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There is a vast difference between the first two books in this series. I see a decade passed between their publishing dates, as well. If The Dark is Rising is a young adult book, then Over Sea, Under Stone is a children's book. Not only is the second one a darker more sophisticated tale, the language/imagery and even the allusions to the balance/never ending battle between light & dark are much more evolved.
As a woman who has spent a bit of time attempting to rediscover my Irish-Scot/Celtic-Druid roots I really enjoyed the allusions to the beliefs that held sway over the British Isles before the spread of Christianity.
I could not agree more! Cooper does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to Will Stanton's world in The Dark is Rising. I felt like I there with Will while I was reading. I loved this book.
Hear, hear. Actually... this book, read freshman year in college, brought those beliefs to me in a way which triggered my first deep investigation into my Celtic roots. This is a reason I shared this book with our group. To show you all the book that started my search. :)
To me, as someone living in the UK, these seemed perfectly normal, everywhere you go there are Herne's oaks or stone circles or at least standing stones and boundary markers. As mentioned later in the series Arthur's horseprint is so common, he'd have had to have spent his entire life riding around the UK leaving his mark, if they were all true. A bit of an exageration maybe, but not much.
DIR is very different from OSUS, in some respects though I found OSUS more believable, 11 seems a very very young age to be invested with magical powers, whereas anybody could find a map in an old house. Will certainly is a "old" 11, though this is always the case with youngest children.
(Hope I've remembered his age correctly, this is all from my memory o the last time I read this).
The re-occuring theme of the series is highlighted very strongly in this book, people of all kinds are only human, everybody has faults, but mistakes can always be forgiven.
I had prepared a mental list of other 11 year olds who came into their real roles at that age ... but these days mental lists are, you know, like, totally unreliable. :D :D
Anyone?? More 11 year olds in literature? Was "Wart" 11 in White's Sword in the Stone, for example? I know there are more. I had a mental list.
Or was I just mental? ;-)
But it does focus on him, and him alone.
I very much enjoyed the experience of reading DiR. Thanks to all of you who insisted that we should read this :-)
Right now I haven't got the time to elaborate on my experience, though - I hope I get it tomorrow... It has been hard going reading the backlog building up while I've been busy workning and now it's time for me to say good night!
Bye bye, see you later!
On DiR > Even though my acquaintance with the english countryside is mainly derived from watching english TV series (Midsumer Murders are very popular in Sweden, as are Silent Witness) showing a very romanticized OR bleak version of it the book made me feel like I knew the surroundings.
All in all it felt better composed and better written than the first book; now I want to know how it will end, and if the rest is as well written or nor doesn't matter at this stage (if there's a downsurge in quality I may change my mind, but I leave that for later).
So far I agree with those who've said that the third book wasn't as good as the second. The characters missed in depth and personally I feel that the whole concept of the Green witch and the Wild magic is somewhat weak.
Maybe she thought that the characters could live on by theirselves, on steam gained in the previous books but I get the feeling of a big freighter ship no longer under steam, still moving but not much longer.
Still, I want to know how the story ends, and this far The Grey King seems like a story better told.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to finish the series due to other book club commitments! Maybe some later time? In any case, thanks for making book 2 the requirement!
To begin with, I have sort of a history with The Dark Is Rising, both the individual book and the sequence as a whole. I first read them when I was eight, and I fell completely in love with them. I read them at least twice when I was younger, (perhaps as many as three or four times; it was about fifteen years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy), and I considered them among my favourite books. I had the prophetic poem memorized, I used to discuss all the mythological elements with my friends, and I desperately wanted to be an Old One. The books really struck a chord with me; I could relate to Will, and his story really meant something to me.
A couple of years ago, I decided to reread them all. It had been a while, (at least ten years; probably more), and I was really looking forward to going back over the series. I read Over Sea, Under Stone in its entirity, and was less than impressed. It didn't do much for me. I made it about halfway through The Dark is Rising before deciding it just wasn't worth it. I abandoned the book and gave my copies away.
