This is the 5th and final book in The Dark is Rising sequence and reunites Will Stanton, Bran and the Drew children in the final phase of defeating the Dark. This book is divided into four parts: When the Dark Comes Rising, The Singing Mountains, The Lost Land, and The Midsummer Tree. The first part centres around the Stanton family and Will’s apprehensions about the Dark and the part he must play in the last chance to defeat the powers of the Dark we have encountered in the first four books. He can feel the evil as his family encounters maliciousness in nature, and bullying and racism in people within their community. This is also where we see time travel magic and the beginning of Will’s final task: he must enter a picture that hangs in the Stanton home, go back to the time of ancient Rome in Britain and place the 6 signs he has gathered in a place where he will be able to retrieve them later.
Will stood up. The way out of the spell could be found only by going back into it. So first, he must re-enact the casting of it; turn Time so that once more he could live through the hours, more than a year earlier, when with Will at his side, Merriman had —
What had Merriman done? It must be an exact echo.
Putting down his flashlight, Will stood before the picture on the wall, remembering. He reached out and put one hand on its frame. Then he stood very still, gazing in total concentration on a group of men in the picture’s middle distance: men straining at a rope that was pulling a slab of rock towards some point that could not be seen. He emptied his mind of all thought, his senses of all other sight and sound; he gazed and he gazed.
And very gradually, the sound of creaking rope and rhythmic shouts and the grinding of rock against rock began to grow in his ears, and he smelled dust, and sweat and dung — and the figures in the picture began to move. And Will’s hand was no longer on the wooden picture-frame, but on the wooden side support of an ox-cart laden with stone, and he stepped forward into the world ofthe Romans at Caerleon, a boy of that time, cool in a white linen tunic on a warm summer’s day, with square stone cobbles uneven beneath his sandalled feet. . .
And Merriman said into Will’s ear from behind him, “You must be ready to slip the link, when the moment comes.”
Looking down, Will saw the six Signs of the Light, joined by links of gold, clasped about the waist of his tunic like a belt.
I don’t want to give too much away, here. There’s some very cool archaeology that goes on in this section. The Singing Mountains is where Will uses the horn to gather the six: Three from the circle, three from the track. The Drew children are the three from the track and they all encounter evil in the Welsh hills but Jane is singled out for a special message from “The Lady” that will help Will and Bran recover the sword from The Lost City.
Again, lots of suspense, and magic, narrow windows in which to complete tasks, and the final challenge, for Bran the Pendragon to cut the mistletoe blossoms from the ancient tree with the crystal sword at the right time for the Light to defeat the Dark.
Despite the age-old theme of good vs evil in these books, they do not have a Christian or religious theme running through them. Ms. Cooper has included some very definite statements that convey the idea that man’s fate is in man’s hands alone. The Lady says, “Our task is accomplished, and we may leave the last and longest task to those who inherit this world and all its perilous beauty.” And more pointedly, Merriman says,
For Drake is no longer in his hammock, children, nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping, and you may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it is up to you.
So parents will need to decide if this is a series to be read and discussed, treated as merely a fairy tale, or set aside for reading from a more mature perspective. I think it is an excellent adventure series that provides hope for the good in mankind but at the same time I recognize that my theology is quite different from that of the series. Still, an excellent series with lots of excitement and scope for discussion. * * * * *