come on this particular subplot. (And like our characters, it’s rather foggy to me how this is all going to play out!)

But can I quickly say that I love the way all the human legends that are thrown in here have a rodent equivalent. So instead of being human sirens, of course they take the form of swimming mice. I hadn’t extrapolated it out to mer-stoats like my blogging colleague, but now that she mentions it …

Thomas | Chapter 5


Upon the cloth lay the picture of a serpent. Flames dripped from its jaws, and along its twisting back were painted nine bright stars.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  We rereaders like our Robiny cults. We like our peelers and our mousebrasses and our squirrel realms. Many of us have our little corners into which we neatly fold, with a hymn to the Green or a Mabb rest, and of course that had to start somewhere.

Some of us entered the Chamber of Summer with Audrey, or caught the silver with Ysabelle, and knew our destinies to be honourable and true. Others rushed barefoot through the wild woods, young imaginations fired in the Pit, glazed with the runes of the Three. Ever since I first read The Final Reckoning I have jokingly thought of this call to devotion as being ‘got behind the eyeballs’, and for me, it happened in Simoon’s faded tent.

Like Thomas and Woodget, I had the fell chronicle of the Dark Despoiler’s reign narrated to me (albeit on cassette rather than in a creaking ship’s hold) and from ‘all titles are just, yet none do justice’ I was well and truly got. The manifold cruelties of the Scale did not bother me – I was a bloodthirsty little blighter, next door to a perfect heathen in my disregard for the Green, but equally disdainful of Jupiter and the Raith Sidhe. Even then I was a reptile at heart, and Suruth Scarophion summoned me with a venomous and imperial summons.

But of course, you all knew that.


Matt’s Thoughts: Righto. Once we’ve got past the obvious point – that Simoon is a terrific character, we arrive of course at the tantalising prospect: is there a Robin Jarvis universe?

The legend of Scarophion, the Dark Despoiler, a mighty serpent who caused terror on the earth. One can’t help but draw the obvious comparison between this and Morgawrus. Was there a race of ancient serpents that was eventually defeated by a combo of ancient nature (which could have turned into the Green for the various animals in the story and perhaps paganism, which led to people like Alice Green) and the power of God (which is not mentioned much in The Deptford Mice but gets a nod via Miraculous Myrtle in The Alchymist’s Cat and would be tied in with any of the religious characters like Sister Frances, Hilda, etc. in the Whitby series). Then the third element to that is the powers in the ocean, the Lords of the Dark and Deep, which could be good or evil depending on how they choose to exercise their powers.

However, opposing this, are many dark and evil groupings as well. There are the followers of the Scale, the Raith Sidhe and the dark Satanic forces that were invoked all the way through the Deptford books by Jupiter, Magnus Zachaire and those sorts of characters.

I know this becomes more complex with further books still to come, but help me out, Jarvis fans: would this work for the nine books we’ve read so far? I’m halfway between moving house, so some of my books are in boxes at the moment, which means I’m working a bit from memory with this theory. Either way, I love the idea of these epic ancient forces that are never far away from the surface of everyday life.

But this mythology – regardless of how it plays out – is never allowed to drown out the character journey. Ultimately, this is the tragedy of Woodget and how it impacted on Thomas, and when we see Simoon check Woodget’s real card at the end of the chapter, the inevitability of where this journey will end comes back again.

Thomas | Chapter 4


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I’d be careful if I were you, Titch. I dun heard odd tales about that one.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter is full of intriguing new faces. The prophet Simoon is a fascinating figure who’ll no doubt be seen again before too long, and chirpy Dimlon provides some necessary, if vaguely irritating, levity. My favourite introduction, however, has to be the rat Jophet.

I’ve had many years to look at this story from many angles, and I still feel that Jophet is an underappreciated character in a lot of ways. The cryptic warnings he gives to Woodget are on par in their obscurity and vague malevolence with the prophecies of Orfeo and Eldritch which Arthur receives in The Dark Portal. Plus,  I’ve always loved Jophet’s line about how there’s ‘terrors out there to wither your tail and staunch the blood in your veins.’ What a positively chilling turn of phrase!

We all know, however, that the main set-piece of this chapter is finding out ‘what them blades can do’ as Morgan put it, and getting the first definite idea of just how threatened the lives of our heroes are. Richard Griffiths did an outstanding job with every single character voice on the audiobook, but I cannot quite express what he did with regards to Able Ruddaway’s murderer. Let’s just say, that particular voice turned my heard.


Matt’s Thoughts: Oddly enough, the thing that jumped out to me about this chapter was the lighting effects. We’ve commented many times on Mr Jarvis and his cinematic writing style, but if you read over the introductions of Jophet and Dimlon both, his description of the way they are lit is quite interesting. If you were to film both these characters arriving, you almost have the directions of how they are lit.

And I don’t think this is just coincidental either. Unlike our main characters like Thomas and Woodget, where Robin takes us inside their thoughts and feelings, we only observe Jophet, Dimlon and Simoon and are left to our own guesses about their true motivations and character.

So thus the fact that they all emerge, in one form or another, out of the shadows of the hold, into the light, feels symbolic of the fact that they are all, in one way or another, shadowy characters to us.

