by Joan Aiken
For some reason, even though I have dearly loved Wolves of Willoughby Chase since I was a little girl, I never read any of the rest of the Wolves Chronicles. It seems as though I may have picked one up when I was quite younger and was confused by it, expecting it to have the same characters as the first book. At any rate, I have decided to give them a whirl.
I would call Black Hearts in Battersea a sort of indirect sequel. The main character, Simon, was a secondary character in Wolves of Willoughby Chase, (albeit the one that I had a crush on). In this story, Simon travels to London to study art with a friend. But when he arrives, not only is his friend no where to be found, everyone acts as though he never even existed. In Aiken’s England, James III from Scotland is on the throne, creating an intriguing alternate universe of Victorian times with Queen Victoria. In this story, Simon makes new friends and meets up with old ones. I was slightly confused because in Willoughby Chase one of the main characters is Sylvia; in this book, Simon almost immediately sees a girl named Sophie, whom he apparently knows from the past, even though we (as the readers) have never met her. Actually, you have a bit of a feeling of trying to catch up during the whole beginning of this book, as Aiken doesn’t really tell us much of what is going on, leaving us to follow the trail as best we can.
Even though Aiken writes for children, she is unafraid of drastic plot twists, including the deaths of characters. While Black Hearts is not as light-hearted as Willoughby, it is still an excellent story with a fun mystery and delightful characters. 4/5.