Joan Aiken (Was: Re: Regency and other fantasy)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Mon Sep 3 04:10:08 EDT 2001


>Dorian wrote, about Joan Aiken:
>>Oh, you should read them!  They're kids books, but they're just so
>>much fun.  They tend to get described as “romps“ which I always think
>  >is a bit silly, but they do sort of bounce happily along.

I heartily second the recommendation, Melissa.  (And if you do read 
them, I'm putting it on record that Simon and Mitt resonate strongly 
with me in the same way (Simon in the later books, that is, not in 
Wolves).  So now I've said it, and *you* can disagree with *me* this 
time, rather than my having to start the disagreeing. :)

>I agree they're really good, but I found them quite dark and even 
>frightening at times - often it seems as if the whole world is in a 
>conspiracy that only the central characters are fighting. And when 
>there are happy endings they often seem provisional and are 
>sometimes undermined by later books. Weren't we talking about 
>authors maturing? I think the Aiken series is a good example of this 
>- the first book, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, is definitely a 
>children's book, but the series has got darker as it goes on.

Hmmm.  I agree they are quite dark sometimes - I think romp is 
definitely wrong.  But if I'd just read your description I think the 
books would sound like something I wouldn't like at all, and I just 
love them.  The "provisional" happy ending is something DWJ does too, 
sometimes, don't you think?  As well as the need to come to terms 
with useless parents theme.  And I really am not sure at all about 
the author's maturing bit.  Joan Aiken's been writing some pretty 
frightening (for kids stories) stuff for years, and I don't know that 
I even agree that the series gets progressively darker.  _Wolves of 
Willoughby Chase_ is substantially scarier than Black Hearts or Night 
Birds, IM(and Becca's and Cara's)O.  Then _The Stolen Lake_ is really 
dark, but the next two are less grim - although they do have a lot of 
very sad bits.

The Felix books were also written a while ago.  The last one (_Teeth 
of the Gale_) was written in 1988, _Dido and Pa_ in 86 (I can't find 
_Is_ to check the date, which is infuriating).  Those are wonderful, 
but certainly have very upsetting parts.  (I know I'm overusing all 
these vague descriptive terms, but I really don't want to do 
spoilers, so I'm trying to keep it general).

Finally, back to Melissa, if you do take this recommendation, the 
James III series (or WoWC Sequence, as it's also called) should be 
read in order, except that you don't need to read WoWC itself first. 
I like WoWC a lot, but it's certainly different from the others - 
cold and eerie and more Victorian-Gothic feeling than the next lot. 
(_Limbo Lodge_/Dangerous Games_ fits after TSL, but was written last, 
and Becca and I found it a real let down.)


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