Skip to main content

The Dark is Rising

I had one major reading goal this year and that was to read The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I never had. I know. It was this huge blight on my record. It is there no longer I have now read all five books. In one day. It was an interesting, but slightly disappointing experience. Yes. I said it. I was disappointed. Only slightly though. For the most part I enjoyed it. Especially books 2 and 4.

As I began reading book one I was delighted. I love a good sibling story and this was most definitely a good sibling story. Over Sea, Under Stone follows the adventures of the three Drew children Simon, Jane, and Barney during their summer holiday in Cornwall. They are staying an old house with their mysterious "great uncle". They find an old map while exploring the house that leads to an artifact from the days of King Arthur, but there are forces at work that want the artifact for their own nefarious purposes.  Exploring old houses. Mysterious relations. Treasure hunts. Sibling squabbling (with love). Arthurian legend. Fights between the forces of Light and Dark. All things I love, and love this book I did. The plot has plenty of action and the way the Drew parents were removed from the vicinity of their adventuring children was realistic.  (And nobody had to die.) This book I think is the most fun of the five. The stakes aren't quite as high as in the others, but they are high enough and the villains are menacing enough, to give it a slight edge of danger.

I was even more delighted with book two, The Dark is Rising. Taking place over the Christmas holidays, this book follows the adventures of a new character, Will Stanton. (We will talk more about Will. Oh yes we will.) And much to my delight he also has tons of siblings. And parents too. Although they are woefully oblivious to their youngest son's actions, but that is not their fault. Will is special. He is the seventh son of a seventh son and they are always going to attract trouble. He is an Old One charged with fighting the rising Dark for the forces of Light. He comes into his destiny on his 11th birthday. The book takes place over two short weeks and so much happens. The reader needs to be alert. Cooper is one of those authors who sends her readers off into her book with little explanation and expects them to keep up. Will is a character you will want to keep up with though and I thought Cooper did an excellent job capturing the contrast between his child self and his ageless self. The stakes in this book are higher. The forces of the Dark more menacing. The sense of urgency stronger. All those things definitely made me feel closer to Will.

Greenwitch is the shortest of the five books and probably the one I enjoyed the least. In this volume the Drew siblings are called upon to help the Light again and meet Will Stanton for the first time, much to their dismay. One can understand this as they were the heroes and now they find there is some kid their age running around with powers like their Uncle Merry. Even by the end of the book Jane is the only one who seems to have really warmed to him. I felt in many ways this was a rehashing of book one. Same setting. Similar quest. Far less perilous. The forces of the Dark are less active in this story than in the first one even. That may have been Cooper giving her audience a break before slamming them with book four. This is definitely a book meant to bridge the first half of the sequence with the second.

The Grey King won a Cooper a Newbery award and is definitely the most intense of the five books. Will is in Wales convalescing (supposedly) after a bout of hepatitis. While he was very sick he is also in Wales to begin the quest that brings to a head the battle raging between the Light and Dark. To do this he needs the assistance of a local boy named Bran, a boy who is not entirely normal himself. I have never been to Wales but after reading this book I feel like I have. Cooper's descriptions of the setting are vivid and depict a beautiful and eerie place, picturesque and deadly at the same time. I loved how she blended the modern and the ancient as well. With mentions of phones and Land Rovers there was always a reminder that this wasn't a story of a time long ago, but it is at the same time. In this volume the Arthurian element takes center stage and becomes the heart of the story. Again, there is a lot of adventure to be had and quite a lot going on. The Dark is as menacing and cruel as it has been yet. There is tragedy and heartache. I felt for Will quite a lot, but feel that was because I already liked him. I never really felt like I had a good enough knowledge of Bran's character. I think this is because of the plot centric story.The plot is really well done, paced perfectly and with a climax that is harrowing and satisfying. All of the secrets are revealed at the perfect times and places. It is not difficult to see how it came to win that Newbery.

If I hadn't been so impressed with book four would I have been as disappointed by book five? Would it have happened if I hadn't read them back to back? I think so, but it probably wouldn't have been as strong. The Silver Tree has all of our heroes coming together in Wales to gain the sword they need to fulfill the prophecy and come to the confrontation with the Dark. I couldn't help shaking the feeling there was more going on plotwise than was necessary. Like things were being dragged out for no real narrative purpose other than to not end it. This was really annoying and I was sad by how annoyed I was given that I had found the pacing and execution of the plot in the other books to be their greatest strength. I also felt that Cooper's authorial voice intruded in this story more than in the others. And the end. I am not going to say more than I was so irritated by it. So irritated. 

I would definitely recommend them to lovers of high fantasy and Arthurian legend. If like me you haven't read them yet for whatever reason, you definitely should. Maybe not all in the same day. Overall I really enjoyed the experience. It is an adventurous and perilous tale of good versus evil, and the evil is most soundly trounced. That is always a good thing.

Comments

Betsy said…
Great review! yes--you're right--maybe reading them all in the same day set you up for more disappointment? I don't know. I read them over the course of a few weeks/months and just remember enjoying the series--especially the same ones you did.
Brandy said…
It was really the way it ended. When I was in the midst of it I was loving it.

Popular posts from this blog

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Favorite Kissing Scenes

When thinking of a favorite things post I could do for February I decided it would have to be kissing. I've already done couples and I was feeling in the mood to do something fluffy and Valentine's related. So kisses it is. I read more MG than YA, and the YA I read tends to not focus on romance so this was actually harder than I expected it to be though a few jumped into my head right away. (And one of my choices does actually come from a MG book. One is adult. Gasp!) The actual scene from the book is quoted followed by my thoughts. The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and a groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day . - The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Turner doesn't write the

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein

Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper  by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One. Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a

YA Book GIVEAWAY!!!

On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the YA giveaway. This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free . Book Choices: TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me, @brandymuses , in case I need to DM you.) Entries after Monday, July 1 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn as close to 8 as possible.  Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.