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The Wolves Chronicles #10

Midwinter Nightingale

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Dido and Simon are in danger in this new addition to the Wolves Chronicles. Dido, back in England from America, is almost instantly kidnapped and taken to a derelict mansion surrounded by a deadly moat. The evil baron residing there, who is also a werewolf, wants desperately to know where King Dick is hidden. For the king is dying, and the evil baron wants to put his own demented son on the throne. Meanwhile Simon is with the ailing king. Not only does King Dick want Simon to paint a portrait of him and his family, but Simon is also next in line for the throne. However, they do need to find the coronet for the ceremony that will crown Simon. Though the coronet is rumored to be in the derelict mansion where Dido is imprisoned, no one can find it. It’s one cliffhanging, hair-raising chapter after another in this tongue-in-cheek, devilishly delicious adventure.

From the Hardcover edition.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Joan Aiken

381 books552 followers
Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and short stories.

She was born in Rye, East Sussex, into a family of writers, including her father, Conrad Aiken (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry), and her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge. She worked for the United Nations Information Office during the second world war, and then as an editor and freelance on Argosy magazine before she started writing full time, mainly children's books and thrillers. For her books she received the Guardian Award (1969) and the Edgar Allan Poe Award (1972).

Her most popular series, the "Wolves Chronicles" which began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, was set in an elaborate alternate period of history in a Britain in which James II was never deposed in the Glorious Revolution,and so supporters of the House of Hanover continually plot to overthrow the Stuart Kings. These books also feature cockney urchin heroine Dido Twite and her adventures and travels all over the world.

Another series of children's books about Arabel and her raven Mortimer are illustrated by Quentin Blake, and have been shown on the BBC as Jackanory and drama series. Others including the much loved Necklace of Raindrops and award winning Kingdom Under the Sea are illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski.

Her many novels for adults include several that continue or complement novels by Jane Austen. These include Mansfield Revisited and Jane Fairfax.

Aiken was a lifelong fan of ghost stories. She set her adult supernatural novel The Haunting of Lamb House at Lamb House in Rye (now a National Trust property). This ghost story recounts in fictional form an alleged haunting experienced by two former residents of the house, Henry James and E. F. Benson, both of whom also wrote ghost stories. Aiken's father, Conrad Aiken, also authored a small number of notable ghost stories.

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5 stars
64 (17%)
4 stars
127 (33%)
3 stars
142 (37%)
2 stars
34 (9%)
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9 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Mir.
4,869 reviews5,036 followers
December 21, 2011
Unless there is another Aiken book that starts with a boy meeting an annoying girl on a train, I've actually read this before, although I don't remember much about the plot. You'd think an evil werewolf, a missing king, and wantonly murdered cat would be memorable, though, wouldn't you? Maybe I should stick with her earlier books...

I feel like a remember the earlier books, which I read in elementary, pretty well, but maybe I was more focused on the characters than the setting. I don't remember the alternate history being as complex in them as it is here. There was the ongoing thread of Hanoverian plotting, with revolutionaries trying to assassinate the Stuart king so they could get Bonnie Prince Georgie on the throne, but I don't remember all the stuff with England being divided into four kingdoms and the whole politico-geography of Europe being very different. Maybe it was just that those earlier stories were from the point of view of kids who were marginally aware of politics. Speaking of kids, wasn't there like a ten-year age gap between Simon and Dido when they met? Now she's practically grown up and Simon seems barely older than her.

This book also has a more Gothic feel, what with all the Bad Blood and intermarriage and secret treason and people being locked up in dark ancestral manses. Fun, but I didn't care about whether Burgundy invades the way I did about Bonnie and Sylvia escaping from the horrible orphanage or Dido teaching Dutiful Penitence to have a little spunk.
Profile Image for Kalilah.
295 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2016
The last of the Wolves Chronicles books that I have purchased and read in recent times (though I haven't read them all). Even though this book is good enough an ending to the entire series in itself.
To be honest, I don't know what Joan could possibly add to her characters' suffering, but apparently there's a final book after this one. More plots to overthrow the king, I dare say.
Funnily enough, even though all the books are more or less about overthrowing kings, they don't seem to get boring. They're quite addictive.
It's Joan's wonderful writing style, combined with the ridiculously unlikely yet brilliantly simple plot lines, that keep me gripped

One thing I'm a little confuzzled about... Dido Twite is constantly described as so irresistibly feisty, endearingly gutsy, mystifyingly mouthy - etc, etc - that you simply cannot help liking her. What I really want to know is why, even though I feel we are similar in many ways, I am never described likewise? All I get is an earful about rudeness!
Such a cruel, unfair and illogical world (I'm joking, of course).

