Literature / Deptford Mice

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"When a mouse is born, he has to fight to survive. There are many enemies..."

A series of books by Robin Jarvis.

The first three books, known as the Deptford Mice books, tells the tale of a mouse named Audrey as her seemingly idyllic life is shattered when the evil god Jupiter and his legion of rats attack the mice. Audrey must find a way to vanquish Jupiter in order to stop him from wreaking havoc against the world, but the odds are stacked against her. The books include The Dark Portal, The Crystal Prison, and The Final Reckoning.

The next three books are known as the Deptford Histories and serve as prequel stories. These books include The Alchemist's Cat which tells the tale of a young boy who is held against his will by a sorcerer and a cat that would eventually gain great powers from being the sorcerer's familiar, The Oaken Throne which tells the tale of a bat and squirrel who must find a way to stop an evil cult while a war between their species rages on, and Thomas which tells the tale of a seafaring mouse who is hounded by a Religion of Evil known as the Scale.

The main trilogies were followed by The Deptford Mice Almanack, a collection of animal traditions and folklore written by an in-universe chronicler. In between the snippets of history are mentions of the characters' lives in the present day - and a series of strange and foreboding events. It comes to a head when the Great Oak containing the rat god Hobb's spirit is felled by a storm, and Audrey ousted as Starwife by mysterious black squirrels, one of whom bears an inexplicable resemblance to her fieldmouse "enemy" Alison Sedge.

The Sequel Hook has yet to be followed up on - instead, the 2000s saw the release of two Deptford Mouselets books, set apart from the main action. Each of them took place in the year before The Dark Portal. The first, Fleabee's Fortune, was about a token pacifist rat, and the second, Whortle's Hope, was about a fieldmouse from Fennywolde. There were to be two more entitled Ogmund's Gift and Twit's Progress. The former was to introduce the prophet bats' unruly nephew who'd rather not have to deal with his growing magic, and the latter would describe Twit's journey from his home in Fennywolde to visit his cousin in Deptford. For some reason, neither of these have been published yet, though it has been nearly ten years since the publication of Whortle's Hope. However, with Robin Jarvis lately returning to the worlds of his other classics, Hagwood and The Whitby Witches (the former having only one book with a cliffhanger that was unresolved for fourteen years), it is possible that the remaining Deptford Mouselets books and the grand finale of The Deptford Mice may finally see the light of day in the not too distant future.