I hadn't initially intended to participate in this group read, given what happened the last time, but I found a cheap copy of The Dark is Rising at a book sale last week, so I figured I'd give it a go. While I finished it this time, it still didn't really do anything for me. I wouldn't say it was a bad book. I finished it this time around, and I agree that it has merit. It's a very sophisticated book that works with a lot of interesting issues like free will, familial commitment, the role the past plays in modern life, the flexibility of time, etc. On an intellectual level, I found it enjoyable, but it did almost nothing for me on an emotional level. I just didn't feel it and, though there are some notabe exceptions, (including American Gods), I have to have an emotional involvement in a book in order for it to really mean something to me.
I think it might be an age thing. I was thinking about it last night, and when I was younger I felt like I could relate to Will because I had a different impression of eleven year-olds. As I mentioned, I was eight when I first read the book; eleven year-olds were still Big Kids to me, but they were Big Kids who were close enough to my own age that I could actively put myself in their shoes. I could see myself turning eleven and doing the sorts of fantastic, otherworldly things that Will does. I could transpose my own predicted reactions onto Will's. Now that I've actually been eleven and thus have a slightly different view of eleven year-olds, I had more difficulty putting myself in his shoes.
The odd thing, though, is that I still get a big kick out of other books I read around the same time. I still react to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Chronicles of Prydain on a very emotional level, and I enjoy new books I come across with characters in the same age bracket. I don't know. I've been trying to work out just what it is, and I think the emotional distance is the key thing here. I never really got involved, and I can't tell you exactly why. Evidently other people did, and I'm sure it isn't entirely an age thing as many of you are at least as old as I am. I don't think it was anything the author did, either, as it seems evident to me that she poured a lot of love into the story. I think it's probably just a personal preference thing. Her method of characterization didn't quite jive with me.
That said, I did appreciate the story. My favourite thing about it was that it was something of an unconventional quest. Will never really sets out in search of the Signs; they all come to him, more or less. He does journey a short ways, but he always stays very close to home and close to his family. I found that interesting. Everywhere he goes is somewhere familiar, even the spaces outside of time.
And man, that was long. Sorry. I've been trying to think about the book critically, and it seems to have led to quite a diatribe. I'm not sure how much sense it made, either. Hmm.
Earlier, it was discussed that being 11 seems a popular age to discover that one has other-worldly powers of some sort. I wasn't familiar with many of the examples, but I have read the HP books. For some reason, I can connect with Harry much better than I can connect with Will. Your post got me thinking about why that is the case. For me, it seems to be a matter of maturity, perhaps because of the times the books were written. Will seems very child-like to me. I taught 11-year olds last year, and he is very immature compared to them (not that that's a bad thing). Harry is much more experienced and mature, if you will. Since I teach middle school, I read a lot of YA books, and I usually don't have a hard time identifying with the characters on some level, even though they are so much younger than I. Perhaps the incredible amount of innocence on Will's part makes it harder to connect with him.
Of course, to muddy the issue, I was 11 in 1972; the book was published in 1973, so maybe I should be able to appreciate Will more. Maybe I haven't explained anything at all!
The biggest difference is that Will has been loved and protected from the ugly realities of the real world by his family. Harry has had neither the love nor the protection, unless you call being locked up in a closet much of the time a form of protection.
xicanti, I had a similar experience to yours when I attempted to read the first of the Prydain books to my daughter a few years ago. After a dew dozen pages neither one of us was enjoying it. :o/ After Harry it just seemed so dry and gracelessly wordy. I'll have to try again some day. Maybe it was the fact that she kept yawning that ruined the experience for me. LOL
No. Do I find the events probable? No. Do I get sucked into the pages? Yes.
Sometimes I wonder if analyzing the book adds anything extra... Some books are meant to be analyzed. Think of Sartre or Camus or Bulgakov (Master and Margarita, touchstones way off!) - trying to say something about the world and about humanity.
But some books are written as entertainment or as puzzles or to tickle the imagination. I'm an empath (not the Star Trek way, mind you, I'm no Deanna Troy *hehe*) and I'm wildly curious. I have a hard time reading books where the protagonists ends up dead or sick or crippled or without having reached their goals; I feel their losses as they're my own. Also, I always want to know what will happen next. If it's stated that the series of quests are N in number, then I want to know what the quests are.
As a result a book like Flowers for Algernon still sits unread on my shelf; I just can't bring myself around to read it. Around us the world gets all awry; people killing one another ower belief or money, scientists gets corrupted, kids are abused - you know what I mean.
