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The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  437 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Here is the whisper in the night, the dog whose loyalty outlasted death, the creak upstairs, the half-remembered ghost story that won't let you sleep, the sound that raises gooseflesh, the wish you'd checked the lock on the door before dark fell. Here are tales of suspense and the supernatural that will chill, amuse, and exhilarate.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Small Beer Press (first published January 12th 2016)
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3.81  · 
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 ·  437 ratings  ·  90 reviews


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Book Riot Community
Joan Aiken stories handpicked by Small Beer Press and Aiken's daughter and with an introduction by Kelly Link?!! I couldn't read this fast enough! Aiken, probably best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, wrote over 100 books, including 28 story collections. HOLY CATS. These selected stories are wildly inventive, fantastical, and funny, and certainly for fans of Link. I am so delighted this exists.


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Rachel (Kalanadi)
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: collections
I feel like most of these stories had an undercurrent I didn't quite grasp... and that was part of the charm. Favorites: "A Leg Full of Rubies", "A Portable Elephant", "A Room Full of Leaves", "Humblepuppy", "Listening", "The Cold Flame", "The Last Specimen", and "Watkyn, Comma".
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I bailed 50% of the way in, because by that point I was hate-reading and that's a bloody waste of time.

Out of the 10.3 stories I read, I only really liked one, "Listening," a quirky, rich tale about art and passion and cats that was a work of art itself. Not one of the others here measured up, and several just angered me the way only unsatisfying fiction can do.
Nancy
I loved these short stories! They all felt timeless, like a fairy tale, but yet they somehow felt quite modern at the same time. They all had a slight twist at the end, slightly unnerving, a little unexpected, never truly sinister or suspenseful. But yet they are quite compelling. I can totally see Ms. Aiken becoming one of my new favorite authors.
Kirsty
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh, Joan. How strange your stories are. How quotable your prose. How unique your worlds. How little the stories make sense, and how little sense seems to matter.

This book isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it's definitely mine.
Cmoore
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a good story... and the fact that LeVar Burton read it made it all the better...
Alison C
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"The People in the Castle" is a collection of previously published short stories by Joan Aiken, dating between 1955 and 1990. The stories range from fantasy to horror to science fiction, from whimsical (“A Room Full of Leaves,” “Humblepuppy”) to scary (“The Cold Flame”) to mythology-based (“The Lame King”) to very funny indeed (“A Portable Elephant”) - in short, an absolutely delightful collection of imaginative and inventive tales from a
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Jen
Aug 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-freebie
Levar Burton Reads podcast offering.

His choices are ALL over the place. This one, I just didn't get. I didn't like any of the characters, all were either weak or, quite literally in the case of the female, a b*tch who couldn't control her temper, who got it from both her mother and her father.

At first I didn't get why the chick was going to purposefully piss off a werewolf who had no control over his temper. (I also didn't get why someone that dangerous was allowed to roam free, even with a car
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Laurie
I'm embarrassed to say this is my introduction to the work of Joan Aiken and I now know just how much my childhood was lacking. These are delicious, delirious, dangerous, dark tales that spring from the well of dreams and fables, fairy tales and deeply buried fears. Checked this out from the local library and will be purchasing for my home library; that just how good these stores are.
Charles Dee Mitchell
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, slipstream
Is it possible to review a book of Joan Aiken short stories without using a variation on the phrase, "endlessly creative"?

Apparently not.
David
Jun 15, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy, collections
I dare you to read the first page of the first story and not become so charmed you'll want to immediately buy a copy ASAP. Enchanting, Clever and Highly Original.
Pghbekka
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of Joan Aiken's stories.
Charlotte
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I have the bulk of the old Puffin anthologies, and so wasn't sure how many of the stories would be new to me; happily, the bulk of them were and were very good!
Jenne
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Joan Aiken has this way of writing just the sort of words you would like to read, very satisfying and cozy, but also putting them together in such an unexpected way that it's disorienting and even upsetting...while still cozy.
Lisa of LaCreeperie
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 actually. These are indeed strange stories, with a few of them being quite intriguing. Overall, I'm not sure it's a good representation of Joan Aiken's work, but I haven't yet read enough of her books to know. However, I enjoy her writing style enough to say I am going to find out.
Sue
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a great collection of dark stories from Ms. Aiken. She has long been a favorite of mine, and has the same eerie quality to her stories as does Shirley Jackson. You start out on one path of plot, only to suddenly find yourself somewhere else entirely, as the world tilts a bit off kilter and becomes fey and frightening. This is the second volume of collected stories of Ms. Aiken's work published by Small Beer Press. They're beautiful books, both in appearance and content. Highly recommended.
Cis Hinkle
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
My first encounter with Joan Aiken - I'll definitely look for more. Felt like reading grown-up fairy tales, with a sense of humor.
Chrysten Lofton
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5⭐ Wake Not A Sleeping Wolf! Folktale Delight
**Spoilers**


