Once again Dido Twite’s journey back to her beloved England has been delayed (you must be wondering whether she will ever make it home!). This time it’s because of an order from the King to find Lord Herodsfoot, who is travelling the world in search of new and interesting games. He is much needed back home to help cure the King of a mysterious illness.
So we begin the book with poor Dido preparing for yet another adventure. Although not quite as creepy as The Stolen Lake, the setting of this book is also full of strangeness and magic. Dido learns which creatures to avoid, but the deadly pearl-snakes and killer sting-monkeys turn out to be the least of her worries in Aratu.
Finding Lord Herodsfoot is easier than Dido had hoped, but some of the island inhabitants seem to have it in for the newcomers. Dido, her latest friend Doctor Talisman, Lord Herodsfoot and two friendly forest children Yorka and Tylo, make their way through the jungle towards Limbo Lodge and the Cliff of Death, where the old Sovran King John lives and where even more danger awaits them.
Joan Aiken’s characters are always brilliant, and throughout the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, I have admired her female characters especially. They are strong, brave and full of gumption. Without realising it at the time, I think this is one of the reasons I loved the series so much as a child. My favourites from this book (as well as Dido of course!) are Doctor Talisman and the forest girl Yorka. Talisman begins by hiding her true identity but is soon revealed to be a strong, intelligent and incredibly self-assured character. She’s practical and determined to get what she wants and I never once doubted that she would! Yorka is not yet as powerful as Talisman, and it is wonderful to watch her grow as the book progresses. She may have spiritual powers, but it’s her blossoming confidence and strength of mind that amazed me when I was a young girl.
Next up in the series is The Cuckoo Tree, which I have no memory of reading, so I’m very eager to read on! Is this the book where Dido will finally make it home? I can’t wait to find out!