Time of Blood | Fur and Feathers

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘It was a voice. It said there was still something left to do here.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Well then! All right! If that’s how you want to play it! Let’s have another book! Let’s have Miss Boston’s parents, possibly get St Hilda or the Convent of St Mary involved, maybe have Sister Bridget make an appearance. Why not! Bring the whole crowd! Who knows, perhaps this is also the time of Nelda’s birth? What thrills and chills await in Legacy of Witches? I suppose we’ll find out in due time.

Matt’s Thoughts: And good riddance to Catesby as well. He was a great character, but really, it was about time he learned to leave our heroes alone.

So … Alice Boston? This means the fourth book is going to be great for Whitby fans (unless Mr Jarvis has written himself into a corner!) but how is it going to play out? Who will be the villains of the piece, how will Lil and Verne get home?

Really, I’ve got no idea. It’s also just brilliant because it means that Robin has moved the Witching Legacy series from being a sequel quadrilogy to being a prequel quadrilogy all at the same time.

Never seen that done before! Great work, Robin, and I can’t wait to read Legacy of Witches in 2018. (Well, I hope it’s 2018?)

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Time of Blood | Chapter 10

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Oh, no!’ crowed Dark. ‘Not mad. I am Their husband! The bond was accepted, the bridge was made and the Lords of the Deep are now my brides! Come, my vast, immortal loves, obey your new master. The ceremony commands it and I have the power to compel you!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I have to hand it to you, Mr Jarvis, you did exactly what you wanted. You had your steampunk laboratory inside your gothic windmill, your Brides of Dracula references, your sea bishop and your self-parody. You decreed that Verne should have working bat wings grafted to his shoulderblades, and by the Deeps it was done. You wanted two Nimiuses (I cannot and will not accept that the plural of Nimius is ‘Nimii’. Are you having a chortle?) and you got them. You killed Nathaniel Crozier a third and final time by mercilessly riffing on his entire M.O., from the raising of Morgawrus, to the pact with the Black Sceptre. My respect and appreciation in all of this, you pulled it off with aplomb.

What a fantastic finale. Electrical lightning! Ghostly ocean bells of doom! Blood sacrifice, and the least picturesque beach wedding ever! Absolutely everything in this chapter is so ‘only Robin Jarvis’ and the sheer inventiveness, combined with the self-aware nods to earlier canon, makes it in my opinion the most memorable ending in this series.

I’d also like to nominate an illustration from this chapter as my favourite: that of the tentacle bride. Whichever member of the Triad is in there, he looks positively ravishing in that period wedding gown, and how charmingly traditional for the Lords of the Deep to add ‘Dark’ to the family name.

Matt’s Thoughts: Now that is how you do a finale! A hidden steampunk laboratory, creepy mutated creatures in glass containers, undead brides. Every glorious horror trope in one grand chapter. (Speaking of the laboratory, if you haven’t checked it out already, Robin is doing a fantastic series of computer-drawn images to go with this series, including the windmill lit up like a Christmas tree, over on his website. Check them out!

For a brief moment, I quite admired Mr Dark’s cleverness in being able to engineer a plot to bring down the three Lords of the Dark and Deep. Who ever thought you could do anything to shake up those three?

However, having said that, Mr Dark is still an old-school rotter and I was quite happy to see it all backfire on him and see him dispatched.

But it does make me curious – with Dark out of the picture in Book Three out of a four-book set, what happens in Book Four? I now have no clue. Given that it’s not written yet, does anyone have any fan theories?

Time of Blood | Chapter 9

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Hello, Cherry!’ Lil cried joyously. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I love Lil in this chapter. Only a few pages ago she was almost horrifically murdered, and now she’s ordering Bram Stoker and Henry Irving around like they’re her spooky happenings sidekicks. Which, to all intents and purposes, they are. If anyone can rout the nefarious Mister Dark and thwart the designs of the Deep Ones, it’s these three, with Nannie Burdon, Cherry the parrot, a poker, and plenty of Gabriel’s Trumpet on the side. Here’s to their enterprise!

Matt’s Thoughts: If Wikipedia is to be believed, there was always speculation that Bram Stoker, despite his marriage, was attracted to Henry Irving. I do wonder if this is what Florence refers to when she talks about Bram having ‘sealed areas of his life’.