These books provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Isaac Nettle beats his son Jenkin, whom he blames for the death of his wife, as she died giving birth to him. He also abuses him verbally, once even saying that he wished an owl would carry him off. These words no doubt come back to haunt him later when Jenkin really is killed and eaten by an owl.
  • Anyone Can Die: In a Robin Jarvis book, you'd better believe it!
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: At the end of The Oaken Throne, Ysabelle has her coronation as the Starwife. It is not literally a crowning; rather, the Silver Acorn pendant which is the symbol of office for the Starwives is formally placed about the neck of the squirrel who has ascended to the throne. However, Ysabelle pushes it away at the last minute and refuses the position, much to the shock of those watching. She goes in search of her beloved Vesper, whom she previously rejected, in the hopes that they will run away and start a new life together. However, she finds him dead and so is left with no other option but to become the new Starwife.
  • Balloon Belly: In Whortle's Hope, the mean-spirited Dimsel Bottom is given a magical biscuit by Samuel Gorse which, unbeknownst to her, comes with the side effect of making anyone who eats it rapidly gain weight. She becomes too large to move, and it takes over a year for her to return to normal. Her ordeal causes her to become kinder to others.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Audrey and Piccadilly
  • Big Bad: Jupiter in the main series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: This is applicable to almost all of these books, especially The Final Reckoning, The Oaken Throne, and Thomas
  • Break the Cutie: Robin Jarvis delights in doing this to his characters. Specifically, this could apply to protagonists like Audrey, Ysabelle, Woodget, or Twit.
  • Burn the Witch!
  • But Thou Must!: In The Final Reckoning, once Audrey unwittingly takes the Silver Acorn and allows the powers to channel through her, the Starwife informs her that she is now her successor whether she likes it or not.
    "You claimed it and it claimed you Audrey. Both are irrevocably tied together, tethered as one till death."
  • Cain and Abel: Want to know how the cocky but well-meaning Jupiter in the prequel grows up to be a remorseless god of evil? He doesn't. His brother kills him and assumes his identity.
  • Cats Are Mean: The cats in these books are definitely not friendly at all. Leech from The Alchemist's Cat is a particular example, being spiteful towards others due to him being a runt. He would later on become known as 'Jupiter.'
  • Character Title: Thomas
  • Constellations: The firmament is a motif of the Starwife, as she is a celestial-themed monarch. There are decorations on the ceiling in her chamber that represent all the constellations, and she herself is also known as the Handmaiden of Orion (referring to the constellation Orion, the Hunter).
  • Cool Old Lady: The Starwife in the original trilogy.
  • Covers Always Lie: This certainly applies to the Finnish edition, which makes the mice look like cutesy characters from a book intended for young children. That is very misleading.
  • Crystal Ball: Madame Akkikuyu's most treasured possession is her crystal ball. That makes it rather difficult for her to follow the instructions of Nicodemus (a.k.a. Jupiter) and smash it to complete the ritual he wants her to do in The Crystal Prison.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Thomas Triton is haunted by the memory of his being responsible for the death of his friend Woodget Pipple. In the prequel book Thomas, which describes the incident in detail, it is revealed that the evil Mother Lotus put him into a trance, causing him to throw Woodget (who could not swim) into the ocean. When Thomas awoke from the trance, he realised what he had done and was filled with remorse. However, unbeknownst to him, Woodget was rescued by the siren Zenna whose song gave him amnesia. He was brought to the City of Hara in India and became the new Holy One.
  • Deus ex Machina: Near the end of The Oaken Throne, Ysabelle is tricked by the treacherous Morwenna into descending far below the Hallowed Oak and becoming trapped in a locked room where hungry toads are waiting to devour her. There seems to be no way out, but somehow Vesper (who is outside in the midst of a presumably noisy battle) is able to not only hear her cries, but quickly find his way down a dark maze of unfamiliar passages (it was previously noted that even Morwenna, who was familiar with them, had some trouble navigating) to rescue her.
  • The Dragon: Morgan to Jupiter, increasingly unwillingly.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Ysabelle in The Oaken Throne
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Though William Scuttle has no problem with being referred to by his nickname, Twit, the reason he was given it is because he is believed to be a simpleton. That others think that of him does make him feel bad, of course. He ends up proving them wrong.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Jupiter nearly smothers the world in eternal winter in The Final Reckoning.
  • Evil Uncle: Spittle to Will.
  • Exposed Animal Bellybutton: In the illustrations.
  • False Friend: Wendel and Dimlon a.k.a. Dahrem
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: A lot of it; the first major one that comes to mind is the rats peeling the skin off of their victims to honor their god(s).
  • Finders Rulers: In The Oaken Throne, the Silver Acorn literally falls into Ysabelle's paws. It is the symbol of office for the Starwife and, as a result, she is the chosen one who must journey to the land of Greenreach to take up the throne.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Throughout the original trilogy, it is made clear that Thomas is haunted by feelings of guilt because he is responsible for killing his friend Woodget. In Thomas, then, it's a given that Woodget is going to die by the end... although in the epilogue it is revealed that he survived, but with no memory of who he is.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Leech started off as the sickly runt of three ordinary cat siblings in 17th century London. He ends up becoming a god-like fiend who's more dangerous dead than alive.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's heavily implied Madame Akkikuyu spent her youth as a prostitute.
  • God of Evil: The Raith Sidhe, which includes Hobb, Mabb and Bauchan. Scarophion from Thomas also applies. Jupiter himself is a borderline case at the height of his power.
  • Hair Decorations: Audrey wears a pink ribbon in her hair, tying it in such a way that "the top of her head look[s] as if it [is] sprouting".
  • The Hero Dies: Piccadilly, Oswald, and Vesper
  • Heroic Albino: Oswald.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Madam Akkikuyu throwing herself on the bonfire to stop Jupiter's plans in the second book. While she earns *personal* redemption, Jupiter's spirit finds his way to freedom anyway...
