The Woven Path | Chapter 23 & Epilogue

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘It just weren’t meant to be – the fates were ranged against us from the start.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: All right, maybe there’s a point being made here. Maybe by merging fact and fiction, we in some way help to contain the horrors of the past, and to make them digestible for young minds. An admirable aim for a children’s writer, and a commendable one, especially in this day and age.

As for the wartime romance, I take it all back. I wasn’t expecting to come over all weepy about this’un, but you’ve done it again, Robin. Jam and pancakes for you, and a round of applause.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I’ve just gotten off my morning bus after reading this chapter and I must say, it’s put a cloud over the whole day. I actually had to pause for five minutes at the end of Chapter 23 to get over it before reading the epilogue.

The dispatching of Belial was suitably well orchestrated as was the final race to rescue Jean and Josh.

But my worst fears about where the finale were heading finally came true – Jean was destined to survive, but not to be with Angelo. (I’d be half curious to know whether her husband was actually alive and came back – in which case her life did take an upward turn. Or was she was hit with the double whammy of being widowed twice: losing her husband and Angelo? I could see Mr Jarvis writing both scenarios.)

Which is all to say, I thought it was a great finale, and I’m afraid that I’m going to miss Ted as much as Piccadilly or Oswald or Jack Potts or any of those great characters. (Though I’m still holding out hope that we’ll see some alternative reality with Witching Legacy where Jack and Cherry all come back again. But does life in a Jarvis novel, like real life itself, ever go where we expect it?)

The epilogue was nicely intriguing as well. There is a lot we don’t know about Edie or how she fits into things – which means I have very little idea of what to expect in the next two Wyrd Museum books – but if it’s as well put together as this book, I think it’s going to be amazing.

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The Woven Path | Chapter 22

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Thus shall a new age of darkness and death shall begin!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Hmm, looks like this book really is exactly what it says on the cover. To look at it without knowing anything of this series, one might suppose that the cover art is a (very vivid and striking) exaggeration; a composite of many dramatic scenes, designed to tantalise young readers with its bold sensationalism.

As we now see, however, that is most definitely not the case. The Woven Path has indeed delivered us, in sweeping, epic prose, no less, a one-armed, sentient teddy bear being chased through the rubble of a WWII bombsite by a gigantic, demonic cockroach. Honestly, who could ask for anything more.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: It’s official. I love Ted. I don’t hold out much hope for his continued survival past the end of this book, but in Australia, we love underdogs, and he is it. Like Oswald and Audrey and their final showdown with Jupiter, the image of a lone teddy bear against a massive demon, determined to take him down, is just hugely inspiring.

You can forgive all his over-the-top American bravado for this one last brave charge. But even the holy water doesn’t work? I mean, WHAT IS LEFT?? (Well, I suppose there’s Edie’s incendiary device.)

Oh, and good riddance to Mr Ormerod as well. We might as well take out some Nazis while we’re at it.

 

The Woven Path | Chapter 21

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Angelo glanced down and saw a blossoming circle of red soak through his shirt.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Lordy, Ma Stokes’s death! I can’t say it wasn’t perhaps in some way deserved, nor rather satisfying, in a ‘comic-book villain gets their comeuppance while yelling about meddling kids’ way, but still. What a dreadful way to go. Especially as it was almost implied that she started the whole thing by calling out into the crowd? Good grief.

Then, before we have time to so much as blink, we’re back to the drama of the prologue, and suddenly the characters we have come to love are dying left and right. Nooo, Frank! Noooo, Angelo! And wretched Belial is still loose! And Jean and her baby might be dead too! So much for luck.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Just before Christmas, I took the older kids to see The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. The film had the interesting phenomenon of being well-received by the reviewers but also soundly trashed in some corners of the social media world by fans as being the worst of all Star Wars movies. My theory on this dichotomy is that the writers were probably a bit too skillful at anticipating every direction that fans were expecting the story to go and therefore deliberately sending the story in a completely different direction. The finale of the film was so clearly signalled from the beginning that we, as an audience, thought we could comfortably sit back and munch our popcorn, knowing exactly where it would go.