We don’t really get a chance to find out much about that, because Mr Jarvis, by this stage, is keeping the plot well and truly clipping along. All I’ll say is that the idea of a famous real-life author joining forces with Jarvis heroes to take down the evil bad guy is hugely entertaining and exactly how I hoped this story would go.

Now, the mill – this is one of those things that proved tough work to research via the internet, especially looking for a picture. The closest I could come to it was this series of pictures on a forum showing the mill and then the process of it being dismantled:

http://www.real-whitby.co.uk/real-forum/index.php/Thread/208-Union-Mill-At-Whitby-Things-That-Have-Gone/

As soon as you see it, you can instantly see its appeal as a creepy location. Look at the arms on that thing! They look like razor blades!

Time of Blood | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The coffin began to fill with blood, and from that blood a horde of repulsive tentacles hatched. They tore through the wedding gown, and the perfect features of Martha’s face bubbled and burst until only a monster of scales remained.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Sometimes I sing the praises of the artists and designers who have worked around Mr Jarvis in recent years to make his books the lovely, oh-so-collectable things that they are. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

The scene described in the above quote is clearly what the cover of this book was trying to portray, but in this instance I have to give an honest critique and say I feel it falls somewhat short. There is no sense of lingering horror, the tentacles could have been a great deal more repulsive, and there’s not even a stylised hint of blood. As for Martha, she is nowhere in evidence, melting or otherwise.

Sorry everyone, but imagery as grotesque as that needs the Robin Jarvis touch. Illustrations or no illustrations, the design team might have taken a chance just the once, and handed the covers over to the writer, who, by the by, also happens to have been painting book covers professionally for thirty years. If hell-eyed barguests and unholy fishmonkeys were allowed in the early 1990s, I think a few tortuous tentacles and a bit of bubbling bride is a small ask.

Middle-grade covers are no less lurid now than they were when the original Whitby trilogy came out, so offended parents and teachers are no excuse; young readers are always going to be bloodthirsty regardless. That said, I’m sure whoever decided upon these covers had their reasons. At least the limited rerelease of The Whitby Witches that came out this year is a small work of art in itself, and makes up for a multitude of design sins.

Now that I’ve had my whinge about that, let’s look at the brine and thunder of this chapter. Lil thinks she has found Verne at last, but oh no! It is Lil who ends up in mortal peril! (I knew those bathing machines were foreshadowing.) Then Abe Shrimp and Silas have their altercation, sparking what will eventually become the feud to which Abe will lose his life. Finally, one of the mysterious gentlemen who has been following the doings of Mister Dark reveals himself, and of course it’s Bram Stoker. Really, was it going to be anybody else at this point? Bring on the true Whitby Gothic.

Matt’s Thoughts: For some reason, when Pirates of the Caribbean did tentacley humanoid beings in their second movie, it was sort of a bit laughable. But the vision of Martha with the scales and tentacles is really creepy.

Only equalled by the creepiness that somebody has grafted wings onto Verne …

Anyway, the best part is that now the Irishman has been revealed as Bram Stoker, which thus makes his acting companion, Henry Irving – a superstar of his day. Whereas nowadays, of course, none of us know Irving and all of us know Bram Stoker. Only with the advent of film could actors become true immortals and have their performances passed on to future generations. Before that, the greatest theatre actor could only live on in the memories of those who had seen him perform. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Time of Blood | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘What horrors are in you?’ she muttered. ‘I am so relieved we never found out. But I’m sure there’d have been fewer survivors at the end of it if we had.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter is special and precious. It has Tarr! It has Nelda’s parents and Hesper! All together! I’m emotional!

Aufwader nostalgia aside, I love the little moments of world building that we get here. The devil’s paintbox is buried and the witch’s names written in the great ledger. Lil now knows about both Shameless Rose, and the secret stairway from Nannie’s cottage to the aufwader caves. What marvels will come of that hidden way in Legacy of Witches, I ask myself? What of the Guild of Time Witches of whom Nannie spoke a few chapters previously?

Matt’s Thoughts: And nice to see the aufwaders back again. Of course, by this stage, if Nettie and Abel are sweet on each other, then those of us reading the original trilogy will realise that this must be Nelda’s Mum and Dad. But by the same token, if you haven’t read any of those books, these characters work just as well for new readers.

