And you're worried about leaves on the line??

The wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken is a delightfully subversive fairy story. Aiken re-writes British history - no more Queen Victoria, the end of the Hanoverian dynasty sees a return to the throne of the Stuart monarchy with Good King James III. The recently opened Channel Tunnel has caused a return of wolves to Britain, who frequently waylay trains, harrass passengers, and even, when very hungry, eat the engine driver (for non-UK Bookhounders "leaves on the line" is the all-purpose excuse for train delays in the UK in the autumn/winter).

An orphan, Sylvia Green, braves the perils of train travel to go and stay with her wealthy cousin, Bonnie, in the northern wolds, at Willoughby Chase. But unpleasant changes are at hand, Bonnie's parents leave to go on a long voyage, while the governess they have appointed turns out to be a crook intent on orphaning Bonnie and robbing her of her entire estate. Imprisoned in an orphanage that Oliver Twist would have felt quite at home in, the girls escape, and with the help of Simon the goose-boy walk to London, determined to get justice.

This is a great fantasy tale. Funny, witty, wistful, beautifully portrayed, and a fabulous re-invention of England. Aiken just distorts the mirror slightly, so everything is as you know it, and yet, not quite....This is the first of a whole series of books, all well worth reading. If you enjoy fantasy, you may like this. If you're a fan of Angela Carter or Jonathan Norrell and Mr. Strange,  you'll love it.


Popular Posts