Readers just tuning in for this latest addition to the series that began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase will quickly find their bearings. Aiken's playful, inventive language once again creates a vivid world that--though recognizable--is more heightened than our own. As the indomitable Dido Twite prepares to set sail for home, she and her captain are drafted into a search party for the roving ambassador to England's King James III, Lord Herodsfoot, who is on a mission to discover ""wild games"" to cheer the ailing royal. Dido's travels take her to the South Seas island of Aratu, an ancient rain forest inhabited by Angrian colonists and the native Dilendi, who are possessed of mysterious powers. En route, she befriends the enigmatic young Doctor Talisman van Linde, who is returning to the island after many years spent abroad (and disguised as a man). Soon after their arrival on the island, Dido and Talisman run afoul of the draconian local law (the Angrians have an attitude toward women worthy of the Taliban) and must flee with the help of their Dilendi companions. Their trek includes stops at the gloomiest Angrian spice plantations, the most sacred of Dilendi holy places and spellbinding encounters with shamanlike figures. Meanwhile, Talisman's shifting and growing powers foreshadow her ties to the destiny of her native island. Aiken's storytelling is fearless: fanciful high jinks are set off by serious--even frightening--events (a girl's life is at stake because she is improperly veiled; an unwed mother kills herself). Dido's adventures and the isle of Aratu will linger in the reader's mind long after these games have ended. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999 Release date: 02/01/1999 Genre: Children's
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