If you can help it, I would recommend you DO NOT read any more books from this series after Black Hearts in Battersea. Unfortunately, I couldn't resist and my world came crumbling down around me, including my hopes and dreams.
This series is very cruel. People die. People grow up and start developing feelings. And though I did enjoy the books, I have gained nothing. Absolutely nothing except heartache and grief.
Do not read this book if you are as neurotic as I.

You have been warned.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
October 31, 2018
The eleventh title in Aiken's Wolves Chronicles, in which the reader witnesses the sequence of events that bring Simon to the throne of England. Chronologically it seems to be located shortly after the events in Is Underground , but before Cold Shoulder Road .

Britain stands balkanized, a long-running Aiken theme, and King Richard lies on his deathbed, secluded in a remote swamp, hiding from friends and enemies alike. As Simon sets out to find him, Dido is kidnapped by the evil werewolf Baron, Magnus Rudh. Both friends struggle to break free of the usual sinister plots, and find themselves in grave danger - whether from potential usurpers of the throne, or charming double-agents.

Although I enjoyed this second-to-last entry in the series (the final installment being the posthumously published The Witch of Clatteringshaws), and appreciated Aiken's odd-ball characters and unconventional plot-lines, I found myself feeling almost nostalgic for the earlier books. As another reviewer noted, this isn't The Wolves of Willoughby Chase . More to the point, it isn't Black Hearts in Battersea or Dido and Pa either.

Addendum: Because the reading order of this series is somewhat complicated, I have included this handy guide, which is organized by publication date, and which I recommend to prospective readers of the series, rather than the one offered here on Goodreads:

Reading Order for the Series:

1) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

2) Black Hearts in Battersea

3) Nightbirds on Nantucket

4) The Whispering Mountain

5) The Cuckoo Tree

6) The Stolen Lake

7) Dido and Pa

8) Is Underground

9) Cold Shoulder Road

10) Dangerous Games

11) Midwinter Nightingale

12) The Witch of Clatteringshaws

A few notes:

-- Is Underground is the American name for the British original, Is . Similarly, Dangerous Games was originally published in Britain as Limbo Lodge .

-- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase features two characters that recur, but the two young heroines do not.

-- The Stolen Lake is the point at which the chronology becomes somewhat complicated, as it is the sixth book, but chronicles events that occur in between Night Birds on Nantucket (#3) and The Cuckoo Tree (#5).

-- Is Underground (or Is ) and Cold Shoulder Road both feature Is Twite, cousin to the main heroine, Dido. They occur alongside the other books, and their position in the series is not chronologically relevant.

-- Dangerous Games ( Limbo Lodge ) is another title that backtracks in the chronology...

--Although not technically part of the series, Aiken's Midnight Is a Place does occur in the same alternative timeline, and is set in Blastburn, the same imaginary city that features in the other books.
Profile Image for Susanne E.
173 reviews4 followers
October 28, 2011
The copyright page says "Joan Aiken Enterprises" or something, making me think maybe this isn't the real deal, especially as at least this edition was published after she died (not long after, but still). That would explain a lot, because it seemed much more disjointed than even her most fanciful other ones, and it just wasn't as fun as Nightbirds on Nantucket or Black Hearts in Battersea. Some kind of sloppy storytelling at the end too, as bad guys kept just flying off cliffs or otherwise conveniently meeting bad ends.
Profile Image for Chris.
765 reviews100 followers
June 27, 2020
The joint penultimate instalment in the series known as the Wolves Chronicles, Midwinter Nightingale is as imaginative as any of the preceding novels, giving us a chance to marvel at Joan Aiken's inventiveness whilst also regretting her apparent rush to complete her final two novels before she prematurely left us in early 2004.