Rapid review! Gotta go quick! I been slacking, and I think I have 11 minutes to write and post this bad boy. If you’re a follower, you probably noticed I am FALLING BEHIND. Busy life this March, so sorry friends. On this, the eighteenth episode of LeVar Burton Reads, we’re gifted with “Furry Night” by Joan Aiken.

So, this one actually took me a while to get through. I really liked it, but I don’t know if it was just the reading or the
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Mahak
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The stories presented within this collection were certainly entertaining and unique and I found myself retelling them to my aunt who's a big fan of the genre herself.
One thing which did cross both our minds was that had these been superimposed into movies or tiny episodes-they'd definitely be worth watching so there was substance in each.

I highly recommend this for a younger audience. :)
Amy
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an uneven collection, but the stories that worked more than made up for those that didn't. I sure wish Small Beer Press had hired a proofreader before issuing this, though. Tons of typos.
Leslie Gonzalez
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you like Angela Carter, you will like Joan Aiken. Not as detailed and rich, but is imaginative and original. I recommend this collection 100%
Emma
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, podcast
A lovely Old Fashioned tale from the Author of the Wolves of Willoughby Chase!!
Fun, fun fun and the language is Glorious!!
Joann
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved many of these stories although not all. My favorite by far was Humblepuppy. Totally unforgettable.
Janet
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Vintage Joan Aiken. If you like your world a little off-kilter, she is the author for you.
Artur Nowrot
A delightful collection of weird stories that I will be coming back to from time to time.
Leah
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Highly entertaining, imaginative, slightly child-oriented stories that easily sit alongside Connie Willis and Susanna Clarke.
Nancy
The short story "Furry Night" in this book collection borrowed liberally from folk tales and fairy tales, with a werewolf who meets his match. Sir Murdoch, a lycanthropist and famous theatre actor, plans to retire to his English estate. He employs a personal valet to combat his well-known anger which turns him into a werewolf. This young man is to inject Murdoch with wolf's bane to turn him back into human form, but even with this precaution, there is worry that Murdoch will wolf-out as he is up ...more
Jeff
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Splendid short stories by one of the best storytellers and English stylists I’ve ever read. Aiken has the knack of pulling you into an intriguing mystery without resorting to mere gimmicks or melodrama. The tales are good-natured even when sinister, uplifting even when cynical.

Almost every story is good, but I don’t think I quite grasped “Hope” or “The Lame King.” “Sonata for Harp and Bicycle” and “The Dark Streets of Kimball’s Green” were particular favorites.

None of these are horror stories, t
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Katherine
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't read many short stories, but I was intrigued by these because Joan Aiken was compared in one blurb to Susanna Clarke. I really enjoyed them. Aiken's writing style is beautiful, and she fills her stories chalk-full of fantastical imagery -- ghostly kings, massive trees full of hiding places, wise animals, haunted forests. They're a lot of fun. I didn't always feel satisfied, but I think that's how the experience of reading short stories is supposed to be. My favorites were "Some Music for ...more
Cecily Robertson
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
3.6 stars. A pleasant surprise from The Strand's fiction box. I read a story a night, right before bed, and I'd highly recommend doing the same if you pick this up. These little stories are indeed strange, and Aiken is incredibly skilled at creating unique little worlds that fit nicely inside eleven pages of prose. Many times while reading this I was reminded of reading Bruce Coville's A Glory of Unicorns as a kid. The stories are haunting, yet somehow childish enough that they feel . . . sweet? ...more
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Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and short stories.

She was born in Rye, East Sussex, into a family of writers, including her father, Conrad Aiken (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry), and her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge. She worked for the United Nations Information Offi
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