‘It’s a rotten old job being King!’ says Dido Twite. Her friend King Simon agrees – his scheming courtiers want to marry him off to a pushy princess, and he has to lead his army against a tribe of invading Wends.
Their only hope is to find a long-lost heir to take Simon’s place on the throne of England, with the help of failed witch Malise and her prophesying parrot.
The last book in the series that first introduced Simon as the hero of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a helter-skelter of battles, vicious villains and mysterious monsters, packed full of magic and humour. If you don’t know the Wolves Chronicles, this gives a wonderful taste of Joan Aiken’s fantastic world – and you still have all the rest to discover!
This highly satisfying offering from Aiken (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase), who died last year, continues the chronicle of the resilient Dido Twite, taking up the tale soon after the action chronicled in Midwinter Nightingale. Hoping to save her friend Simon from his stultifying existence as newly crowned King of England, Dido journeys to Scotland to find someone (anyone!) with a greater claim to the throne. Meanwhile, just outside of the Scottish village of Clatteringshaws, in a converted restroom in a disused coach park (this far north it seems that Dido's alternate version of England has more in common with today's version than it usually does), a lonely witch broods over a youthful mistake and keeps half an eye on the progress of Fred, the orphaned child she found a home for 15 years before. After numerous twists and turns, not to mention several satisfyingly close calls (all narrated at whiplash pace, in crackling, comical language), Aiken resolves matters in typically grand fashion: impostors are exposed, secret identities revealed and, on top of all that, a peaceful solution is found for an army of Wends that has invaded from overseas. Aiken's generous parting gift to her readers is Dido and Simon's "happy ending," which leaves the door open, in readers' minds at least, for a future of further adventures. Ages 10-up.