The Dark is Rising

Another of my favorite series of books as a kid, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence pairs well with both Weirdstone (and all of Garner’s work) and Prydain—it’s concerned with dual natures, the weight of responsibility, coming of age, the mythic landscape of pagan Britain, King Arthur, Welsh mythology and more.

The first novel, Over Sea, Under Stone (1965) is sort of an outlier, written earlier and in the style of a fairly standard children’s mystery in which the Drew siblings—Simon, Jane and Barney—unravel riddles to find something like a grail for someone who seems a lot like Merlin. The supernaturalism rises dramatically in The Dark is Rising (1973), in which 7th son of a 7th son Will Stanton comes into his power and thwarts the first moves of the Dark Rider in what will be the final battle between Light and Dark. Greenwitch (1974) returns to Cornwall and introduces the Drews to Will. Jane takes center stage here, communing with the titular entity, created each year in a folk ritual. It’s almost my favorite of the books, but that honor goes to The Grey King (1975) in which Will vacations in Wales and confronts a terrifying Power that lives in its mountains (this book feels very paired with Garner’s The Owl Service, 1967).

The Silver on the Tree (1977) has all the children and wraps up the battle decisively. The battle is a bit besides the point — it was prophesied the entire time that the Light would win. Rather, its about the journey. When all is said and done, the world is free to make its own way without the interference of cosmic forces and, cruelly, the children forget their magical adventure. Not me, though.

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