Another aspect I really love is the way that Nannie Burdon – while being completely different – has stepped into the mentoring role for Lil that Cherry Cerise used to have. You can feel that Lil herself may be one of these middle-aged / older women in the future and that the training she has picked up from not just one but two Whitby witches, will put her in good stead for her future battles against evil.

Unless Whitby is going to settle down and stop having weird stuff happen to it all the time.

Probably not likely.

But never mind that – here’s Dark on the prowl for another neck. Grace we could handle, we didn’t know her that well. But Lil’s ancestor? We’ve now hit that point where the story could go anywhere …

Time of Blood | Chapter 6

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘From rhomboid minor down to latissimus dorsi,’ she said proudly, pointing with the scissor blade. ‘Our master is growing such a magnificent new pair of wings to attach there. I will assist him in the operation. And then, my darling pet, you shall fly faster and higher than you ever have.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What a creepy one! First Silas’s clandestine meeting with the Herald (hey Irl, just hang in there my dude, only a century more to go) then Verne being prepared for sinister surgery, and finally Martha’s fairytale transformation into Miss Whitby 1890.

Honestly I’m not sure which is more unnerving; Mister Dark’s nefarious schemes, or the implication that the Lords of the Deep tampered in some way with Lil’s well-meant scarf. As was frequently stated in the first trilogy, the Deep Ones can do literally anything, and we all know how bitter, petty and malign they can be. It doesn’t bode well for our spooky happenings duo, nor indeed for ol’ Whitby bay.

Matt’s Thoughts: That Silas Gull – does he just skulk around until some person with a darkly magical bent comes along and offers him booze? Wasn’t he doing all of this in The Whitby Witches? What do the rest of the aufwaders do with him in the decades in-between malignant magicians? Or does he just lurk around the caves full of bitterness, neither completely included or completely ostracised from the world of the aufwaders?

Meanwhile, beauty and tentacles … great combination. Oh yeah, and if you haven’t done a Google image search on Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s Whitby photography, you really should. It makes the whole book come alive.

In fact, if I was making a Netflix series of these books, and the crowd had kept up with me through the first two books, I’d almost be tempted to film this one in the same sort of sepia colour just as a nod to the photographs.

Time of Blood | Chapter 5

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘How terrible it would be if Whitby became merely a town of vanished bygones, invisible as ghosts to the grandchildren of our grandchildren. The fossils found along our coast call to us of a history long disappeared. I wish for my photographs to do the same.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What I love about Robin’s period pieces is how he manages to be so centred in the era, without it ever feeling forced or gimmicky. Which other middle-grade writer of today would casually include the Ewbank, gigot sleeves, bathing machines, and Frank Meadow Sutcliffe in the same chapter? Very Victorian, one and all, but somehow, none of it feels tacked-on. As a reader I feel like an inhabitant of 1890s Whitby, not a historical tourist. Is it just me? I honestly feel like this is something Robin does exceptionally well.

Speaking of Sutcliffe, what an uncanny moment when Lil is photographed, knowing she will find said photo in the devil’s paintbox almost a century hence. I love that despite all the upheaval and trauma she has been through, she still has the wherewithal to be inquisitive about Sutcliffe and to feel sorry that he’ll never know the full social and historical impact of his work. (Imagine if she had shown him her phone! All of time and space might’ve collapsed! Wise girl.)

We also get a little bit of Martha-centred heartbreak surrounding the photograph. Sad though it is, it’s also a piece of classic Robin Jarvis character-building. Of course Martha’s vapid wedding talk is a sticking plaster on crushing self-image issues and fear of ridicule. What do you mean, comic relief? What do you mean, happy secondary characters? Pheh! Paah! Not likely! In all seriousness though, I am reminded of Twit, and funnily enough, he had marriage troubles too…

Matt’s Thoughts: I will admit that this chapter finally roused my curiosity enough to research the two gentlemen who feature heavily. The Irishman was an easy enough suspect, but the actor was a little less well-known to me. I’m not sure what degree of information revealing will come later in the book, so I’ll leave you to do your own googling for now, but it’s a great touch to have these characters tied in.

In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series is that I never thought we’d end up here. I’m not sure what I was expecting with a four-book series set in Whitby: perhaps something like the Whitby Witches series but slightly shorter? But this whole thing of time-travel, historical Whitby, goths, steampunks, 7os disco – and knitting, let’s not forget knitting – is something I would never have seen coming. I can barely imagine how you tie this altogether into a finale, but I’m sure it will work.