The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper


Book of the Year 2007 (see all)

Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, October 2013

The Dark is Rising Sequence: Over Sea , Under Stone, The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree

Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, written between 1965 and 1977, is an example of a modern fantasy classic in the vein of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Lewis's Narnia Chronicles, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, and Rowling's Potter series. Culling British and Celtic folklore and mythology for inspiration, as well as her own fertile imagination, Cooper has given us a robust series of truly epic proportions

The first in the sequence, Over Sea, Under Stone, follows the adventures of Simon, Barney, and Jane on holiday in Cornwall. It is there, in the attic of the grey house, that they find an ancient clue that will point them the way to recovering one of the legendary Arthurian relics, the Holy Grail. Against them are arrayed the powers of the Dark, determined to prevent its discovery. The second book, perhaps the best known, The Dark is Rising, is the best of the sequence, a masterful tale of Will Stanton's rise to becoming a warrior for the Light. It was made into an absolutely abysmal film that should be avoided at all costs. The third and shortest book, Greenwitch, brings Jane, Barney and Simon together with Will against the dark. Book four, The Grey King, set in Wales, is as grey and atmospheric as is Wales itself, pitting Will and his friend Bran against the powers of the Grey King. The final book in the sequence, Silver on the Tree, transcends epic fantasy into the realm of grandiose myth and is one of the stranger - and better - books in the sequence.

Cooper is a natural storyteller, and all five novels grip the reader tightly, helped in this with copious amounts of mythology and spectacular prose. The prose of the second book in the series, The Dark is Rising, is some of the best I've read in its genre. The sequence is an absolute classic, and should be required reading for children between the ages of seven and fifteen. Those who are older who haven't read them yet are really missing out on something wonderful. Highly recommended.

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