Re-reads: The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles) by Joan Aiken

TheStolenLake1
The cover of the first edition published by Jonathan Cape and illustrated by Pat Marriot.

One of my favourite fantasy series is Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles. There are twelve books, including a prequel (The Whispering Mountain), with  Dido Twite the protagonist in most of the stories.

After I read Calmgrove‘s post about The Stolen Lake, I couldn’t resist re-reading it. It’s the fourth book in the main series and my favourite as I find it has the most thrilling and unusual plot. The ever plucky and pragmatic Dido is also especially endearing in this installment. I like her so much and find her optimism and can-do attitude inspiring and cheering. (I want to be Dido when I grow up.)

In this story, Dido is onboard the HMS Thrush, heading back to England. Dido, having escaped death and worse in the previous two books (Blackhearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket), is looking forward to going home and is dismayed when the Thrush is forced to make a detour after the Captain of the ship is summoned by the Queen of New Cumbria (a country in Roman America, Aiken’s alternate history version of South America). Surprisingly, the Queen requests that he bring Dido with him.

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The Houghton Mifflin edition, with cover art by Edward Gorey.

It turns out that Queen Ginevra requires help to get back the country’s ceremonial lake which she claims has been stolen by the King Mabon, ruler of the neighbouring Lyonesse. Even more surprising is that the Queen is apparently more than a thousand years old and is waiting for the return of her husband, King Arthur. Could her longevity be linked to the noticeable absence of female children in New Cumbria?

Dido is soon in the thick of another adventure, this time one involving an imprisoned princess; shape-shifting witches; human sacrifice; cannibalism; and reincarnation.

I’d resolved to re-read less this year in order to make some progress with my TBR list, but I’ve decided to just read whatever I feel like. I will be re-reading Black Hearts in Battersea next.

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4 thoughts on “Re-reads: The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles) by Joan Aiken

  1. Lovely appreciation, Daphne, glad my revisits are encouraging your own!

    I think the two titles — this and Limbo Lodge — which Joan inserted between Dido’s Nantucket adventure and eventual return to England are almost too complex for their own good: not only are there the expected rollercoaster plotting and the literary allusions but the two are crammed full of all the research she undertook to give the narratives a sense of place and yet otherness.

    I say ‘almost’ too complex, but in a way this is also a strength — they both bear more than one rereading, so that the reader can marvel at how epic, how symphonic each is, with themes and sequences and resonances all adding to the overall richness and intensity.

    I can’t decide though which composer’s symphonies I’m most minded of — Berlioz? Mahler? Sibelius? Someone else? Hmm …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My reading is of course no where as learned as yours is 😀 I think I’m quite capable of ignoring the complexities and just relishing the exciting events and bizarre details. I love how the improbable is presented in such a matter of fact manner – it’s almost like the characters lack of reaction or their unquestioning acceptance ‘trick’ you into believing the most unlikely things.

    Liked by 1 person

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