Junior/Teen Read: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

TheDarkIsRisingThis book is number two in the series of the same name by Susan Cooper.  The Dark Is Rising is the story of Will Stanton, beginning with the eve of his 11th birthday.  He finds everything around him in nature — the weather, his pets, wild birds — is acting strangely in general but in particular towards him.  His neighbour gives him a special token that he’s to wear on his belt like an extra buckle but he is very secretive about giving it to him.  Will finds he has special powers.  He learns he is an “Old One” and only begins to realize what that means for himself, his family, and for the future.

Here is a chilling excerpt:

Will listened without attention to the grown-up politenesses; it was only at the voice of the stranger that he glanced up.  There was something familiar in the deep, slightly nasal voice with a trace of accent, carefully repeating the names:  How do you do, Mrs. Stanton… Compliments of the season to you, Max, Gwen…” And Will saw the outline of the face, and the longish red-brown hair, and he froze.

It was the Rider.  This Mr. Mitothin, his father’s friend from goodness-knows-where, was the Black Rider from somewhere outside Time.

Will seized the nearest thing to his hand, a sweep of bright cloth that was Stephen’s present from Jamaica to his sister Barbara, and pulled it quickly over the carnival head to mask it from view.  As he turned again, the Rider raised his head to look further back into the room, and saw him.  He stared at Will in open triumphant challenge, a small smile on his lips.  Mr. Stanton beckoned, flapping a hand, “Will, come here a minute — my youngest son, Mr. __”

Will was instantly a furious Old One, so furious that he did not pause to think what he should do.  He could feel every inch of himself, as if he had grown in his rage to three times his own height.  He stretched out his right hand with its fingers spread still towards his family, and saw them instantly caught into a stop in time, frozen out of all movement.  Like waxworks they stood stiff and motionless round the room.

“How dare you come in here!” he shouted at the Rider.

The Dark is Rising and it is up to the Old Ones to fight back, to defeat it, to ensure that the Light wins in this struggle between good and evil.  The theme of evil we saw begun in Over Sea, Under Stone becomes even more threatening in this second book.  We’ve left the innocent young characters of book one behind, here, and pick up a different thread.  This story contains very old magic and the connection to the first book is the character of Merriman (Uncle Merry to the Drew children), one of the old ones, and that the grail was one of the important things lost that had to be retrieved.  It was found in the first book.  Now Will, the sign-seeker, has to retrieve the 6 signs and they must be joined together.  The other old ones will help him stand against all the dangers the Dark will throw at him but it will require all his strength and ingenuity to accomplish his quest.

Before this story is over, the song that Will has heard before is sung to him by the Hunter, but goes beyond what is familiar to Will to foreshadow what will happen in the coming stories:

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Next book in the series:  Greenwitch

This book was made into a movie called The Seeker (also, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising), which I will review on Saturday. * * * * *

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About mysm2000

Having taught elementary school for more than 25 years and been involved in many amazing technology and curriculum projects, I find I've developed a myriad of interests based on literature I've read and music I've heard. I've followed The Wright Three to Chicago, Ansel Adams to Colorado, The Kon Tiki Expedition to Easter Island, Simon & Garfunkel lyrics to New York City, Frank Lloyd Wright to Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, and have only just begun.
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