Monday, January 04, 2016

loopyker's #CBR8 Review #02: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

When The Dark is Rising started I was very confused.  It was supposed to be the second book in a series, right?  But, it starts with completely different characters and in a different village than Over Sea, Under Stone.  Only as time goes on, do we see the connection.

The Dark is Rising audiobook cover by Susan CooperWill Stanton is the seventh son of a seventh son and just about to turn 11 years old.  Up until that point, he is a normal kid who has no idea there is anything special about his eleventh birthday.

Where Over Sea, Under Stone was subtle with its magical hints, this books throws you right into it.  On his birthday, Will finds out he is an "Old One".  This is some kind of immortal force of the Light who can travel through time and protects the world from the Dark.  Will is the youngest Old One and he is set on an important quest for a weapon to help the Light in what will be the final battle with the Dark. 

When Will learns all about what he is, we get all the explanation that was only hinted at in Over Sea, Under Stone.  It sets things up nicely to start bringing the bigger story together and it becomes clear that the series will draw on a lot of myths and legends from around the British Isles, not just the Arthurian ones.

However in stark contrast to the first book, I did find The Dark is Rising a bit disconnected in how it keeps jumping to the different stages of Will's quest.  While Will remains believable as both an Old One and a young kid, it also contributes to the muddled feeling when he jumps back and forth to his "normal" life.  Falling asleep with the audiobook playing, while trying to stay up for "just one more chapter", did not help.   I had to rewind a lot in the mornings.  I think even if I were more awake, it would still be a little hard to keep all the details about the different circles of his quest and rhyming verses clear in my head without seeing it written down.  Alex Jennings satisfyingly continues the narration, introducing many new characters seamlessly, but my memory is better when reading versus listening.

Glancing at some other reviews, it seems people liked to give The Dark is Rising to children on their 11th birthday for obvious reasons.  While, it could work as a stand-alone book, and Over Sea, Under Stone could also work as a stand-alone book, you do need to read both at the beginning for the rest of the series to make much sense.   If someone hasn't read fantasy before, it might be better to start at the beginning with Over Sea, Under Stone, before jumping right into the full magic of The Dark is Rising.

The Dark is Rising won the 1974, Newbery Honor (runner-up for the Medal), but I will give it a slightly less rating than the first book.  However, it still holds up well to be entertaining for both young readers (10+) and adults. 

4 stars

Title: The Dark is Rising: The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book 2
Author: Susan Cooper

Audible Audio Edition
Narrator: Alex Jennings
Duration: 8 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Listening Library (October 17, 2003)
ASIN: B0000U7N3M

Other Formats: paperback/hardcover/Kindle ebook
Print length:  320 pages
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1999)
(First edition 1973)
ISBN-10: 0689829833
ISBN-13: 978-0689829833

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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