- The first time I read this, I was SO FUCKING CONVINCED that either Peter or Nightingale was gonna bite it. Like, all the little references to Nightingale riding in to save the day? It seemed so obvious that Aaronovitch was going to do that -- but was it too obvious? Was he going to flip the script and somehow sweep Peter off the board? I didn't think he would, what with how conscious Aaronovitch is with media stereotypes about black characters, plus Aaronovitch's genuine affection for Peter b u t s t i l l
So I read the book in an absolute fucking fever, desperately page-turning to look for the words "and then my governor died" or "and then everything went black" with a new chapter heading in Nightingale or Beverly or Sahara's voice AND
- Now that I'm actually slowing down to read it, I'm fascinated by the theme in this book about cross-generational relationships when magic is in play. I mean, it is explicit as fuck, what with the discussion that Peter and Tyburn have at the end, but when you look at the book, Aaronovitch has set up three sets of magical parents with their children, modeling three different places on the continuum: Tyburn/Olivia Tyburn-Thames, Faceless Man/Christina Chorley, and Lady Helena/Rt Hon Caroline.
It works on multiple fronts, right? For example, they're all posh, but you can arrange them in a line of cultural capital, with Tyburn on the left, having moved her way into poshness as a black woman through education, through competence, through being really fucking smart and ambitious, and Lady Helena on the right, having been born into a pretty fucking classic story of the English aristocracy in the 20th century (the colonial experience! counter-culture and swinging London! charitable causes! now making money running fancy spirtual retreats for rich people to unload themselves!) Chorley is a white dude, but not titled, not from a family like Lady Helena's, and he actually had to work (ahem) for a living.
It's particularly interesting looking at them in the context of involvement in the family business -- at one end, you have Olivia not being a part of the family business because she is fundamentally incapable of joining in, since she's mortal and the family business is being a goddamn river goddess. On the other end, you have Caroline as a full participant, being instructed by her mother and even developing magical techniques of her own. And in the middle, you have Christina and her father, occupying sort of a gray space. After all, there's a line later in the book about how you can't start magic until you've seen someone do it, and with the damage to her brain discussed by Drs. Walid and Vaughn, there's a good argument for her being a practitioner -- so the idea that Christina learned some of the forms and maybe oculd cast a spell or two, but Lesley is the Faceless Man's side kick?
The other alternative of course, is what the doctors raise -- that the weakening of blood vessels is due to sequestration from an entity like Punch, and given Punch looping back at the end of the book, it makes the idea of her having harbored Punch more plausible. But then what's her father's role in that? DID THE FACELESS MAN EXPERIMENT ON HIS OWN DAUGHTER? WAS HE THE CAUSE OF THE WEAKENED VESSELS THAT LED TO THE INTRACRANIAL BLEEDING? HOW MUCH GUILT IS MIXED INTO HIS RAGE???
- By the way, the reveal when you realize that Martin Chorley has murdered the drug dealer dude not out of Sending A Message or to lure resources away while he strikes, but because he straight-up wants revenge for the death of his daughter? It's shiver-inducing in and of itself, and then when you mix in the idea that he might have been complicit in it, either by teaching her magic or by knowingly exposing her to Punch, possibly in an attempt to up her magical skills -- it's satisfying. It's so fucking satisfying.
- Also satisfying: the moment when Peter realzies that Chorley is the Faceless Man, and how quickly he moves from that point to knowing that the Faceless Man is going to be killing them, I just. Damn, the prickles that went up my spine even re-reading it was incredible. To me, it might be my second favorite tension-building scene in the books after Nightingale going down into the basement of horrors -- this one has more
- Also, also satisfying: FUCKING RACIST CHORLEY AND HIS FUCKING EXCLUSION OF PETER FROM BEING PROPER ENGLISH AND HIS FUCKING TERRIBLE EUGENICS AND FUCK HIM
- Take note, by the way, with the reappearance of Punch as maybe possibly the real bad behind all this: THIS IS HOW YOU DO ESCALATION OF BADDIES, JK ROWLING. YOU SPACE IT OUT OVER BOOKS, YOU MAKE THE READER FEEL LIKE IT'S BEEN COMING, AND THEN IT HAS REAL EMOTIONAL PUNCH AND NOT FUCKING SUBSTITUTING THE DEATHLY HALLOWS FOR THE FUCKING WOSSNAMES WITH VOLDEMORT'S SOUL IN IT.
- I still have mixed feelings about the introduction of the Americans and the lady practitioners. There are so many balls already in the air that even though I SUPER loved Helena and Caroline, I kinda felt like they were an additional baroque element that ?????
- Final item: Every time I read it, Tyburn's big sister talk with Peter hits me between the eyes. The first time I read it, the kidlet was under a year old, and the part that got me was the idea that Tyburn would outlive her babies. But on re-read, I realized that she also says that she'll outlive her babies' babies, and it got me so hard that I have a lump in my throat even typing this.
Because like, in the intervening months, I've been watching the kidlet interact with my mother, and with Mr. Rhod's mother. In fact, Mr. Rhod's mother is currently visiting, and there is this -- thing, right? His grandfathers love him and are involved and the kidlet's FAVORITE PERSON TO HANG OUT WITH IN THE WORLD is maybe my father, which is a whole separate barrel of fish. But, like, when my mother or Mr. Rhod's mother look at this grandkid, it's like they're seeing their own babies again. It's like they're young again, for just a little while. You can see it on their faces and they pick the kid up and cradle him against their bodies, balancing him on their hip, just like they used to carry their own babies, leaning their head away to keep the kid from snatching at their glasses or earrings, just like they used to do with their own babies. All the grief and heartache and disappointment they've endured in the decades since then drops away, for just a little bit, and you can see how much they love this child.
So when I got to the part in the book about Tyburn living to lose not just her children -- about her eventually losing her babies' babies, too.
And it's. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
There's a comment in that exchange implying that Tyburn breastfed both of her babies, and there's a part of me that wonders if she did it because she was hoping that her immortality would pass to them through that -- all kinds of other antibodies and things are supposed to pass from a mother to a baby that way, so Tyburn thinks, why not, let's try. And I just think about her cradling that baby, and her touching the soft little hair, the tiny little hands, the forehead wrinkled with concentration, all the things that everybody does while breastfeeding, except Ty is also just hoping against hope.