To read a sequence like TDiR then is a kind of relief, to escape into a improbable adventure, knowing it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. If you like it or not then I think is more about if you enjoy the particular style of the author than anything else - her way of portraying the archetypes, of how she sketches the setting, her phrasing, etc.
Maybe I look at it this way because I lack in the Celtic roots department ;-) and maybe it's because I'm deaf to linguistic nuances when the language's not my own (please, no more accolades concerning my language skills! please observe that I wrote nuances, which is sometimes hard to distinguish even when reading in ones' own language...). But this is the way I feel about it.
At least right now ;-)
Some actually improve as you age. Some obviously do not.
I have decided to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride, so to speak. Yes, there are some unexplored connections to King Arthur and Camelot (at least so far)... and the Celtic ceremonies (if that is what they are) seem a little too pagan even for the 1960s. But I am willing to learn about the world Susan Cooper is creating along with Will and the Drews... we are all a bit immature all through our lives. Perhaps a small celebration for immaturity is OK?
I'm not saying I think Will is dull, or even childish. I have an 11 year old son., and some of his more childish behavior is his most charming. Granted we live worlds away from Will's home and time, but I like to think my son is more savvy than Will, while still retaining his innocence.
I'm sure I'm not making much sense...
By the way, I really enjoyed this book, Sabarade.
I'd definitely agree that lack of self-awareness is a better term that immaturity. Will is innocent, and perhaps because of his innocence/lack of self-awareness he didn't feel like a complete character to me. As I mentioned above, I also had a very different sense of people in this age bracket when I was actually in it. Now, I suppose I expect 11 year olds to be a little more... well, resourceful, I guess. More like Harry Potter, to use hobbitprincess's example; both naive and clever. It didn't seem as though Will stretched very much, and he didn't seem too aware of the world around him.
It also feels to me as though Cooper is writing very much from an adult perspective, basing her portrayal of Will on how she feels an eleven year old should be. To return to the Harry example again, I believe that one of the reasons those books work so well is that Rowling writes the characters from their own level. I buy Harry et al as whatever age group they fall into in each particular book. I bought Will as an eleven year old when I was eight, but not so much now. But again, that's likely due to my own adult perspective and how I feel that eleven year olds should be. It's a tricky issue. I think it really does boil down to personal taste and what triggers certain reactions in an individual reader.
The only logical thing would be for Bran to go away, cease to exist in our reality. If not a lot of people, plus the logic of the story, would demand that the present royal house of England had to be substituted for the heir of Arthur, the one true king.
Normally I have no such problems. When reading alternate history, postmodern sf or urban fantasy this pocket is implicated and part of the premise. But most times these stories are set apart from our present time, or take care not to add plot lines that would change history as we know it.
This one is a small adventure story, a thrill, but the effects are grand and that is easy enough to recognize when your a grown up. As a kid you don't care that much about plausibility, and I agree with Sarabande (#30). A little celebration to immaturity? Do we have to be so grown up and clever all the time?
But maybe that's age. I was 11 in 1977, and I have to be 150% serious most of my time, handling bigshots in big corporations and government agencies, or juggling improbale project plans, or...
Sometimes the relief I talked about earlier takes the form of suspension of belief - permission not to be sensible.
#34 "The only logical thing would be for Bran to go away, cease to exist in our reality"
IS an absolutely critical point in Silver on the Tree. Bear it in mind as the story progresses.
I find it very interesting the above comments that Will is too young/Innocent/naive. He is described as "old for his age" "a very old 11". I suspect this really is down to the difference in the times. I'm not entirely convinced that the degree of "maturity" shown by today's eleven yr olds is all that good an idea.
I live close to a place where parties for underaged kids are hosted. And it is with horror I look at those kids on the bus. They come from all over town, some have to travel over an hour by bus and train, they are in various states of inebriation, and they're aged roughly 12-14 yrs. A friend of mine who lives at the other side of town blushed when I brought this up, and she defended herself with "I fetch her up no later than eleven thirty (PM)".
At 11-12 I was deep in my bookpiles, alternating between home, school and the stable. Drinking alcohol did not feature on my wishlist.
