And this is only the beginning of the peril, Will. Through all this midwinter season their power will be waxing very strong, with the Old Magic able to keep it at a distance only on Christmas Eve. And then past Christmas it will grow, not losing its high force until Twelfth Day, the Twelfth Night – which once was Christmas Day, and once before that, long ago, was the high winter festival of our old year.
The Dark is Rising, the second book in the sequence of the same title, introduces a new protagonist. The story opens on Midwinter’s Eve, a day before Will Stanton’s eleventh birthday. Will is a seemingly ordinary child, one of nine children in a happy family. However, his eleventh Midwinter brings him an unexpected revelation about himself. He meets a man by the name of Merryman Lyon who tells him he has a role to play in the struggle between the forces of the Light and the Dark. In the middle of the worst snowstorm seen in years, he will have to keep his family, his village, and the world at large safe from the Dark.
I’m so glad I read this around Midwinter and Christmas. It really couldn’t have fitted the mood of this time of the year better. The Dark is Rising is much darker than the first book in the sequence, Over Sea, Under Stone. I think my favourite thing about it was how well it evoked the wintertime mood, as well as this feeling of…ancientness. Of things much older and stronger than we are, things that make humans feel helpless and small. Like a merciless winter.
I also love Susan Cooper’s use of mythology and folklore. The story is full of little bits of lore – the Wild Hunt, the Hunting of the Wren, and of course, Arthurian myth. They all add to the incredibly cool mood I was telling you about.
And plus, Will Stanton is such a great character. I now completely understand Fyrefly’s crush on him. You’d think that a child who is simultaneously immensely old would be difficult to pull off, but Will never ceases to be fully believable – both as a little boy and as something more.
The Dark is Rising is my favourite book in the sequence so far. And although I also expect the others to be good, I’ll be surprised if any of them manage to surpass it.
On to Greenwitch:
As Jane looked at the huge image that they had made, out of leaves and branches, she could not understand their lightness. For she knew suddenly, out there in the cold dawn, that this silent image somehow held within it more power than she had ever sensed before in any creature or anything. Thunder and storms and earthquakes were there, and all the force of the earth and the sea. It was outside Time, boundless, ageless, beyond any line drawn between good and evil. Jane stared at it, horrified, and from its sightless head the Greenwitch stared back. It would not move, or seem to come alive, she knew that. Her horror came not from fear, but from the awareness she suddenly felt from the image of an appalling, endless loneliness. Great power was held only in great isolation. Looking at the Greenwitch, she felt a terrible awe, and a kind of pity as well.This book takes us back to Cornwall, the setting of the first book, and it also reintroduces its protagonists, the Drew children. Will is still here, though, as is of course Merryman.
Greenwitch is the shortest book in the series, and what happens in it feels more like a prelude of things to come. But by this I don’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
My favourite thing about it was the whole making of the Greenwitch ritual, which was just incredibly cool. Though quite different from The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch actually gave me a similar feeling. Again we have nature as something ancient and awe-inspiring. This time, that feeling is transmitted now my winter, but by the sea.
The sea, or the sound of the sea, is always in the background, and it feels a little menacing. It’s not that it’s dark or hostile, but it’s not welcoming either. It just is. It’s there, it’s large and it’s older than we are.
While Greenwitch didn’t do as much as its predecessor in terms of moving the plot forwards, we do get quite a bit of character development, especially when it comes to the Drew children. I liked Jane in this book even more than in the first one. She’s sensible and compassionate, and this actually ends up being essential to the plot.
So, only The Grey King and Silver On The Tree left to go. I can tell that this is going to be one of those series I really miss once I finish them.
Epiphany (The Dark is Rising)
Working Title (The Dark is Rising)
Working Title (Greenwitch)
Words by Annie (The Dark is Rising)
Words by Annie (Greenwitch)
Saving My Sanity (Greenwitch)
You Can Never Have Too Many Books
Once Upon a Bookshelf
The Emerald City Book Review
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
On a completely unrelated note:
Sir Terrence of Pratchett: Knight of Awesome