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The stolen lake by Joan Aiken

The stolen lake (original 1981; edition 2000)

by Joan Aiken

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4601038,772 (4.01)35
On her way to England from Nantucket aboard a British man-o'-war, Dido has many adventures when the ship is diverted to the land of New Cumbria in the southern hemisphere.
Title:The stolen lake
Authors:Joan Aiken
Info:Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Collections:Your library

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The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken (1981)



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In comparison to the previous books in this series, this one is definitely unique. While this novel continues in the style of alternate history, we also see unique fantasy and mythology elements. Once again, we see Dido as the star of the show. Her humor and quick wit save her time and again. I actually loved the adult characters that were introduced here as Dido's companions; unlike the other books, most of them were quite ready to follow Dido's directives and were a great asset to her! The plot, while not related to anything Hanoverian, was still delightfully sinister, and the evil characters were quite well drawn up! There are certain things that I found weren't addressed fully in the book, but apart from that, this novel was just as fun and amazing as every other book in the series! I think this may be one of my favorite stories about Dido so far, but I'm going to read the next one to see if it can top this!

For more reviews, visit: www.veereading.wordpress.com ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
It is 1835 and Dido Twite is heading back to England from Nantucket Island on board HMS Thrush. Or so she thinks: she has been at sea for most of the 18 months since she was shipwrecked in the North Sea at the end of 1833, and can't wait to get back to London and her friend Simon. But things aren't going to plan. First pirates and a rebel ship have to be dealt with, and then she finds that the naval vessel has been sent two thousand miles down the eastern coast of South America to go to the aid of Britain's oldest ally. And her real troubles start just as soon as she sets foot in New Cumbria.

New Cumbria? This is not a country known in our world, but it does exist in the alternate world of the Wolves Chronicles, Joan Aiken's highly idiosyncratic series set in a world where Victoria didn't rule in Britain but where the Stuart king James III did. We have to sweep away all that we thought we knew about the 19th century -- and indeed previous history -- and accept that we are in a parallel existence where, instead of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, we hear of Biru, Hy Brasil, Lyonesse and New Cumbria.

On arrival in the sleepy port of Tenby Dido gets scrobbled (and not for the last time), escapes, travels up the River Severn on a tidal bore, takes a rack-and-pinion railway up past a series of cataracts before arriving at Bath Regis, a town ringed by twelve volcanoes. Here she gets to meet the monstrous Queen Ginevra in her revolving palace before embarking on more escapades to rescue a princess and help restore the rightful king to his throne. And that's merely the half of it: we have yet to understand the mystery of the lake that's been stolen, why no children exist in this realm, and who the sinister trio of seamstresses are that bedevil Dido's life.

Joan Aiken has imaginatively amalgamated aspects of disparate traditions, cultures that ought to clash, to create her fantastic and yet consistent world. There is Arthurian legend of course (Malory's Morte Darthur is wantonly plundered for the names of volcanoes, for example, for motifs like Excalibur and the myth of Arthur's return); Celtic culture (inspired no doubt by the historical Welsh influx into Patagonia); Inca history and lore (names from the eve of Pizarro's conquest of Peru are purloined, and the belief that the outline of Lake Titicaca resembles a native big cat); a hint of Jane Austen (Bath is routinely referenced, and also Tenby which appears in her juvenilia); and perhaps hints of explorations such as those by Sir Walter Raleigh, Percy Fawcett and the fictional Professor Challenger for lost cities like El Dorado.

If Dido Twite is the glue that binds the convoluted plot of The Stolen Lake, then South America itself -- under the guise of Roman America -- is the undoubted canvas on which Aiken paints this tall tale full of conspiracies and narrative twists. Not only do we have the full range of flora and fauna filling its teeming jungles and arid plains but a host of additional life-forms to inhabit them. Aiken has borrowed profusely from all over the continent's geography to create her imaginary lands: mountain ranges and volcanoes, rivers and waterfalls, deserts and lakes, jungles and glaciers. It's possible to suggest many of the real natural features that inspired her, though she has freely moved them around her landscape and telescoped huge distances.

