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

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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.

What Books to Pack

When I move to Lagos, Nigeria I will be leaving behind over a thousand books. I hope to ship them all to me one day, but until then I have my Kindle, which contains a large number of my favourite titles. I also intend to take about twenty ‘real’ books with me and trying to choose just twenty is proving difficult (you don’t say!).

(For practical purposes, I shall take books that aren’t on my Kindle.)

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I have decided on four so far: Three are Elizabeth Goudge comfort reads: Towers in the Mist; City of Bells; and The Dean’s Watch. And the fourth is Gratitude, a small and beautiful, posthumously-published collection of essays by Oliver Sacks.

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I am trying to decide if I should take The Complete Uncle, the crowd-funded collection of J.P. Martin’s original six Uncle books. It’s a large, handbound volume that weighs a tiny bit over 1kg. Perhaps I’ll put it in my hand luggage or my ‘dainty’ lady’s handbag.

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