And then, spectacularly, everything we’d been set up for fell apart and the finale was nothing like anybody really expected.

Which is exactly the feeling I get from this chapter here. In every other time travel story from Back to the Future onward, the main character goes back in time and stops the bad things from happening. So what in the freaking heck is this where, despite everyone’s best efforts, all the bad stuff STILL happens??

Aargh! Where is the story going to go now? Brilliantly executed piece of pulling the rug out, Mr Jarvis.

Meanwhile, this chapter included the famous real-life Bethnal Green underground disaster. I was actually expecting this to be the disastrous event that dispatched Frank, Kath and Jean that Angelo was trying to prevent.

But, no, that’s a different subplot and this historical tragedy becomes the means of dispatching the horrific Ma Stokes. I can’t think of a Jarvis character that I’ve liked less. Normally, his villains are somewhat grandiose and interesting – they just happen to live by a moral code that involves the weak being destroyed by the strong. But Ma Stokes – she just has a spectacular nasty streak all the way through, with very little explanation as to why she got that way.

Unfortunately, especially as you get older, you realise that there are people in life that are like this and in some ways, they are more scary than demonic monsters. Because these types of villains we can all encounter in everyday life.

The Woven Path | Chapter 20

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I desire only the death of thousands.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: First of all, RIP Mickey. You were a great tertiary character in the short time that we knew you, and I’m sorry I didn’t write about you more. I liked your talkative, ghoulish ways, and I hoped that you, at least, might escape the horrors to come. Alas, it was not the Fates, nor the war, nor Belial that got you, but a monster of a different kind.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to say about the latter half of this chapter. Call me a spoilsport, but I’m of the opinion that tragedies that’ve occurred in living memory should not be directly and explicitly worked into fiction, because there are still some people alive today for whom those events were not a story. I suppose I’m harking back to when Matt said that over time, perhaps the idea of the Second World War has become somewhat glamorised in the media. Suffice to say that it’s all a little too lurid for my taste, but if you guys like that sort of thing, do carry on.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: All right. I think this is going to be a brutal race to the finish. (Any hint that teddies might equal cuteness in this story was all a smokescreen!) Poor old Mickey – ever the lover of morbid things, only to be dispatched in a rather morbid way by the increasingly off-the-chain Kath … I think I said earlier that I thought she was going to be a witch and then she turned out to be a Nazi spy: she’s pretty much now a bit of both.

What I’m also fascinated by is the hints at the back story of Belial. He makes references to the throne of the Beginning and the war they fought under the Lord of Light. This is clearly a reference to the story of the fall of Satan from heaven – Satan often being described as Lucifer, a name referring to light, actually.

The reason I find this slightly curious is that I often wonder where the ‘good’ deities disappear to in the Jarvis universe. For instance, if Belial exists, and he was fallen from heaven – then I’m curious: where are God and the angels in the midst of all this danger and despair?

It certainly ratchets up the stakes in Jarvis stories by having a disappearing spiritual figure (for instance, the Green Mouse just isn’t around when the times are at their worst). But it’s a rather bleak view of the world, in some ways. I always feel as if Jarvis’ characters are spiritually abandoned – at the mercy of demonic forces that want to destroy them on the one hand, but with no higher power on the other side that can step into help when they need it most.

Or is this the underlying theme of the entire Jarvis universe? Don’t wait for Someone to help you. You will need to be brave on your own.

Anyway, that’s starting to sound like a literature assignment, so I’ll leave it there.

