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Black Hearts in Battersea
Joan Aiken
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Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles #2)

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  2,605 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Simon, the foundling from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting. Instead he finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a wicked crew's fiendish caper to overthrow the good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. With the help of his friend Sophie and the resourceful waif Dido, Simon narrowly escap ...more
Paperback, 0 pages
Published November 1st 1987 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1964)
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Lies, deceptions, treasonous plots, mistaken identity, hot air balloons, wolves at the door, stowaways and completely indecipherable dialect. How could you go wrong? I completely loved this even though it took me a bit to get into it, once it gets going though, it's hard to put down.
Simon, a minor character in Black Hearts in Battersea (but one who clearly took over Aiken's heart), leaves Yorkshire for London where he can study painting. However, after arriving in London at the home of the Twite family, he is mystified by the disappearance of his mentor, Dr. Field. No one admits to having seen Dr. Field but there are hints he has been at the Twites, in addition to the letter he sent Simon urging him to come stay with him there. Simon enrolls at the art academy as planned an ...more
I don't know why I never read this series when I first discovered Aiken's alternate history London in Midnight Is a Place, but I'm enjoying it now. It's a quick read, not dark by my standards (though bad things do happen they are tempered with humor), and it was easy to gloss over any historical contexts that I was clueless about (it's summer after all, and I didn't want to make myself think too much). I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I do wonder about something at the end which I thought was sho ...more
Jenn Estepp
i reiterate what i said upon reading "nightbirds." which boils down to fangirlish, "how did i not read these before now, they are awesome." although i have to say, i am glad i read that one first, because i'm not sure that i would've loved dido if this was my first intro to her. i loved all the good characters and hated all the bad ones and wonder why more children's books today don't involve nefarious plots, wolves and hot air balloons.
From BBC Radio 4 - Afternoon Drama:
A dramatisation of Joan Aiken's classic children's adventure. Young Simon comes to 18th century London to study painting - and finds himself caught up in wicked Hanoverian plots to overthrow the king.
BBC Afternoon Drama

y Joan Aiken, dramatised by Lin Coghlan

Part One (of two)

A dramatisation of Joan Aiken's classic children's adventure. Young Simon comes to 18th century London to study painting - and finds himself caught up in wicked Hanoverian plots to overthrow the king.

Part Two (of two)

To save the King from Hanoverian plotters Simon and Sophie must first suffer shipwreck, attacks by wolves and a narrow escape from an exploding castle in hot air balloon.
Rebecca Allen
I read this at around age nine and I fell in love with Dido. I loved this book. As an adult I spent years searching for it. I did not know it was part of the "Wolves " series or that it was written by Joan Aiken. All I remembered was the title and no one I asked ever knew what I was talking about. After the advent of the Internet and search engines I had pretty much forgotten all about it and never really did a devoted search online.
One day recently I was in the books for sale section of the lib
I read this book as a child, and it stuck with me for years. I'd forgotten the title & author, but I recently managed to track it down and bought a copy of my familiar 1987 edition on eBay.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to re-read it, and once again I was swept away to historic Chelsea to follow Simon's adventure. One of the things (besides the 20 years of fading memory) that made it difficult for me to remember much from my first read is that the story is extremely lively and a lot happen
I love these books. It's hard to explain, because they are so very weird: the language is old-fashioned, plausibility is left at the door, coincidence abounds. I mean, it even has the old "orphan kid is really a great person, even though very disadvantaged in upbringing, but oh wow it turns out he's really a duke" trope - twice! I usually hate that, but I don't get an overwhelmig feeling of classism from Aiken. I mean, her very best character - Dido! - is a poor child, and though many of the vil ...more
Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken follows the story of a young orphaned boy named simon who moves to London to study art after being invited there by an old friend. After reading this first descriptive sentence many have probably already begun doubting their interest in this book, for it already seems like a cliche adventure story where the protagonist is an orphan merely to give them a tragic back story and/or have an excuse to not write in parents. This orphan trope is so overused and co ...more
Saccharine Dickens. Which is not such an awful thing. At times it's very enjoyable, though you'd never mistake it for the real thing. A good read, but Black Hearts just doesn't stack up to Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Yes, the plot is thicker than Wolves, and so is the dialect/archaic British English, but this book's best character Dido goes missing when she should've been taking over the plot. Simon is a fine protagonist, and yet he's just a little too milquetoast compared to his her
Harini Srinivasan
This is the best book in the Wolves series. Enter the unlikeliest, and the most lovable, heroine ever -- one whose adventures you'll want to follow right till the last book!
Fantasy Literature
Black Hearts in Battersea is the second book in Joan Aiken's beloved Wolves saga, beginning with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and continuing in Nightbirds in Nantucket. Each book can be read separately and out of order (i.e., each is a separate story, not one big story broken into several parts), linked by re-appearing characters, plot lines and locations. Each is set in a cleverly devised "parallel universe" where historical figures and events are changed from what we would recognize in our o ...more
Kate  K. F.
A satisfying retelling of the striving orphan story told in an alternate history of England where James the third sits on the throne. The main character Simon is a hard working young man who is trying to find out what has happened to his mentor and is soon set to trying to understand two diverse families in London, the Twites which he lodges with and the Duke of Batterseas family. The story holds some slightly odd fantasy elements such as how Sophie, Simon's good friend was at one point raised b ...more
Sylvia Kelso
I found this book a good deal better than the first in the series. I was more accustomed to Aiken's airy disregard of plausibility and practicality(eg. minor details like, when a hired sleigh pulls up at door pursued by wolves and all the passengers rush inside, what happens to the sleigh and horses? Never mentioned again?)and the stage was definitely enlivened by the first appearance of Dido Twite, who becomes the long-running overall protagonist of the series. Apart from her invincibly buoyant ...more
Ha! Who would have thought that I would enjoy this second book in Joan Aiken's Wolves Chronicles even more than The Wolves of Willoughby Chase! Of course Simon was always one of my favorite characters, so that went a long way towards my enjoyment of this story. Also, this is longer so there are more adventures and more mysteries to be enjoyed along the way.

