Next up: “Over Sea, Under Stone”, “The Dark is Rising”, “Greenwitch”, “The Grey King”, and “Silver on the Tree” by Susan Cooper.
A children’s book series of the same kin as The Chronicles of Narnia. If you’ve seen the movie that was supposedly based on “The Dark is Rising”, then completely scrub that from your mind– the movie adaptation changed a lot of things so it was barely the same story. The book’s much better.
I actually read “The Dark is Rising” first, though it’s the second in the series. It didn’t matter much; they deal with different characters. I liked “The Dark is Rising” better than “Over Sea, Under Stone” though. I would almost advise people to read it first anyway.
It’s really hard to summarize this series, in the same way it would be hard to summarize the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia. So I suppose I will talk about the over-arching themes more than the plot.
The main characters in the series are mostly young children, all of whom become involved in the ancient struggle between good and evil (the Light and the Dark) in some way. A common theme between the books is the search for and use of powerful relics– for example, in “Over Sea, Under Stone” the children are searching for the Grail of King Arthur. The stories use folktales a lot, beyond the legend of King Arthur, there are also lots of references to Celtic and Norse mythology.
By and large, the setting for the series is England, though there is some play with time travel and you see different historical periods of England– such as the period of Roman rule. Across the centuries, one thing remains constant: the battle between Light and Dark.
I didn’t find this series until I was in college. I’d wanted to take a course on children’s literature, but pulled the short straw during registration and didn’t get in. So I decided I’d just raid the library for its stock of children’s books. As I’d previously mentioned, I actually read the second book first, then circled around for “Over Sea, Under Stone.” This had no negative impact on how much I enjoyed the series.
And I did enjoy the series. It had all the hallmarks for something that would interest me– Celtic mythology, Norse mythology, time travel… while I’m not an avid fan of Arthurian legend, I do like it just fine. The style of prose felt very similar to the Chronicles of Narnia– “Over Sea, Under Stone” was published in the 60s, so this older style makes sense. It is a bit different from modern styles and tones of writing.
Even though these are for children, they aren’t condescending or full of ‘teaching moments’; there are lessons to be gleaned, but they aren’t force-fed to you. Also, the prose is easy but not ‘dumbed down’. It’s a book series you don’t mind reading as an adult.