(I’m not going to ask Robin to confirm this one or it’ll end up like the time I asked him about the 14 chapter pattern, thinking it was going to have a deep symbolism and then it turned out to be 14 chapters for no particular reason … I’ll just live with my own theory!)

Thomas | Chapter 3


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Thomas’s first voyage had begun.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  All Deptford universe settings are great in their own ways. Who could forget Fennywolde in high summer, or Doctor Spittle’s fetid attic laboratory, or the mere at the mournful willows where Vesper and Ysabelle nearly lost their lives? Each has a specific presence and atmosphere, and part of why I love this book so much is there are so many varied and diverse examples of Mr Jarvis putting place to good use.

We’ve had Thomas and Gwen’s cramped berth on board the Cutty Sark, made all the more claustrophobic by the spectre of their troubled marriage. Then there’s Betony Bank, a Fennywolde in miniature, and, last chapter, the shadowy, villain-infested harbour. Now we come to the great hold of the Calliope – as labyrinthine and cloaked in menace as the story itself.

This is definitely one of my favourite settings in this book. For Thomas and Woodget, and for us as readers, it is a new world. The Cutty Sark was more of a romantic notion of a ship; a creaking old dame upon whose deck it would be easy to imagine fearful battles with pirates, and deeds of derring-do. However, the Calliope, if we puzzle through our Deptford timelines for a moment, is more likely to be a 1970s cargo vessel. This is something that I didn’t really consider as a younger reader, but it bears mentioning, because it’s another case of Mr Jarvis giving a degree of romance and mystery to otherwise mundane locations.

Consider: Jupiter, Lord of the Rats, lived in a sewer. The Deptford Mice themselves resided in an abandoned house in a run-down area of London. In the same vein, there’s very little that’s romantic about a hulking cargo ship shunting a load of cotton from one trading port to another, and yet somewhere between the explanation of the mouse-sized ‘auxiliary navy’ and the melancholy mole thinking of those he’s left behind, the stage is set for a grand maritime adventure. Or misadventure, whichever.


Matt’s Thoughts: I love the whole idea of the ‘secondary crew’ of a ship. And, of course, if Aufwader is right on the timeline and we’re dealing with a 70s cargo ship, vermin on board was quite possibly a real problem.  (After all, James Herbert’s The Rats was published in the 70s, and that was based in part on his remembrance of seeing rats in London as a child.)

And also, why is everyone traveling? To see the world? To emigrate somewhere with family? Where are they hoping to get to? Why did they leave England? There really are endless stories that could emerge from the Jarvis canon.

Thomas | Chapter 2


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘For failing me, you shall never find rest; always and forever will your mottled skin be in the service of another, and grant that he is less merciful than I’.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  There’s a lot to talk about here, and all of it is my absolute favourite thing – I even had a hard time choosing a quote for this post because there were so many legendary moments. As I mentioned in the Up Next Reminder for this book, I first heard it on tape, and in this instance I am very glad. I think that was in part what made it so memorable for me, and what made my eventual discovery of the physical book all the more special and enjoyable.

Let’s begin with Mulligan. He arrived in my ears bellowing about ‘scaly heathens’, and though I did not yet know to who or what he was referring, he certainly made an impression. To me at least, he is one of the most stand-out characters in the entirety of the Deptford Histories. He is certainly as strong a personality as Thomas later becomes, and from the moment we encounter him it’s clear that he has many intriguing adventures both behind and before.

Then (hoho, heehee) we have the introduction of our first villain, and of the bumbling rat lackeys. This is an almost nostalgic hark back to the bad ol’ days of The Dark Portal. Pigsniff, Clunker, Mouldtoes, Lice-magnet, and Mo- I mean, Spots, are at least as verminous and cruel as any trueborn Deptford rogues, and, hilariously, they are equally inept. The tussle on the harbour was as messy and as much fun on tape as it is in book form, the sudden appearance of Thomas just as thrilling, and Mulligan’s excuses about the severed tail just as questionable.

And finally, Morgan’s curse! Who else clutched their face and wheezed over how good a twist that is? It is. So good. It’s been any number of years and I’m still totally slain over that twist. Ever since I first heard it I have had the theory that when Morgan breathes his last in The Final Reckoning, the ‘he’ that he plans to ‘get one over on’ by his sudden death is not, in fact, Jupiter, but his first master; the cowled figure who condemned him to a lifetime of subservience on a misty quayside in Cornwall many, many years ago. Who’s with me?


Matt’s Thoughts: Great theory, Aufwader! There is a word – and it completely escapes me as I write this – for what happens when a movie-maker or TV show-runner comes up with a new sequel or a new episode of a TV show that suddenly revises the mythology of the earlier films or episodes.

In some cases, this totally annoys fans who believe it’s just badly cobbled in afterwards. LOST was one such show where you could never tell whether they were just making stuff up or had really genius ideas planned all along.

And so there’s a bit of that with the Morgan back-story, isn’t there? Mr Jarvis may not have had the exact idea of a rather vicious creature with golden blades back when he wrote the original Trilogy. (But then he did have the idea of Woodget, so he may well have.) But regardless, it fits in seamlessly to the Mice mythology and enhances the original.