I didn't take to little Dido Twite in the beginning, but she really grew on me as the story progressed. I'm glad to know she will appear in
Books Kids Like
While Simon was in London with Bonnie and Sylvia (see Wolves of Willoughby Chase), he met Dr. Field who promised to secure Simon a place at the Riviere Art Academy. Unfortunately, when Simon returns to London, the doctor has disappeared. His landlords, the Twites, deny any knowledge of a Dr. Field, but Simon sees his friend's artistic style in a sketch on Dido Twite’s wall. Then, Simon discovers an arsenal in the Twite's basement and overhears treasonous talk about Hanoverians and Picts. He find ...more
“Too Many Villains and Coincidences”

Billed as the 2nd in the WOLVES chronicles this book proves a disappointment after the delightful WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE—at least to an adult reviewer. Kids will enjoy it though, for it offers plenty of action, evil plotters lurking behind every other page, spunky heroines and a determined hero. But there is too much coincidence involving related families and mistaken identities to be realistic for a mature audience to swallow. But middle school kids wil
Fantastic. I think Dr. Furnace ("Furrneaux, if you please, Furrneaux -- I cannot endure the English pronunciation.") was my favorite character. Then Dido Twite. But everyone's so great, and unique, and funny, and the dialects are fantastic, and I pretty much never have any idea what Dido is saying ("Pooh, what a capsy, weevilly fortune"), but I like it that way.

One of my favorite parts, a short history and description of Battersea Castle:
He paused a moment, gazing in awe at the huge mass of buil
Young Simon comes to London at the invitation of his old mentor, but when he arrives his mentor is nowhere to be found. What Simon finds instead is a wicked plot to overthrow King James, and only his wits and unlikely friends can help him save the dayand himself. Black Hearts in Battersea is thoroughly predictable, but not as such bad. It's one part rollicking adventure and one part heavy-handed foreshadowing, and while the latter strips all suspense from the former, it doesn't sap its energy. I ...more
This is the second of a series and although it kept my attention I really did not enjoy it much. I really wanted to like it, especially as I had enjoyed The Wolves of Willoughby Chase I think the author's use of dialect and made-up words really detracts from the meaning of some of the dialogue, so I couldn't fully understand what some of the characters were saying. This annoyed me. It is possible that she is using antiquated language in some cases (e.g., hoboy for oboe), but for other words I h ...more
Jane Irish Nelson
Very enjoyable alternate history. The Stuarts are still on the throne in the person of King James III, threatened by Hanoverian plotters. When Simon arrives in London, expecting to find Dr. Field, the Twite family, with whom he lodged, disclaimed all knowledge of him. Simon decides to stay there, to see if he can find out what happened. He also encounters a childhood friend, Sophie, now working for the Duchess of Battersea, who is extremely quick-thinking in emergencies.
These books are a fun peek into Dickensian England without the bleak perspectives. The main characters are cheerful, clever and resourceful as they battle rotten villains. There's a sense of humor in the writing that lends a light-heartedness to the worst situations.

