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The Whispering Mountain (The Wolves Chronicles 0)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  716 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
In the small town of Pennygaff, where Owen has been sent to live after his mother's death, a legendary golden harp has been found. Knowing of the prophesy of the Harp of Teirtu, Owen must prevent the magic harp from falling into the evil clutches of its reputed owner, the sinister and diabolical Lord Mayln. But it won't be easy. Owen and his friend Arabis are plunged into ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published June 1969 by Doubleday & Company (first published 1968)
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Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, dido-twite
Not strictly a prequel to the Wolves of Willoughby Chase sequence (our young hero Owen Hughes re-appears around the time of the plot to slide St Paul’s Cathedral into the Thames at a coronation, in The Cuckoo Tree), The Whispering Mountain can nevertheless be enjoyed as a standalone novel. It also adds to our knowledge and understanding of Joan Aiken’s alternative history of the world in the early 19th century, sometimes called the James III sequence or, as I prefer to call it, the Dido Twite se ...more
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love this book. Another one I've read over and over.
Aiken is a genius.

Owen is an outcast in his town. Grudgingly taken care of by his grandfather, picked on by the bigger boys, Owen is nonetheless trying to make the best of things.
Then a chance encounter with an old friend turns into a bigger adventure with a search for a stolen harp, the discovery of a lost race of people, and the search for the truth about his own, and his friend's past.
Aiken writes a complex and compelling story, deftly wea
Rebecca McNutt
This was a creative and surreal fantasy novel, taking readers to a world filled with magic, both good and evil, with a character who anyone can relate to.
"Although the harp was dirty and broken, Owen thought it one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen, and he could not forbear passing his hand round the graceful, flowing lines of the frame, and then plucking with the tip of his finger at the last remaining string. The sound it gave out was low but piercingly clear; it seemed to fill the whole room with echoes."

Owen Hughes has a tough life. His crochety grandfather who runs the Pennygaff museum takes him for granted and constantly finds f
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I had to take a couple of runs at this book to get through it over the years. The only connection to the Wolves sequence is a very passing mention that Owen grew up on the good ship Thrush. Other than that, nada.

I remember my mom checking this book out of the library when it came out back in 1968 (or probably 1970 for it to get to our tiny rural library). I also vaguely remember it was returned unfinished, and over the years I wondered why. Now I know. Not content with cod-Welsh (happy we are, i
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
This is one of the first books I actually remember being given and reading as a child (the other two are Bambi and Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three). I think it might have been what spawned my lifelong love of Things Welsh. Owen's adventures with the Harp of Teirtu and the quest of the Seljuk of Rum to find his missing people are exciting, endearing, and great fun. There's music, poetry, kidnapping, spelunking, a pretty girl with a tame crow, and royalty-in-disguise ("Jamie Neddie Stuart", if ...more
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the language in this book -- a spectacular display of gorgeous phrases, lost words, and perfectly-pitched dialect, from Welsh idioms to 17th-century scientific jargon to London thieves' cant.
It is our world and yet it is decidedly Aiken's world too described by her as ‘‘alternate-history fantasies’’ set within the early nineteenth century, this is a wonderful story whose plot, characters and language are as richly woven as the world.
A story about a wicked Marquess' desperate attempt to capture an ancient, golden harp and the town's museum ownership and his grandson's attempts to stop him, as with many of the Wolves Chronicles, we have here a story which respects the past and owes m
Cathode RayTube
Eh, since it's written with a lot of Welsh vocabulary and speech it's kinda hard to zip through this book. I often had to look up how to pronounce things properly which I'm super anal about. haha

Overall though, it was a nice little adventure type book with mystery and humor thrown in. Not sure I will continue reading the series.. it was a little dry for me.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blogged
This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.