Also, another example of Robin’s chapter escalation – at the beginning, it’s all sort of slightly comical, with poor old Woodget being sold useless trinkets (and falling for all of it!) but by the end, it’s all rather bloodthirsty.

Finally, completely agree with Aufwader about the awesomeness of Mulligan and how he is the type of character that we know Thomas will become. (I’m quarter Irish as well, so I feel a slight extra connection to him as a character just because of his accent!)

Thomas | Prologue & Chapter 1


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Woodget,’ he whispered softly, ‘forgive me.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Before we begin I feel beholden to point out that this is the ninth book on the (Re)read, and though it is not yet September as I write, this post will be going live on the ninth month of the year. Here at Myth & Sacrifice I daresay omens and portents are the order of the day, and if the timing of this readthrough isn’t an example of a perfectly divine coincidence, then I honestly don’t know what is.

Anyway, let us slither into the prologue and join Gwen and Thomas for a mousey soap opera the like of which we haven’t seen since the original Deptford trilogy. How gleefully bitter this opening is! It really shows us what Robin means when he says he ‘doesn’t believe in happy endings’. The last time we saw these characters they were being joyfully wed in the Green’s own sunshine, but apparently that blessed light did not, in fact, ‘live in their hearts till the end of their days’, because things look rather stormy in the Triton-Brown household.

So we come back at last to the tale behind Thomas’s near-death ravings in The Final Reckoning, and discover the ill-fated drama which compelled him to leave the peaceful idyll of Betony Bank. For myself I have to wonder where he was coming from in the first place. Who were his parents? What manner of life did he live before he received the Sign of the Travelling Mouse and left home for good? Was Thomas ever really ‘from’ anywhere, or did he float between relatives and guardians without ever knowing his own roots? If nothing else, it’s an intriguing mystery.


Matt’s Thoughts: There’s a sense in which Jarvis fans would happily have parted with cash just for the prologue and Chapter 1, because they’re almost good enough to stand alone.

In the prologue, we almost feel like we’ve been given an extra epilogue for The Deptford Mice trilogy, with a tantalising look at what happened to all our friends (well, at least the surviving ones) in the years after those events of the original trilogy. For most book series, we have to sort of be content for the series to leave things where they end up, so to get a little bit extra is not something to complain about!

Then Chapter 1. I find this to be a little bit of a Jarvis mini-masterpiece. I almost don’t need the rest of the book. We’ve got two friends, one girl – we know straight away that this is another Piccadilly/Twit/Audrey love triangle waiting to happen. A bit of berrybrew, some ill-timed words, and what was a happy country dance evening turns into tragedy.

And not just the mild-mannered type of romantic mix-up which will be fixed in another 90 minutes. (My wife is a rom-com fan so I’ve sat through plenty of those!) No, this is that small turn of events which will trigger tragedy for everyone. We’re pretty sure from The Deptford Mice that it’s not going to end well for Woodget. We already know Thomas has become an alcoholic over this. (In fact, what a delightful sense of dread we get from those words, ‘I swear … as the Green is my witness.’ Never. A. Good. Thing. To. Say.)

Finally, everyone in Betony Bank is left feeling messed up as well: ‘In those after-times, the generosity of the Betony Bankers was diminished and they never again trusted outsiders nor welcomed them into their homes.’

You know, I’m not sure what the name was of the editor or publisher who first read Mr Jarvis’ manuscripts. But I imagine them flicking through things like this and saying, ‘Yep. Tragedy, bleakness, violence, and misery all round. Like Macbeth with mice. Exactly what the kids of the UK need to be reading.’ Whoever that person might be, my blue woolen hat is off to you.

Up Next Reminder | Thomas


I can remember exactly how I first came across this story. Like many of my early Robiny discoveries, it began with a rainy afternoon at the library. I was ten and summer break was just around the corner. I’d availed myself of the usual suspects – among them an old BBC audiobook of The Amber Spyglass, which I still think is the best recording of that book you’ll find – and was on my way to the check-out desk when I spied the silver spine of a new Robin Jarvis tape.

I took a peek at the cover, grinned at the loathsome visage of a vicious-looking beastie, and flipped the case over. To this day I’m not sure what drew me more, the enticing premise of ‘four years since the fall of Jupiter’, or the mention of terrifying heathen gods, but that new tape got top spot on my library pile. I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for.

To you, Readers all, I now extend the bejewelled claw of invitation. Who will set sail with Thomas and Woodget upon the roaring oceans?  Who among you has the courage to venture through poison-tipped peril, to hear the beating of pagan drums in the night and breathe the searing air of forgotten temples? Join us; share a flask of rum, pull up a cotton bale, but hang on tight to your packs. A storm’s a-brewing, and it’ll not pass us by.



Of course even if you have the original edition, you’re going to want this one too, as it’s clearly the best. (Hodder Silver, 2000)
Not to sneer villainously but, well, I daresay you could do better than Thomas’s face. (Chronicle Books, 2006)
Finally, there’s this illustrationless but easily accessible version. (Hodder, 2007)