I wasn't innocent - I knew well enough of war and manipulation, but that was the world of the grown ups and I had no part in that (other than that it was fun to partcipate in anti war rallies /Vietnam; ended when I was 9, but.../).
And to me the problem with Will, or anyone else in TDiR, is that the outside world don't seem to exist at all. Immaturity or innocence it isn't - it's a lack of correlation points with the world as we know it. Which is a problem as the story is supposed to be set in the world as we know it ;-)
But I am ready to suspend my belief, fro time to time :-)
I did notice the seclusion of Will's little world from the rest of the world. It caused me to keep forgetting that this is set in the 70s with telephones and vehicles available for getting in touch with the rest of England. I kept thinking this was early 1900s when villages were much more secluded.
I actually thought Will was quite a realistic character for his age. I didn't think of him as immature, maybe naive. But what is happening to him would be far beyond his realm of knowledge and experience. I can see him as an 11 year old boy who is very glad to have the more experienced old ones around to help him learn the ropes. I love Harry Potter. And who wouldn't love to find out they can do magic? But if an eleven year old you know comes up against the same sorts of evil wouldn't you expect the 11yo to seek help from an adult? It's like Harry Potter's story is this wonderful scarey fantastical adventure that could happen to someone you don't know but have heard about. Will's story seems more personal, like it could happen to someone you know.
I can also understand now all the references to this being a good Christmas time read that I kept bumping into :o)
And as such although cars and telephones were available, in rural english villages I don't think they had the same acceptance that came later. Villages were still insular in england. The trip into town a notable event, doable, but not frequent - as is made clear when Will goes present shopping on the bus.
This attitude does still exist in england. I know people (whose attitudes were shaped in the 60s) who won't have long phone conversations because of the percieved cost.
And come to think of it, you're right. During the reading I thought "70's", I feel much more comfortable with "60's".
That's a good point about the contrast between power and choice. I hadn't thought of that in context of greenwitch before. It appears again in the other books.
"Only Human" is still more influencial on human matters than any ancient power..... the walker was only overcome in DiR by the his being human and the doctors intervention. Its a owerful theme, the choices you make.
I think it important to remeber Cooper's intended audience. As a young adult reader this series was truly magical. I read TDIR again last year and although I enjoyed the read, I think I enjoyed the nastalgia more than book itself.
I haven't read any of these books for years now but I want to reread them all now I've found this thread.
TDIR was like a preparation for me reading The Lord of the Rings a couple of years later, and I loved the Dark Rider. We used to have a car advert on TV here years ago where they had him chasing through the woods but the people were safe in the car. I know it was him because he had the same headdress and antlers as on the cover of my copy of the book. I've always wondered why they chose to have him to sell cars but I liked the advert while it was on.
I had an unusual introduction to TDiR. I'm pretty sure that the first one that i read was The Grey King, back when i was quite young, and pretty much before i had read any other fantasy. Several aspects conspired to completely suck me in to the story: The descriptions of welsh farmlife; the completely plausible descriptions of the presence of magic in everyday life as an eternal battle between good and evil, manifested in tangible ways such as a dog pinned by an invisible force, or an unhinged farmer; the background story of conflict driven by both all-too-human desires and love; the characterisation of Bran and his relationship with cadfall; and Will's flawed relationship with Bran. It's a book that I know i'll never tire of reading.
In a way, the rest of the series is just background and closure for Bran and Will's story for me. I like The Dark Is Rising of and in itself, plus for the countryside and era it evokes, and the symbology of the rings. OSUS piques my interest in Cornwall, and makes me nostalgic for the Enid Blyton and Narnia stories of my youth. Greenwitch i find forgettable except for it's askew acknowledgement of Jane Drew and female power generally. I only found Silver of The Tree last year, and after the wait found it fairly disappointing.
It's been fabulous reading other people's comments on the series. Thanks!
Edited for clarity and accuracy
I'll keep the set and read it again when I'm 70--and probably like it just as well.
I haven't read them again for ages, seeing this thread I thought I should give them go, reading this thread i am not so sure if I should - it might ruin the memory... then again....
The great irony is my mother allways critises me for reading too much fantasy, and these are probably some of the key books that got me hocked on fantasy in the first place :-)