In the third part of The Hanging Tree, humans make the most terrible monsters.
Spoilers below for chapters 9 to 12.
Have I mentioned lately that quick, dramatic escalations and sudden plot reveals (when done well, of course) are like my catnip? There are enough of them in this section of The Hanging Tree that I’d be rubbing my face all over this book if, y’know, I was reading a paperback copy and not the Kindle version. Because doing that would just be weird, right?
I WAS NOT READY FOR THE REVEAL OF THE FACELESS MAN. AAAAAAAHHH WHAT.
More than that, though, I want to talk about how much I love the reveal of his motivations, particularly the one that has him making enough mistakes to get caught here: the one where he’s a grieving father out for revenge after his daughter’s death. But of course, again, it probably isn’t that simple. Martin Chorley’s little girl Christina wasn’t exactly sweet and innocent, if the activities surrounding her death and those which she was getting up to beforehand are any indication. Did she have any idea that her father owned The Chestnut Tree when she teamed up to loot that storage room with Reynard? Did she have the slightest clue that dear old Dad wasn’t entirely ordinary or that magic was real? I’m not sure we’ll ever know, now, but to bring things back around to Martin, AKA old Faceless himself: this development brings the man himself down with a bump from the level of Terrifying Bogeyman to Angry Human Being, which aside from being more relatable, works to make him even more interesting, to me.
It’s interesting because now, rather than being unknown and untouchable, he’s flawed, and the mistakes he’s made mean that the future is possibly more uncertain than ever. Chorley’s been cornered, even if he hasn’t been caught yet, and that surely means his time’s running out. And despite his assurances to Peter of having a soft spot for her, what will that mean for Lesley? Will he abandon his mission of revenge or will that escalate, now that the clock’s running down? Either way, how long will Lesley stand her own ground on the side she’s chosen?
Everything’s well and truly up in the air now, and that’s my favourite part of any good drama – the part where it all goes to hell, and it’s still a long way from obvious how it will all play out when the smoke clears. There might be satisfaction in seeing things resolved, but for me this is the really juicy part, and call me a masochist but I really do love being on that hook, as a reader. It shows that the writer is doing their job well, but also, it’s just about the level of enjoyment I get from reading the book in question. I love it when things like this work on me. I just do.
Beyond the A plot, though, we also get a really fascinating look at the possible future direction of the Folly, thanks to the bureaucratic war being fought between Team Nightingale (and it is Team Nightingale to me, sorry Peter) and Team Tyburn. I have an almost gleeful appreciation for how Peter fends off the latest volley – with sneaky smart bureaucrat talk. If they can’t show a strong hand, then the brain’s got to make up for it, right? He might be a mere apprentice but Peter clearly understands how the game is played higher up the ladder. I don’t doubt for a minute that Lady Ty’s going to make him pay for it, and even just the thought of the sheer amount of future paperwork he’s inflicted on himself makes me wince, but for now I’m just happy that the Folly will remain active.
I’m not sure anyone is ready to have Molly running around unemployed, set loose upon the world.
(I am. I’m totally here for that. But perhaps not just yet.)
So the winds of change are blowing for Peter and Nightingale. What they’ll bring (assuming they both survive OH GOD THEY’D BETTER BOTH SURVIVE), I am presently happy to have no idea. I’m definitely up for finding out, though. But first, let’s have some follow-through on the utterly helpless flailing wreck this book has made of me. I am ready for the finale.
OR AM I?