Reviews /

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – 60th Anniversary Edition

Authored by Joan Aiken
Illustrated by Pat Marriott
Published by Puffin

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It was a wild winter in the reign of King James III. England had been invaded by wolves escaping the harsh European conditions through the new tunnel across the channel. This period only existed in the made-up world of Joan Aiken’s classic adventures. But it feels real every time I read this wonderful fantasy/adventure novel.

Londoner Sylvia has only just gone to live with Bonnie in the countryside when Bonnie’s parents set sail on a long voyage. Soon the wolves aren’t the only danger facing orphaned Sylvia and her cousin Bonnie because the girls are left in the ‘care’ of sinister Miss Slighcarp and her unpleasant friends. Quickly, they hatch a plan to increase their fortunes, and nothing must get in the way.

The girls are soon shipped off to an orphanage from which they must escape. But fortunately, they gain allies of various descriptions, especially wonderful Simon. Then, once they regain their health, they take the treacherous path to London. This is where Sylvia’s kind Aunt Jane lives. And it’s there the truth behind the evil schemes unravels. So, the girls must return to Willoughby Chase for a showdown with the wicked governess.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a brilliant romp. I think the language is just as playful and energetic as the plot. I love that it’s the first in a brilliant sequence of books that Joan Aiken devoted forty years to writing.

This anniversary edition is a reissue of the current ‘A Puffin Book’ title. It contains all the end matter, such as a biography, writing tips, and things to make and do. I enjoyed two new short essays by Joan Aiken’s daughter, explaining the origins of the story and the unusual name of one of the dedicatees. I envy readers who’ll be discovering the book for the first time. It’s one of my favourite novels.