Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dark Is Rising Sequence

I’ve been reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. Finished the fifth and final book, Silver On The Tree last night. They are delightful books, vaguely Arthurian (and I’m a pushover for anything Arthurian, however vaguely), wholly delightful Fantasy Adventure novels.

Two of the books are set in Cornwall, two in Wales and one in the author’s native Buckinghamshire, which is where I lived during my three years in England. Five children are brought together over the course of the sequence, under the direction of Prof. Merriman Lion, to help him in his long fight against the Dark. It very soon becomes clear that Great Uncle Merry is rather more than he seems, and by the end, all the children know him for who he really is, and they understand exactly what he is fighting.

The charm of these books lies not only in the “magic,” and the ancient lore, most of it Celtic, Cooper weaves into the narrative, but also in her descriptions of landscapes and of ordinary life, especially family life. The people and places are vividly drawn. Though I’ve never been to Wales, I could see the mountainsides with their granite outcrops and hear the baahing of the sheep and the high call of the curlews. Though I’ve never been to Cornwall, I could see the grassy headlands and the golden sanded beaches. The characters, too, are well drawn. They are individuals, each doing what is appropriate for him or her. The reader understands them and cares about what happens to them.

And, quite a lot happens to them during the course of the sequence, both in the here and now and in other times and other places, some of which are historical, some out of the mists of legend.

The NLS notice on each book says, “For grades four through seven and older readers. I don’t hesitate to recommend them to readers of all ages.

The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Over Sea, Under Stone
The Dark Is Rising
The Grey King
Silver On The Tree

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