Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my FINISHING THE SERIES! list.
I loves me a good series! But I'm terrible for starting a new series before finishing my last - so this reading list is all about trying to close out those series I've got on the go.
As a kid, I was a big fan of the Deptford Mice trilogy: brave young mice take on evil rats and their badass overload cat/ sorcerer, Jupiter. What set them above other ‘talking animal adventures’ is the dark/horror edge that is Jarvis’ trademark. The rats are very big on skinning mice and eating them – frying the ears is a particular delicacy. He’s not afraid to lay down a body-count to rival Robocop.
But where the Deptford world really takes off (for me) is with the Deptford Histories where the classic horror elements grow stronger. The Alchemist’s Cat tells the back-story of the big, bad sorcerer cat, Jupiter - that’s a great book. The Oaken Throne tells the back-story to the Star-Wife and the war between bats and squirrels - that’s my favourite book in the Deptford world and one I’ve re-read many times since I was young.
Then we come to Thomas, the third in the Deptford Histories, which tells the back-story of one of the main mouse characters, Thomas Triton (the fierce old sea-salt). I somehow missed Thomas when I was young and never even knew this book existed until a couple of years ago. I re-read the whole series shortly before I joined GoodReads last year, and ordered my copy in then – but what with the baby and moving house and all the other good books on my list, it’s taken me a while to get to it.
Reading Thomas has been a big nostalgia trip, filling in a few blanks from a series I know so well and tying together the back-stories of a couple more characters from the original trilogy. It’s a very enjoyable story – everything I’ve come to expect from Jarvis – likeable characters, great tone for the dialogue (Woodj’s country bumpkin talk is adorable) and a creeping sense of horror.
For me, the original Depford Mice trilogy are all 4-star books, as is The Alchemist’s Cat. The Oaken Throne is a personal 5-star. But Thomas I can only give 3-stars though.
It’s nowhere near as tightly tied into the Deptford world. The Thomas Triton we know in Deptford is an old sailor who’s settled down on a moored ship. We know he’s got some darkness in his past that causes him sleepless nights and drives him to rum – this is that tale. It’s a sailor’s tale, so it happens in far flung corners of the world (not Deptford). It’s a tale that touches only feather-light on the Star-Wife and on Jupiter not at all.
We have a whole new big-bad – the horrific snake god (Sarpedon) who’s trying to reincarnate and usher in an era of darkness, and the dark cult (The Scale) who worship him. What Thomas does well is flesh out the wider ‘Deptford’ globe visiting, Crete, India and Singapore and mentioning many more. Thomas makes it clear that London is not alone in hosting civilizations of small, anthropomorphised creatures– they’re all over the world. It also gives Jarvis an opportunity to play with more exotic creatures. No longer limited to mice, rats, cats, owls, bats, squirrels, etc – Thomas introduces us to Mongooses, Tree Shrews, a Jerboa, a Sable and a Loris.
The story itself is well told – the beginning serves up the knowledge that Woodj will never make it home from this adventure, leaving a lingering sense of dread over the events. The escalating adversaries in the form of Morgan, Dahrem, The High Priest and then Sarpedon keep the pacing fast and dramatic. The big actions set pieces are vivid and memorable – the crash of the Calliope, the showdown in the mountain temple and the big final battle, etc. The little backstory tie-ins for Morgan and Madam Akikuyu are nicely done, as is Madame Lotus’ vengeance on Thomas and the final twist for Woodj.
If I had read Thomas back when I first fell in love with the rest of the series, I would likely rate it as highly. But coming to it fresh, now, it just feels a little too distanced from the rest of the books to really resonate. But it’s a good book and a fun read, and I’m glad I’ve now completed the Deptford Histories series.
After this I read: The Enchanted Wood