I love Joan Aiken's books so much. Every year or so I go on an Aiken kick where I read a bunch of books in her amazing Wolves series. The thing about those books is that they always look so boring from the cover description and synopsis, but are actually amazing books full of humor, terror, mischief, and clever plot twists that make things fun. You always know the young main characters won't come to any real harm, but anyone else is fair g
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
Joan Aiken was always one of my favorites. Her stories are mysterious and a little dark, though not too scary, but exciting and funny, too. The perfect combo for a great middle-grade read. I love her vivid characters and the way they change and the surprising twists and turns of plot.
After reading:
This is a little book, and occasionally more brief than I wanted it to be, but Joan Aiken is a fabulous author with valuable insights into what makes a book for children work. Her knowledge of the his
That indefinable Aiken magic. I enjoyed this book so much, and the cover too, that I decided I will have to collect quality early hardback editions of all of Joan Aiken's books for my collection.

The cover treatment, (similar to Arthur Ransome's original covers for the Swallows & Amazons series but arguably more skilful), illustrates the whole book on the dust jacket. Small interlocking cameo drawings cover the book, and make no sense until you reach the relevant part of the story, although
zomg welsh <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Okay, there are loads of good things about this book. If you've got the accent ability, reading it aloud to kids would possibly be the greatest thing ever. All the different accents of the 19th-century British isles are here and they are almost too fun to bear. The dialogue in this book is its best feature and makes it vastly more awesome than if it were just a good adventure story featuring a harp. I love how you can tell where most of the characters hail
"The Whispering Mountain" is a story that has been with me since I was about ten years old. My local library had an audio play version of it, and I borrowed it so many times I must have blocked many others from ever getting their hands on it. By the time I understood this was actually based on a book, I was three years older and went and bought the book right away (back then, in German; more recently, in English).
I have read and re-read it countless times in the 20+ years since, and it is still
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-ya
This was the fourth book in Aiken's James III sequence, but chronologically, it's a prequel, self-contained and entirely satisfying all on its ownsome. Full of wonderful Welsh dialect and phrases, it's an adventure set in the valleys and mountains and caves around Fig Hat Ben, the Whispering Mountain of the title.

We join the action more or less in full swing. Our hero Owen Hughes is bracing himself for a confrontation with some bullies, but soon has a lot more on his mind as the local Marquess
I found this book on my own shelves but cannot figure out from where it came. It was a winner of the 1969 Guardian Prize for fiction, an annual literary award that recognizes one fiction book written for children or young adults that is published in the United Kingdom.

Overall, it is a delightful romp - Tolkien-influenced but a much quicker read that is appropriate for all ages. I had a bit of a time getting into it due to the writing style, which is peppered with Welsh words for effect. That sai
Jane Irish Nelson
When a golden harp is found near the Welsh town of Pennygaff, it sets off a series of events that have unexpected results. As the museum curator, Mr. Hughes believes he should have custody of the harp, but there are several other claimants, including the Marquess of Malyn, who collects items made of gold.

Young Owen Hughes, Mr. Hughes' grandson decides to run away to sea, since his grandfather doesn't seem to appreciate him, and writes a note for his grandfather. But then two thieves appear to s
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a legendary harp is discovered in a ruined Welsh monastery by his grandfather, young Owen Hughes must brave wild beasts, lost tribes, and desperate men to save the harp from a murderous lord.

