Wednesday, December 18, 2013

not a mystery--THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (1973) takes place over the twelve days of Christmas.

On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton begins to learn he is the last of the Old Ones, an immortal race charged with fighting massive evil.

Will begins a quest to find the six signs of light (signs of wood, bronze, iron, water, fire and stone).

Will's quest starts in a life-threatening snow storm. He can't tell for sure who are his friends and enemies. Before he finds each sign, evil attacks. One attack takes place on Christmas Eve as Will leaves the church.

In each case, evil almost, or sometimes partially, overcomes.

One thing I need to say here: Many people will know this story. It is part of a five-book sequence written for YA (Young Adult) audiences. Copyrighted in 1973, The Dark Is Rising and its fellows became popular movies. The book was a Newbery Honor Book and Carnagie Medal Honor Book.

I have never seen the movies. I read the books thirty years or so ago. They are just as good to read today.

This time, I had two observations. The first had to do with the power of thought. The Dark most often attacks Will through his thoughts and feelings. To find the signs and win the battles, Will must control his irrational (but seemingly sensible) thinking.

And second, few books I have read use visionary description in the way this book does. The main plot element is visionary description. To like this book, you would probably have to like detailed emotion-filled descriptions.

For me, this was a perfect book to read at Christmas. It reminded me that Christmas is not all light and beauty. The very season heightens grief and sometimes strengthens any human tendency to respond with evil.

I enjoyed re-reading The Dark Is Rising. 
(Special note added later: This is the single book in the series of a similar name. I didn't read the whole series.)


“The Dark is rising, Old One, and this time we do not propose that anything shall hinder its way. This is the time for our rising, and these next twelve months shall see us established at last.”

It was not from malice that the Light and the servants of the Light would ever hound the Dark, but from the nature of things.


Kelly Robinson said...

I didn't know THE DARK IS RISING was set during Christmas.

Joe Barone said...

Yes. This particular book is set in the Christmas season. (I didn't read the whole series.) I'm not very good at genres, but I always saw this book as something akin to fantasy, but very good fantasy. I have always loved certain Young Adult books like A Wrinkle in Time (a special favorite) and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nim. (I'm not sure if I spelled Nim correctly.)