As if to anticipate that sense of mortality there are some rather perfunctory deaths towards the end, but also the leaving of a couple of threads dangling to be resolved in the concluding volume, The Witch of Clatteringshaws.

If the resulting dish here is at times rather indigestible it's because she's tried to throw in extra red herrings into the usual range of exotic ingredients and McGuffins; on the other hand it's hard not to admire the sheer panache that has her principal protagonists having to cope with idiosyncratic sheep, werewolves, incompetent invaders, extreme weather and an increasingly disunited kingdom.

The novel opens with a prologue in which a man has been arrested and taken to the Tower of London, leaving an extremely unusual ménage behind him. Then we jump to the 'present' (the early 1840s) with Simon Bakerloo, the Duke of Battersea -- whom we first met as a goose boy in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase -- travelling on the Wetlands Express towards something like the Somerset Levels in our own world. Along the way he encounters an annoyingly chatty young woman called Jorinda, but he is on a secret mission to see the ailing King Richard IV and is keen to escape her attentions.

Another shift of scene and viewpoint sees the reappearance of our young friend Dido Twite upon her return in the Thames estuary after visiting friends in America; but now she is cursorily summoned to a curious meeting with an Archbishop, followed by her being unceremoniously scrobbled. Thus is the scenario set for the lifelines of several individuals to crisscross in this world's West Country, amidst a background of historical precedents being reenacted before some lifelines are summarily snipped.

Every page is a thesaurus of technical terms, foods, personages and fairytale motifs, a cornucopia of seething, popping and fizzing ideas, an info dump of characters and references from a few of the preceding novels in the sequence. A newcomer to the Chronicles would be advised to avoid starting here, while a fan or a completist may instead relish several familiar names, situations and outcomes being reprised; but both the innocent and experienced reader would be baffled by quite how and why it all relates or is relevant.

So my suggestion is, first, to enjoy the ride without worrying too much about logic, characterisation or motivation. However, on a second or third reading I would advise a notebook and pen to keep some sort of track of the strands in this intricate thread and to enjoy Joan's dazzling display involving Donne and Chaucer, a Duchess and a Duke, foreign invasion and transcendental meditation, shape-shifting and the gift of foresight.
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
3,065 reviews458 followers
November 21, 2017
Within hours of returning to England, Dido is kidnapped and interrogated regarding the whereabouts of the missing King Richard and his successor, Simon, Duke of Battersea. Dido has no idea where they are hiding, but she could never betray the good King and her kind friend Simon, so she turns her attention to escaping the fearful Fogrum Hall and the ghastly werewolf, Baron Magnus.

This plot is a little disjointed with random happenings everywhere, and once again, I was disappointed that all the villains keep accidentally dying all over the place. I wish that the villains were conquered by the heroes, instead of the heroes standing idly by while the villains mistakenly fall off a cliff or something. It's so unsatisfactory that there is no struggling and fighting that ends in triumph! It ruins the suspense and leaves the ending a bit flat.

But Aiken's imaginative writing is electrifying as you are pulled into the story. The characters are wonderfully magnetic and emotional, and I love reading everything about the delicious Dido!
Profile Image for Mary.
448 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2020
Not as exciting and action-packed as some of the other adventures, but catches you up on some beloved characters that have been out of the picture for a while.
Profile Image for Ashley.
65 reviews
February 20, 2009
I was sorry to only give this book three stars, but it just didn't inspire me to the same irrational glee as all the previous Dido Twite tales (excepting Wolves of Willoughby Chase of course - which doesn't even have Dido in it, but that's another review). Perhaps it is because we see less of Dido in this story than in her previous adventures, and that her role is significantly more passive. Simon's not a bad cove (a right good 'un, as Dido herself might say), but he's no competition for Dido in spirit, humor, and cheekiness. If you want to read Joan Aiken (and you should) start with Black Hearts in Battersea and you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Hessie.
149 reviews
November 12, 2014
I couldn't read this one. Something was dreadfully amiss. It's like an editor got ahold of it and dumbed it down to nothingness. I skimmed enough to get the gist and the plot seemed terribly disappointing too. So sad for a series I love.
Profile Image for Allan Masri.
3 reviews
August 30, 2021
Written in haste... and it shows.