I'm curious to see if my 9-year-old enjoys it. The language was a small barrier in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but I think this book has a more challenging vocabulary and cultural lingo.
Good historical children's fiction which takes place during the reign of King James. Simon, an orphan, comes to London to study art and live with Dr. Field, but Dr. Field is missing. Simon discovers a plot to kill King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. This is the second book in the Wolves Chronicles, and I highly recommend this series of books--at least the first two that I have read.
I try and I try, but I just can't appreciate Joan Aiken the way I know she ought to be appreciated. If I had discovered her when I was twelve, I'm sure it would be a different story. As it is, I thought this was an okay, but fairly indifferent read.
The adventure continues, but in London (mostly), with different characters (mostly). The last time I read this series, twenty years ago (mostly), I think I stopped with this one. I think shall continue with the series this time (mostly).
What a disappointment. I was so excited to find that one of my favorite childhood books has an entire series of sequels. After reading book two (Black Hearts in Battersea) I don't think I will read any of the other ones. How anyone can rate this book more than 2 stars is beyond me. I should have judged it by its cover. Illustrated by the great Edward Gorey but it is not one of his better efforts. It looks like he was phoning it in for a paycheck. Go ahead and look at it now, a few badly rendered ...more
I've read this one a few times and it never fails to delight me. A creative romp of mystery and treasonous plotters in Aiken's alternative English history. The characters are so well done that even the villains are likable. Can't wait to read this one to my kids!
Matthew Lindtveit
A great continuation of the series. And Edward Gorey covers too!
Wish I had known about these when I was a kid, would have certainly devoured them then like I am now.
This is the sequel to The Wolves of Willhoughby Chase, although it stands on its own just fine. Simon, the goose boy from Wolves, is moving to London to stay with Dr. Field and study art. When he reaches the house where Dr. Field is supposed to be staying, however, he finds that Field is no longer there -- and the family who lives there claims never to have met him! Simon is determined to learn what has become of the kind doctor. On the way, he meets young Dido Twite (a rapscallion of a girl, bu ...more
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Joan Delano Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. Her most famous classic, THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE,has been celebrating its 50th Anniversary with the publication of three brand new editions of the book and a new AUDIO recorded by her daughter Lizza.


More about Joan Aiken...

Other Books in the Series

The Wolves Chronicles (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles, #1)
  • Nightbirds on Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles, #3)
  • The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles, #4)
  • Dangerous Games (The Wolves Chronicles, #5)
  • The Cuckoo Tree (The Wolves Chronicles, #6)
  • Dido and Pa (The Wolves Chronicles, #7)
  • Is Underground (The Wolves Chronicles, #8)
  • Cold Shoulder Road (The Wolves Chronicles, #9)
  • Midwinter Nightingale (The Wolves Chronicles, #10)
  • The Witch of Clatteringshaws (The Wolves Chronicles, #11)
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles, #1) Nightbirds on Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles, #3) Jane Fairfax Arabel's Raven (Arabel and Mortimer, #1) Midnight Is a Place

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“He paused a moment, gazing in awe at the huge mass of buildings composing the castle. It stood close to the river, on either side and to the rear stretched the extensive park and gardens, filled with splendid trees, fountains and beds of brilliant flowers in shades of pink, crimson, and scarlet. The castle itself was built of pink granite, and enclosed completely a smaller, older building which the present Duke's father had considered too insignificant for his town residence. The new castle had taken forty years to build; three architects and hundreds of men had worked day and night, and the old Duke had personally selected every block of sunset-colored stone that went to its construction. 'I want it to look like a great half-open rose,' he declared to the architects, who were fired with enthusiasm by this romantic fancy. It was begun as a wedding present to the Duke's wife, whose name was Rosamond, but unfortunately she died some nine years before it was completed. 'never mind, it will do for her memorial instead,' said the grief-stricken but practical widower. The work went on. At last the final block was laid in place. The Duke, by now very old, went out in his barouche and drove slowly along the opposite riverbank to consider the effect. He paused midway for a long time, then gave his opinion. 'It looks like a cod cutlet covered in shrimp sauce,' he said, drove home, took to his bed, and died.” 7 likes
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