  • I Have Many Names: The Dark Despoiler from Thomas has been called Scarophion, Sarpedon, and Gorscarrigen.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Ysabelle from The Oaken Throne does not want to become the Starwife, but accepts the position because it is her duty. Later, when she falls in love with Vesper, she again has doubts about taking up the throne. On her coronation day, she at first rejects his offer to run away with him, but soon changes her mind and publicly refuses the Starwifeship. However, by the time she reaches Vesper to tell him the good news, he has been murdered by the ghost of the villainous Wendel Maculatum. With her love dead she then, according to The Deptford Mice Almanack, took her place as the Starwife and her reign lasted nearly three hundred years.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: When Audrey is fighting for her life against the ghost of Piccadilly, who is being controlled by the evil magic of Jupiter and intends to strangle her. She is finally able to get him to remember who he was, and a tearful farewell takes place as he finds peace and crosses over to the other side.
  • Ill Girl: Gender-flipped with Oswald.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: When Mulligan, poison slowly eating away at him, gives the ninth fragment to Woodget in Thomas.
  • Immortality Seeker: Spittle
  • Interspecies Romance: Vesper and Ysabelle
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While everything the Starwife does is for a good reason, she initially comes across as rude and cruel. This probably has something to do with the fact that being a Broken Bird is an actual requirement for the job, as Ninnia states in the prequel The Oaken Throne.
    "To become the Handmaiden of Orion, one must know terrible grief in order to learn compassion."
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: When Audrey is battling against Jupiter and his minions, she wears her usual outfit; a lace skirt with matching collar and a pink ribbon in her hair.
  • Last Kiss: Audrey and Piccadilly
  • Legacy Character: The Starwife, and also the Holy One of Hara
  • Living Relic: In The Final Reckoning, the Starwife reveals that she is the last of the black squirrels. The dynasty of Starwives had traditionally been made up of members of that species but, having searched in vain for such a successor, she tricks the mouse Audrey into accepting the position. Thus Audrey becomes the first non-squirrel Starwife. This eventually causes her squirrel subjects to question her right to the throne.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: The main plot of Thomas, with the twist that the higher-level good guys have already rendered the MacGuffin useless to the villains, just in case.
  • Marriage of Convenience: In The Crystal Prison, Twit marries Audrey solely to save her from being falsely hanged as a witch. According to the Gallows Law, if a willing spouse is found, then the accused will be reprieved no matter what crime they have supposedly committed. Though Audrey is grateful to Twit for saving her life, she later comes to regret the marriage as it prevents her from pursuing a romantic relationship with her true love, Piccadilly.
  • Meaningful Funeral: The ceremony the squirrels hold to honour their dead in The Final Reckoning
  • Meaningful Rename
  • Mouse World
  • Never Mess with Granny: It is dangerous to get on the wrong side of the Starwife. As ancient as she is, she is still an imposing figure and possesses great power. Even her servants fear her fiery temper; she has been known to throw her stick at them when they annoy her.
  • Off with His Head!: Fletch in The Dark Portal, Pountfrey in The Oaken Throne
  • Ominous Owl: The owl from The Crystal Prison is responsible for some of the deaths.
  • Passing the Torch: In The Final Reckoning, the Starwife chooses Audrey to be her successor and tricks her into performing a ritual that irrevocably ties her to the position, whether she likes it or not. She doesn't at first, but gradually accepts it as the powers of the Starwife begin to manifest themselves within her.
  • Philosopher's Stone: Spittle's goal in The Alchymist's Cat is to learn how to create the elixir of life. It winds up becoming the source of much of Jupiter's power.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Audrey always wears a pink ribbon in her hair.
  • Plague Doctor: The iconic outfit plays an important role for the human characters in Cat.
  • Poisoned Weapons: The villains of Thomas. Jupiter's ghostly horde in the final book of the main series have a mystical variant.
  • Prophecy Twist: The bats outline the plot of the entire main trilogy early in the first book, but in such a hopelessly cryptic fashion that the information is functionally useless. The prequels include a bat prophesied to die surrounded by the sound of bells - rustling bluebells, not city bells as he suspected - and Leech's discovery that his brother, Jupiter, will be known as "lord of all". He kills Jupiter and takes the name for himself.
  • Regret Eating Me
  • Religion of Evil: The worship of the Infernal Triad and Scarophion.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Scale worship the evil snake god Scarophion and includes reptiles like crocodiles and cobras in his army. Certain members can even tear off their mammalian skin and take the form of reptiles.
  • Scaled Up: Dimlon, or Dahrem as he is really known, does this during his fight against Chattan, revealing his ability as an adept of Scarophion to transform into a lizard.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Hobb imprisoned within the acorn that would later become the Great Oak.
  • Severed Head Sports: The rats are known to have 'kickabouts' with their victims' severed heads.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Vesper and Ysabelle, Audrey and Piccadilly.
  • Theme Naming: Each of the Raith Sidhe are named after a sort of fairy. Hobb gets his name from the hob, Mabb is named after Queen Mab, and Bauchan gets his name from a Scottish hobgoblin.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: In The Crystal Prison, the spirit of Jupiter plans to take possession of Madame Akkikuyu's body as his was destroyed. Akkikuyu begins to transform into a cat (much to her horror), but before Jupiter can fully take control of her body, she kills herself.
  • Unlikely Hero: Woodget Pipple
  • Wizard Duel: At the climax of The Alchymist's Cat, Spittle and his own familiar, having both drunk the elixir of life, battle to the death.
  • Wizards Live Longer: The Starwives, magic-wielding monarchs, are given a much longer life span than ordinary creatures. For example, according to The Deptford Mice Almanack, Ysabelle was on the throne for nearly three hundred years.
  • Wicked Weasel: Wendel.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In The Oaken Throne, at the very end, all the evil has been defeated and everyone is celebrating. Though Ysabelle had previously rejected her love Vesper, she has come to her senses, deciding to give up the Starwifeship and run away with him as he wanted her to. She excitedly runs to find him, but during the brief period she left him alone, the spiteful ghost of Wendel Maculatum killed Vesper, ensuring that the curse he placed on him came true.
  • You Dirty Rat: With a few exceptions (such as Fleabee), all rats in this series are depicted as disgusting and evil.

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