I really like Joan's writing, generally speaking... but this book was a huge disappointment. The plot was a haphazard mess. Characters got killed off really violently, in droves and for no particular reason... Just to get them out of the author's way, I think.

And in fact, much of what happened in the book felt like it was thought up on the spur of the moment, just to keep going, just to get to the end. The writing felt very rough, sketchy, almost like notes, sometimes. There are also tons of typos and missing punctuation marks, etc. Simon and Dido are mere cartoons of their usual selves, seemingly without much to do but worry and wonder... And the book ends with Dido crying her eyes out, because the king died. But then, he spent the entire book dying... and miserable. Poor King Dick... Poor Dido and Simon... Poor loyal readers! :(

I will read "The Witch of Clatteringshaws", just to finish the series... and because the author, and the other books, have been important to me. But I will never read this one again, nor can I recommend it.
Profile Image for Nikki Fletcher .
10 reviews15 followers
June 26, 2017
Read this when I was little and was pretty confused, decided to reread it and discovered it's #10 in a series. Understood it better but it's pretty confusing because they just assume you already know the characters and history. That being said, I didn't care for the plot and the action seemed odd. Like none of the main characters did anything to really "save the day" but there were just a crazy amount of lucky coincidences. The main characters really did nothing besides just being nice people.
Profile Image for Kiwi Carlisle.
982 reviews7 followers
July 7, 2017
I love the alternative history of this fantasy series, which is richer and funnier the more you know of the history of our own world. This chaotic, somewhat melancholy gem is no exception, with bits of the history of the Stuarts, a character who muses about renaming himself from a menu of names of pretenders to the British throne, and lots of other fun tidbits. More alternatively, there are werewolves, levitating Saxons, and a couple of seeresses. It's good fun with a touch of sadness here and there.
Profile Image for Freder.
Author 17 books9 followers
March 4, 2020
My main complaint here is that the "heroes" do nothing either to advance the story or bring about a resolution. The villains simply define the "plot" and then bring about their own demise through their own stupidity. Not one of Ms. Aiken's better efforts, though as always the atmosphere is wonderful.
Profile Image for Magicalrocketships.
252 reviews9 followers
July 10, 2021
What I love about this series of books is that the magical realism is so unique, and the pacing is exactly what the author wanted, which doesn't necessarily fit with the standard pacing of a YA fantasy novel. Love it.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Brush.
189 reviews
July 17, 2017
I really need to reread this one because I barely remember it, but I do remember that there were werewolves. and shippiness that gets DESTROYED by Dido... *sad face*
Profile Image for Sherry Chiger.
Author 2 books10 followers
July 30, 2014
Who needs Harry Potter when you can thrill to the adventures of Dido Twite, the indefatigable Cockney heroine of Joan Aiken's Wolves Chronicles?
In this latest installment, Dido is back in England during the (fictional) reign of King Richard IV, just in time to help save the throne from the loutish son of a werewolf baron. Yes, the plot sounds outrageous, and perhaps it is--but the story is so fast-paced, the narrative so vivid and yet so concise, and the characters so charismatic that even the most literal-minded reader (youngster or adult) is unlikely to care.
For fans of Aiken's entire series, which begins with "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" and includes "Black Hearts in Battersea," "Nightbirds on Nantucket," and "The Cuckoo Tree" (one of my favorites), one of the most rewarding aspects of "Midwinter Nightingale" is Dido's reunion with her mate Simon--and the bittersweet yet open-ended way Aiken closes the book. Surely another episode is in the works?
Profile Image for Josephine.
596 reviews7 followers
August 13, 2016
While I don't regret buying this in hardcover, I suppose I should reveal that I bought it used. Something went missing between Nightbirds on Nantucket and The Cuckoo Tree, not least much of Dido's toughness, and Aiken's ability to shake out a straight plot, without reverting to subplots, supernatural or merely surreal, that don't seem to further the primary plot At all. A flock of sheep? A werewolf? Russian bears instead of boots? ....um, what? And Aiken's swapped out the Hanoverians for the Burgundians, without any particular explanation, unless I missed it in one of the previous books.
