Book Review: “Nightbirds on Nantucket” by Joan Aiken

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Nightbirds on Nantucket
by Joan Aiken

The prolific author of the Wolves series returns at the top of her form with this third book in the set, starring the clever cockney child, Dido Twite. Last seen shipwrecked off the coast of England (see Black Hearts in Battersea), she wakes up on board a Nantucket whaling ship after a ten-month coma. Immediately, she is back at the center of a swirl of adventure and intrigue, having nothing to do with wolves, really, but lots to do with the nefarious Hanoverians who want to overthrow King James III of this alternative, mid-19th-century England.

Aided by a nervous little girl named Dutiful Penitence Casket, a songful ship’s boy named Nate whose pet mynah bird talks like somebody’s butler, and Dido’s own wit and grit, she overcomes the trying Aunt Tribulation, who is actually a character familiar to readers of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. She also stands up to a gang of Hanoverians plotting to blow up the King of England, reunites a melancholy sea captain with the great pink whale of his desire, brings an extremely insecure child out of her shell, and dares many other things that make one wonderingly say, “Croopus!”

With a bit of spoof, a bit of fantasy, a lot of adventure, bad guys who deserve every bit of their fate, and good guys who are really entertaining company, this book is another resounding success. Dido’’s adventures continue in The Cuckoo Tree.