Yet another incredible book in this series by Joan Aiken! This one places the focus on Dido Twite, and one of the things that I thought was most enjoyable about this book was seeing Dido grow into the strong, tough-girl from the wretched "brat" in Black Hearts in Battersea. I also thought that there was a lot more humour in this book than the previous three. I guess this book is like the "growth" book. Dido grows into the confident person we see in the later books, and Dutiful Penitence, under Dido's care, also becomes much stronger during the course of this adventure. I guess what I'm saying is that this is the book that makes Dido the mainstay for the rest of the series by showing how she grew stronger and how she helped others grow stronger.
I think it's a funny spoof of the whaling society of Nantucket in the 19th century, and of the Puritanical sort of Quaker types who brought up "Pen". This book introduces several sympathetic, believable, "bang-up" characters, such as Nate, Doc Mayhew, Cap'n Casket and Professor Breadno, and of course, Mr. Jenkins. The plot is wildly fantastical, (and physically impossible, in some parts) but the wonderful storytelling more than makes up for that, and rather sets the scene for the even more eerie and improbable sequels, The Stolen Lake and The Cuckoo Tree. Loads of fun, a must read for kids, and I personally think that adults should read it just to get in touch with the inner child within, etc. etc. READ THIS BOOK!