In the first part of the thirteenth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, the feline wizards descend further than any have before, and they meet a nightmare. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
Duane really has a way of creating really, really creepy images, doesn’t she? This book is often overflowing with them, from the opening chapter to the attack on Sheep Meadow to the inverted Manhattan. And now, the balconies surrounding the abyss, all of them pulsing with saurians who are furious that mammals have invaded their realm. It’s just so UNNERVING, knowing how many there are, knowing that there are countless more ready to tear them all to shreds. Of course, it’s made worse because Rhiow brilliantly realizes they can surpass them all by walking down on the air. Oh, the plan is great, but the imagery is nauseating. I’d have to seriously deal with my own fear of heights in order to do something like that, and it’s not even as intense as it used to be! Wanna know what would absolutely make it even worse? If I saw something like this:
The saurian leapt at her, at the air where it had seen the others step—
It fell through it, and down: a long, long way down. It was out of sight a long time before it would have hit bottom.
Hi, I’m great, I never need to see this, THANKS. But that notion of distance and the sort of neverending nature of it is another way that Duane messes with these characters. (And me. Specifically me.) Well, there is also a dinosaur WITH AN ENERGY WEAPON, but that threat is gone as soon as it is utilized. No, it’s the walk downwards, with the light at the bottom of the abyss only barely getting closer, that terrified me. I know there were other, greater concerns, too. For example, Rhiow becomes a little worried that in the end, even if they face the Lone One, Ith might not want to do anything to oppose Them. What if they’re too scared? What if Arhu and the others haven’t convinced Ith to do what must be done? Yet even if they did, and Ith finally Chose for all saurians, what if Rhiow was wrong? What if the Choice had already happened? What about the incomplete spell in her head? Seriously, it’s a lot all at once, but I still felt nervous because I don’t think I could ever adjust to walking on the air.
Anyway, that silliness of mine aside, this is just another masterful use of dread. Once the wizards approached the bottom of the chasm, it had felt like they’d been descended for a hundred years. And since no one had ever been this deep in the Downside, I had no real expectations aside from knowing the Lone One was down there somewhere. What would they find? Would their confrontation with The Lone One be immediate? Yeah, whatever was swirling in my head, it certainly wasn’t AN ALL-BLACK REPLICATION OF GRAND CENTRAL. What the fuck? But it makes so much if you think of the catenary as the root, as the center, as the place where the Tree grew out of. In many ways, Grand Central is the “center” of Manhattan and this book, so its appearance is haunting. Also, it’s foreshadowed very briefly:
The ionization of the air around the catenary was fierce, and the ozone-y smell reminded her of the Grand Central upper level, some days… almost a homely smell, after the last few hours.
Oh, Rhiow, it’s not gonna be very homely in a bit. Instead, it’s going to be A LONG, LONG NIGHTMARE. That walk down the stairs is just way too messed up, and, as Rhiow says, it was meant to be. God, I didn’t even really appreciate that until that moment later with Arhu, when he seemingly changed the landscape with his mind. This whole journey isn’t just literally lengthy; it clearly manifests in order to challenge and exhaust the mind and heart of anyone who tries to take it. No landmarks, nothing to measure distance… it’s both boring and horrifying. Then, the Tree. THE Tree. No amount of talk of it prepared me for its immensity, its sheer impossible size, its meaning… AND THEN DUANE GOES BIBLICAL. Oh god, the image of a gigantic snake, wrapped and coiled around the Tree, was so evocative. Not just wrapped around it, of course, but the Old Serpent had actually started to gouge away at the Tree, which calls back to Arhu’s warning from forever ago:
Claw your way to the Root. The Tree totters…
The stakes have continually raised in this book. And now that they’re face to face with the Old Serpent, it’s time for the final confrontation. Will Ith make the Choice? Will the saurians get another chance?
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