Finally, though Dido is our constant companion throughout, we come across many another strange character who not only linger in our memories but also put in an appearance in later novels. Sadly, some individuals meet very gruesome ends, for whom we feel very sorry indeed, but you will be glad to know -- if you hadn't guessed already -- that Dido survives. Well, she has to: Aiken had already resuscitated her once before in response to appeals.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-lake ( )
  ed.pendragon | May 3, 2017 |
This book explodes like a firework in the brain, or perhaps like one of the thirteen volcanoes that encircle the misappropriated lake of the title. The ideas, the plot, the situations go beyond the merely outrageous and into the sublimely wonderful. This is a masterpiece of children's fantasy, and Dido Twite must surely be one of the great heroines of children's literature.

Dido is travelling back to England on the Naval steamer The Thrush, which is diverted to South America, or, as it is known in this alternative universe, Roman America, by the Admiralty, to the country of New Cumbria, established centuries before when the Romans and the British fled Saxon invaders, crossed the Atlantic and found the New World. Yes. All is not well, however, and as Dido and her companions traverse rivers and jungles and mountains to answer the summons of the Queen, they dodge kidnappers and ferocious beasts and encounter plots and mysteries by the score. Missing children, sinister dressmakers, giant flying birds, horrible hunts, steam-powered revolving silver castles and, yes, a stolen lake, whose provenance must be one of the wildest, maddest, most original ideas I've encountered in ages. Aiken's measured style keeps things anchored, as does the incomparable Miss Twite, her good-natured, big-hearted, curious, stubborn, loyal, common-as-muck and ferociously intelligent protagonist, who speaks fluent street-cant as though it were lyric poetry, and whose common sense and indefatigable moral compass keeps the whole fabulous contraption firmly on the ground.

I honestly think this is the most purely enjoyable thing I've read in ages, of any genre, for any age-group, and I've read some pretty enjoyable stuff lately. I will definitely and absolutely be reading more of this series. ( )
2 vote Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Cute. Far from wonderful - even for Aiken, too many convenient coincidences (and by the way, homing pigeons don't work that way - they go home, not to some random ship and then somewhere else). Also I truly detest the Arthur story. At least Lancelot wasn't around, though Elen kinda-sorta filled the role in reverse. Don't know - I did read and enjoy it, but it's not even up to Nightbirds, let alone Wolves. And why did Mabon keep sending the balloons? Or had they all gone up and just took that long to get there? Silly. And poor Holystone, even if he did become more. Yeah, not a favorite. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Nov 13, 2013 |
This title marks the point at which Aiken's Wolves Chronicles becomes somewhat complicated, in terms of publication date vs. narrative chronology. Although it is the sixth book published (excluding Midnight is a Place), it backtracks a little in the chronology, occurring just after the events in Nightbirds on Nantucket and well before Dido Twite returns to England in The Cuckoo Tree.

It follows the indomitable Dido Twite, who finds the ship on which she is sailing diverted to Roman (South) America, on an important diplomatic mission to the kingdom of New Cumbria, established by the fleeing court of King Arthur in 577. Together with the stern Captain Hughes (the son of old Mr. Hughes in The Whispering Mountain), Dido must help to prevent war between New Cumbria and its neighbors, Hy Brasil and Lyonesse, by retrieving the stolen lake of Arionrod.

While I love Aiken's highly original revision of the legend of King Arthur and his court, transplanted in her alternative time-line to South (Roman) America, and combined with vampire-lore, The Stolen Lake just wasn't as satisfying for me as some of her others. It all sounds wonderful, in theory, but the actual narrative struck me as somewhat cluttered, and somehow claustrophobic. I also found myself chagrined to discover that for all the elements that she transformed, Aiken retained Guinevere as a villain... Alas. ( )
4 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jun 28, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joan Aikenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ford, JeremyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hess, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurst, TraceyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marriott, PatIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robertson, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The new captain of the H. M. S. Thrush, who had come on board at Bermuda, was very particular in his views as to what a young female passenger on a British man-o'-war might or might not do.
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On her way to England from Nantucket aboard a British man-o'-war, Dido has many adventures when the ship is diverted to the land of New Cumbria in the southern hemisphere.

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Dido Twite finds herself and the crew of a British man-o-war summoned to the aid of a tyrannical queen.

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