Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review - The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

Short review: Will Stanton is one of the Old Ones who stands against the darkness. The trouble is, he is only eleven years old.

Four Things of Power
Must be found to aid the Light
By a seventh son

Full review: The Dark Is Rising is the second book in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence. In this book, the series moves away from the Drew children who had been featured in Over Sea, Under Stone, and introduces Will Stanton, an eleven year old boy just discovering that he has supernatural powers, and a burden to take up an age-old fight on the side of Light against the Dark.

The story is a combination coming-of-age story, as Stanton adjusts to his new status, new powers, and the new threats to his safety (and the safety of those around him), and a quest story, as Stanton is sent to recover pieces of a powerful artifact that the Light needs to combat a new threat from the Dark. The book is loaded with references to English folklore and Arthurian myth, and part of the fun of reading the story as an adult is seeing how many of these you can spot.

The Dark Is Rising is a superlative young adult book, which, I suspect, is why it was recognized with a Newbery Honor, and why it has endured for more than thirty years while many other young adult books published contemporaneously have been cast into the dustbin of obscurity. The book suffers from a problem I have found common in young adult fiction in that the adult characters seem to be stiff and uninteresting, while the younger characters are well developed and shine, but the story still flows well enough that this can be overlooked without too much trouble.

The story of this book is, to a great extent, the central story of the entire series of books, and, like all of the books in Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, it is quite good.

Previous book in the series: Over Sea, Under Stone
Subsequent book in the series: Greenwitch

1974 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

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