Friday, January 01, 2016

loopyker's #CBR8 Review #01: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Over Sea, Under Stone audiobook coverI don't know how I hadn't heard about this series before now.  It seems exactly the kind of thing that someone would have recommended to me, or I would have picked up in the library if I had seen it growing up, but I didn't come across it until browsing my online library in my 40s.  Fortunately, that wasn't too late to enjoy it.

Over Sea, Under Stone is the first book in a series of five called The Dark is Rising Sequence.  

Simon, Jane and Barney Drew are siblings vacationing in Cornwall with their parents and Great-Uncle Merriman (Merry for short), in a little fishing community by the sea.  The parents are mostly absent from the story, letting the children play on their own in a way that was probably more common for that time, but happens less often now.  While exploring, the children find something in the attic that starts them on a treasure hunt. 

The children prove to be quite intelligent with figuring out puzzles and riddles.  Along the way there are hints that maybe there is something a little magical going on, but we don't really know where it is going.  It reads more as a mystery-adventure book. However, there is a sinister Dark side working against them, which makes their fun discovery turn into an urgent quest, somehow mixed up with Arthurian legend and involving Great-Uncle Merry too, as guide and protector.

First published in 1965, the language of the book reads a bit like historical fiction, but it fits with the story and the setting of the fishing village.  As the series continues in later books, this matters less and less, and it holds up well now reading it for the first time 50 years later.  This is written for children around 10 and up, but I like how it portrays the siblings more realistically than many other children's books and respects their intelligence, both within the characters themselves and with the readers with the writing style and vocabulary.  

I enjoyed the narration by Alex Jennings.  It feels like kind Uncle Merry is telling you the story and you just want to curl up and listen.  I think it would translate just as well to print for me, but the whole audiobook collection is very well done.

This left me wanting more and I continued right into the next book, The Dark is Rising.

5 stars

Title: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book 1) 
Author: Susan Cooper

Audible Audio Edition 
Narrator: Alex Jennings
Duration: 7 hours, 19 minutes
Publisher: Listening Library (August 8, 2007)

Other Formats: paperback/hardcover/Kindle ebook
Print length:  224 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
(First Edition: 1965, UK, Jonathan Cape (ISBN NA), May 1965, hardcover) 
ISBN-10: 141694964X
ISBN-13: 978-1416949640
Kindle ASIN: B00413PITU

Rating system:
1 star (didn't like); 2 stars (OK); 3 stars (good); 4 stars (very good); 5 stars (favourite)

Also check out Cannonball Read for a variety of book reviews from many others.

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