This was charming and non-precious YA fantasy. I especially liked the process by which people initially antipathetic toward Owen (his grandfather, his school mates, the universe at large) become his allies. Instead of blinding (and vocalized) character epiphanies, they become grudgingly sympathetic onl
Stacy Renee  (LazyDayLit)
I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult fantasy. A beautiful story and very entertaining. I will admit that the Welsh language used throughout had me confused until I found the 'Glossary of Welsh Words' in the back. Even then I was unsure of how they would sound in real life, but I had no problem at all with the Prince's Scottish brogue. If one knew more of both accents, I imagine it would be very fun for young listeners if someone were to read 'The Whispering Mountain' to them. I, in fact, wish t ...more
Another fun book from Aiken. I am reading the Wolves books in order of publication, so I read this 4th. The edition I read had some editing problems that were enough to be distracting (1996 Tom Doherty). One thing I didn't really understand is why everyone suddenly cared so much about a harp, but it was still a fun adventure. The language might be difficult for middle grade readers, but I think they would really like the story.
Ben Chenoweth
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished reading this out loud to my daughter, Kate. This was one of my all-time favourite books from childhood, and I read it many times growing up. So it was a joy to read it to her (although I am quite certain I made a complete hash of the Welsh scattered throughout) and Kate really enjoyed it too. The plot is action-packed, the characters are interesting, but it's the language that makes this book so good: the thieves' cant is especially enjoyable. Highly recommended!
Katharina Gerlach
Dies Buch war das erste, was ich von Joan Aiken gelesen habe (vor fast 30 Jahren) und ich besitze es heute noch (mit allen anderen Büchern von ihr, die ich kriegen konnte). Absolut lesenswert. Liebevoll gezeichnete Charaktere, wunderschöne Beschreibungen, die einen nicht erschlagen und eine super spannende Geschichte über einen Jungen und seine Freunde, die eine magische Harfe vor einem sehr, sehr bösen Mann retten müssen.
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, y-a
The story is captivating enough to have kept me reading past the pitfalls of excessively clever use of dialect and obscure slang and Aiken's standard dispatch of poor wolves out in the wilderness minding their own business.
I thoroughly enjoyed it; some very striking landscape in this one, and nicely twisted plotting.
Dec 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elementary-age
Aiken + youth lit + Wales = I read this in middle school. Remembering anything about it, other than I liked it, is pretty much impossible. I really need to re-read some Aiken and remember why I loved her work so much as a kid. I also remember that finding Aiken books was a pain in the neck when I was younger. Hopefully she's been re-published a bit now.
Anthony Faber
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the same world as Aiken's Wolves series (listed as Wolves 0 in goodreads). It's an alternate historical novel which "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" tells me is set in an 1830ish Wales where the king is James. Good juvenile, but she uses a smattering of Welsh words (most of which are in a small vocabulary list at the back) and thieves' cant, if that kind of stuff bothers you.
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oops, just reviewed the wrong book here, Piers Torday's The last Wild. I could never give Joan Aiken a mere two stars. The strength of her writing, the resourcefulness of her characters, the humor and language all combine to make for a delightful read. Arabis, with her falcon Hwyc perched atop her head, ranks right up there with Dido Twite in my pantheon of great girl protagonists.
Fun, light read - although not to be read without a functioning brain. The Welsh and Scottish dialect adds great flavor, but could be difficult to those unfamiliar with reading brogue. (Which is why it surprises me that I found it in the juvenile section of my library. My gradeschooler would have a hard time following half of the conversations.)
Emma Woodcock
Could have done with a lot less faux cockney and (I have no idea whether real or made up) Welsh. So many characters spouted so much gibberish that it quickly became quite wearying. Maybe I would have liked it as a kid, but time has not been kind to it.
Kristen Smith
This was another solid adventure by Joan Aiken. Lots of interesting characters. I think that is one of Aiken's strengths--her ability to create memorable characters. And dramatic landscapes/ settings.
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, children
This is a great book for all ages, and delightful to read. It is quite intense and the storyline is not as immediate as one could expect.
I liked it a lot. I think I even cryed at the end a little bit.
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Joan 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 in print for over 50 years with a new AUDIO recorded by her daughter Lizza. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and unforgettable short stories.
NEW COLLECTION 2016 - The People in The Castle https://www.goodread
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)
  • Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)
  • 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)

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“When the Whispering Mountain shall scream aloud
And the castle of Malyn ride on a cloud,
Then Malyn's lord shall have and hold
The lost that is found, the harp of gold.
Then Fig-hat Ben shall wear a shroud,
Then shall the despoiler, that was so proud,
Plunge headlong down from Devil's Leap;
Then shall the Children from darkness creep,
And the men of the glen avoid disaster,
And the Harp of Teirtu find her master.”
More quotes…