The Woven Path | Chapter 19

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

She was beginning to lose control, succumbing to the tantalising waves of violence that now pervaded the atmosphere.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: ‘Angelo returned her gaze and smiled. All he wanted to do was hold her and he knew she felt the same.’ Robin, I am going to barf. This isn’t Call the Midwife, and I am not having this wishy-washy wartime romance nonsense in my finale. (Okay, okay, it’s your finale and I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but there had better be a couple more bloodstains in the weave, is all I’m saying.)

That mush aside,  I knew Edie would be all right, I just knew it! Now it seems as if Belial has taken centre stage as the main problem, but there’s still Jean to save and Josh to rescue from the time portal. Will the Chapmans get out of this alive? Will anybody?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: How awful is Ma Stokes? She might just be one of the most aggravating creatures that Robin Jarvis has ever created.

Was almost surprised how confronting the scene was between Ma Stokes and Nazi Kath (that’s her official nickname, isn’t it?). But then once you remember that everyone here is falling under a demonic power of evil, that sort of makes sense.

I also like that the darkness of this encounter is offset by the next scene where Neil finally realises Ted’s true identity. I do like Ted as a character and I’m hoping that there will be a happy ending of some kind for Angelo, Jean, Frank and … well, actually, yes, if Kath is a Nazi, that’s not going to end well, is it?

Hmm … yeah, there’s no way this can have a neat packaged American ending …

 

The Woven Path | Chapter 18

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

How could a B-17 be in an East End bomb site?

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This is the time to recall that Edie was found under the rubble of her home after having lain with the corpse of her mother on top of her, and her dead sister’s hand on her face, for four days. Four. Days. And she’s now trapped in a ruined cellar with a half-dead GI!

That said, Edie has been drinking the water of the Wyrd well. What that does, we have yet to fully discover, but she’s been living in a bombsite for several weeks, conversing with ghosts. I think it’s going to take more than an oversized cockroach to quench that girl.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: So what does this mean for Aufwader if Arnold Porter has been destroyed twice? (Once by a bomb and then again by a soul-sucking demon.) That makes a challenge for her obituaries post …

I loved the way the imagery is somewhat ill-defined when Edie sees Belial (we get the impression of darkness and a ravenous mouth, but not much else) but then quite clearly a B-17 for Frank. He (Is Belial a he? Was this ever specified?) is one of the more interesting supernatural villains that Mr Jarvis has created in a long while.

Also, now we’ve got the missing part of our story from Ted and everything in the prologue makes sense – including the parachute mine, which just looked like a bit of background detail at the time.

I’m sure it will be grim, but it’s going to be an awesome finale. I can feel it.

The Woven Path | Chapter 17

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I am the stage manager, the only one who can assimilate and organize.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Well, Kath turned out to be important, but not in the way any of us had imagined. I had an inkling a few chapters ago when she brought that mysterious box from her wardrobe, but now the horrible truth is confirmed. This definitely isn’t one of those times when we enjoy the subterfuge of a Robin Jarvis character, and we can only dread what her schemes will come to.

As for Frank, this can only be the lead-up to the scene of the prologue. I said earlier that he didn’t deserve any of what was about to happen, and with the truth out about Kath, I feel compelled to reiterate: Frank now joins Piccadilly, Twit, Pear and, in a loop of time brought about by the rearranged reread schedule, Martha Gales, as yet another character who deserved better. 

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Ha! I got caught out by a Robin Jarvis red herring. Here I was thinking Kath was going to turn out to be a witch or someone possessed by Belial and instead she turns out to be a Nazi spy. So even here at chapter 17, there are still plot twists happening! Love it. I have no idea whether Nazi spies really did meet in shady backrooms of dodgy cafés, but the scene is so atmospheric, I love it.

And then we have a nice little moment with Angelo and Jean. I still don’t know how everything will pan out for those two – we know he’s destined to be trapped as a teddy bear, and she could well be a widow – but maybe not? Either way, we feel that this is a moment for them, but the future is cloudy.

Also, was it just me, but did anyone else take that joke about a warden blacking out the sun as a bit of a Final Reckoning in-joke? No, just me?