Profile Image for Nigel.
Author 12 books61 followers
December 5, 2014
Another great and rousing adventure for Aiken. If her ability to craft a fully realised novel waned somewhat in her latter years, her capacity for invention and for voice and place and drama did not. A stew of creepy characters and plots surround the dying king, hidden away by Simon. Dido, returned from Nantucket, is rudely kidnapped and held captive by as despicable a trio of villains as has ever graced the pages of a children's novel: a werewolf, his revolting son and the Duchess of Burgundy. Flood waters rise and invading forces approach and mysterious letters are exchanged by pigeon and Simon befriends some sheep and Dido meets a Woodlouse. Too brief, perhaps, but easily loved.
Profile Image for Jennifer Hughes.
853 reviews30 followers
January 2, 2015
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was a big childhood favorite, so when I saw this book in my little library, I thought it would be fun to revisit Joan Aiken. Unfortunately, the magic did not repeat itself. I found this novel confusing, with several points of view and simultaneous plot lines. Reading other reviews here has now clued me in that this book is apparently one of several based on adventures of the character Dido, but I never got the helpful background information to help me assimilate myself in this world, so I just never got it. Too bad.
Profile Image for Phoebe.
1,995 reviews13 followers
December 9, 2014
The tenth Dido Twite adventure is a mix, as usual, of the horrific, the humorous, and the fantastical. Aiken packs the pages with action, but her characters never suffer and the plot is as usual over-the-top exciting. Werewolves, really evil characters, satisfying vengeance, and a hint of romance will appeal to readers, whether they have read the previous Dido/Simon stories or not. They will want to, because Dido is the best heroine to come along in many years. For middle grades, but readers should be forewarned that there are some gruesome elements.
Profile Image for Jocelyn Branco.
54 reviews
September 26, 2023
I love all of the Wolves Chronicles, so I am definitely biased in giving this book 4 stars. It feels a bit disjointed, the characters don't seem to get to develop quite as much as they should, and the deaths feel abrupt but not that impactful. However, in usual fashion, the author gives the adventure a rollicking good time feel, complete with mythical characters, evil plots, and plucky protagonists.
Profile Image for Scott King.
23 reviews
July 8, 2013
I loved this series as a child, although I never got to this book. Now I am older I see the horrendous deux ex machinas that Aiken seems to employ in almost all of them, and they get worse as the series progresses. In this one the heroes are almost reduced to bystanders as events happen around them. Frustrating.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,177 reviews18 followers
February 25, 2016
And the story continues - greed corrupts, your beginnings don't matter more than the quality of your character, kindhearted selflessness brings good are themes that keep replaying in this collection o stories about these wholly interesting and unique characters. They also make me wonder about different magics in the world. What do you think?
Profile Image for alissa.
66 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2016
Very disappointing episode in an otherwise stellar series. The story is morbid and full of deaths which serve no purpose except to underscore the terrible situation of the protagonists. Dido and Simon seem to plod through events which are completely out of their control, to the very end. Characters appear in deus ex machina moments to conveniently resolve the plot.
Profile Image for Alex.
149 reviews4 followers
March 27, 2008
Certainly an improvement on the last two books in the series. I guess I got so close to finishing them up, that I felt the need for completeness. I don't suggest you do the same. Stop after Dido & Pa.
Profile Image for Anthony Faber.
1,579 reviews4 followers
February 11, 2014
Wolves #10. This seems to be roughly coincident with "Cold Shoulder Road", starting a few months after the climax of "Is Underground" and ending a bit before "Cold Shoulder road", I think. Tells what's happpening with Dido, Simon & King Richard in this period.
Profile Image for Molly.
96 reviews4 followers
October 9, 2014
Not quite as good as the others, which is a shame - I felt so much could've been done with the whole werewolf angle. Plus antagonists who manage to do themselves out of the picture or are killed by freak accidents aren't quite exciting enough.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews

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