Cover image for Dangerous games
Dangerous games
Aiken, Joan, 1924-2004.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
251 pages ; 22 cm
Her mission to bring an expert on games back to an ailing King James III in London takes Dido Twite to a small tropical island, where she is caught up in the conflict between a conniving city dweller and the more subtle powers of the native forest people.
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.0 10.0 36695.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.2 16 Quiz: 21517 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



This eagerly awaited addition to Joan Aiken's award-winning Wolves series takes us on Dido's most imaginative adventure yet! Dido Twite has been sailing the high seas, chasing after Lord Herodsfoot, who is scouring the globe for new and interesting games. Now he's needed back in London, in the hope that his games will help King James, who is lying ill and wretched with a mysterious disease no doctor can cure. Dido's search has taken her to Aratu, a mysterious spice island where foreigners seldom venture--maybe because of the deadly pearl snakes and sting monkeys there. When Dido lands at Aratu, she realizes that there is something even more dangerous than poisonous snakes on the island. She soon makes friends among the Forest People and learns of a plot to overthrow the island's king, who lives--deaf and sick--at his palace on the Cliffs of Death. Will Dido and her friends be able to reach him in time?

Author Notes

Joan Delano Aiken was born in Rye, Sussex, England, on September 4, 1924, the daughter of the Pulitzer Prize winner, writer Conrad Aiken. She was raised in a rural area and home schooled by her mother until the age 12. She then attended Wychwood School, a boarding school in Oxford. Her work first appeared in 1941 when the British Broadcasting Corporation, where she worked as a librarian, broadcast some of her short stories on their Children's Hour program.

Aiken also worked at St. Thomas's Hospital, and in 1943 she moved to the reference department of the London office of the United Nations, where she collected information about resistance movements. She worked for the UN until 1949, all the while continuing to write stories. In 1953 a collection of short fiction called All You've Ever Wanted and Other Stories was published. While writing The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, begun in 1952, her husband became ill and died of lung cancer in 1955. After working for five years as a copy editor at Argosy Magazine, and at the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Firm, she returned and finished the book in 1963. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was made into a successful film in 1988. In 1969 The Whispering Mountain won the Guardian Children's Book Award, and in 1972, Night Fall won America's Edgar Allen Poe Award for juvenile mystery.

Aiken is best known for her adult "fantasy" stories. She has received awards for children's fiction and for mystery fiction, and has also written ''sequels'' to Jane Austen books. She collaborated with her daughter to write many episodes of her Arabel and Mortimer the raven series for the BBC. In all, Aiken wrote 92 novels - including 27 for adults - as well as plays, poems and short stories, although she was best known as a writer of children's stories.

Joan Aiken died in January of 2004 at the age of 79.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. England's King James is ailing, and it's up to Dido Twite to find the wandering Lord Herodsfoot, whose knowledge of rare games might cheer up the languishing ruler. Her quest takes her to Aratu, an exotic spice island with a history of rare, unusual games. But her search for the nobleman uncovers political strife, warring factions, and a sinister plot that threatens the life of Aratu's own king. With the aid of forest dwellers Tylo and Yorka, and of the mysterious Dr. Talisman, Dido must engage in often deadly games of wit and skill in which there may be no winners. Few authors share Aiken's gifts of imagination, and Aratu is fascinating, with an intricately crafted history, colorful characters, and distinctive cultures, languages, and myths. Despite a somewhat slow start, as Aiken brings readers up to date on Dido's recent activities, the skillful plot twists, suspense, and drama tempered with humor will quickly win reader engagement. On a deeper level, the conflict between city dwellers and native forest people provides a thought-provoking case for ecological awareness and responsibility. Although Dido remains a strong, pivotal character, this adventure's focal point is Aiken's imagination. An engrossing read, sure to satisfy fans of the Wolves Chronicles, and gain new ones. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-The irrepressible Dido Twite, who began her rollicking adventures in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Yearling, 1987), is still roaming the high seas and trying to get back to Battersea, but now she has been called upon to chase down Lord Herodsfoot, who is wandering the world looking for interesting games. The nobleman is needed in London, where King Jamie III is languishing with a mysterious disease. The chase takes Dido and her comrades to Aratu, a remote tropical spice island inhabited by deadly pearl snakes, sting monkeys, and 30-foot crocodiles, as well as the Dilendi or Forest People, who are healers with magical powers, and the Angrians, invaders who drove them from their homes 400 years before. Traveling with Dido is Dr. Talisman, who was born on the island to the king and his wife 20 years earlier, and thrown off the Cliff of Death at the age of 5 by a jealous uncle aspiring to the throne. Dido and her friends uncover a new plot to overthrow the monarch and race against time to thwart the uncle anew. Aiken is particularly adept at that pivotal and powerful ingredient of good fantasy: the creation of place. The tumultuous weather, dramatic landscape, and evidence of games throughout the terrain create a land that is both physically real and wildly imaginative. Many plot lines, multiple characters, an intriguing vocabulary (particularly Dido's dialect), and clever lampoons of contemporary society make this book challenging and more appropriate for competent readers or as a read-aloud. At the end, Dido sails off again, hoping to reach London and home, but the way is certainly left open for the chronicles to continue.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.