Book Review: The “Wolves” series by Joan Aiken

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The Wolves series
by Joan Aiken

For such a terrific series of adventures, the Wolves series by Joan Aiken is sure hard to find. Some of them are no longer in print; some that weren’’t in print are back in print (but who knew?); and some that were back in print a short time ago are out of print again (but who knew?). It’’s not as if the titles of all the books in the series are listed anywhere (or if they are, the list is frightfully out of date) and finding them all stretches the abilities of even the most advanced search engine. I have twice thought I had read the whole series, only to find out there were books in the series of which I had never heard. I have combed used book dealers, discovered new reprints, and occasionally even ordered a book that was supposedly available only to be told later that — oops! — it’’s out of stock.

All this trouble to find a few books that ought to be classics, read and loved by English-speaking children all over the world… my sense of injustice burns within me. You see, I think Joan Aiken is today’’s E. Nesbit. Anyone who loves to read weird, creepy, adventurous stories featuring resourceful kids with charming accents should read this series. People who like tales of whimsy, fantasy, mystery, conspiracy, alternative-history, Dickensian villainy and Dickensian waifs, adventures at sea, in the city, or in the country — written with special charm for young readers — should flock to these books. Anyone who has met Dido Twite once will gladly meet her again. Anyone who reads these books will find phrases like ““Croopus!”” and ““havey-cavey”” slipping out in casual conversation. Yet the books go in and out of print and no one can keep straight how many of them there are!

Here is my latest count of the books in the fantastic Wolves series by the extremely prolific novelist and playwright whose adult works include something called Emma Watson:

1. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
2. Black Hearts in Battersea
3. Nightbirds on Nantucket
4. The Cuckoo Tree
5. The Stolen Lake
6. Dido and Pa
7. Is Underground
8. Cold Shoulder Road
9. Dangerous Games
10. Midwinter Nightingale

I have located summaries of numbers 7 and 8 on the internet, but, as of this writing, I have been unable to secure copies of the books. I take it they center on Dido Twite’’s younger sister, Is (short for Isabelle), who I last saw in Black Hearts in Battersea and had totally forgotten about. I didn’’t even know these two “lost books” existed until I recently bought a copy of Midwinter Nightingale. If Ms. Aiken’’s other books are any indication, I expect to be delighted when I do get to read those books.

A word remains to be said about Joan Aiken’’s hundred-something other books. Judging by the list of titles, I reckon she specializes in “Gothic fiction” when she writes for adults, and tales of mystery, horror, naval adventure, and fantasy when she writes for young readers. Her adult titles include If I Were YouFoul MatterThe Five-Minute MarriageVoices in an Empty House, and Beware the Bouquet. Her books for young readers include Bridle the WindGo Saddle the SeaDied on a Rainy SundayThe Whispering Mountain, and The Shadow Guests, besides the other books reviewed on the Book Trolley. I invite you to read them and let me know what they’’re about!