Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Originally published in 1973, copyright renewed in 2001.

When Will Stanton wakes up on the morning of his birthday, he discovers an unbelievable
gift -- he is immortal. Bemused and terrified, he finds he is the last of the Old Ones, magical men and women sworn to protect the world from the source of evil, the Dark.

At once Will is plunged into a quest to find six magical Signs to aid the powers of the Light. Six medallions -- iron, bronze, wood, water, fire, and stone -- created and hidden by the Old Ones centuries ago. But the Dark has sent out the Rider: evil cloaked in black, mounted upon a midnight stallion, and on the hunt for this youngest Old One, Will. He must find the six great Signs before the Da
rk can rise, for an epic battle between good and evil approaches. (

I’ll be honest. The only reason I picked up this book was because I thought it looked like a cool movie. I had no idea this book even existed until I saw the previews for the film back around the time Stardust came out. When I did buy it, I still hadn’t seen it although it was on my list of movies to watch.

I started reading but kept getting rather perplexed by the language. It just seemed a little too high brow for an eleven-year-old protagonist. So I flipped to the back of the book to read some information on the author and caught notice of her website address. So there I visited. Well, it’s a fan site turned official and when I started reading information, I became even more confused. They were speaking as if this book was rather quite old. So to the copyright page I flipped. Copyright 1973. So it is. I had no idea. Although it does explain the language.

At least a little. I’m not sure if anything explains the language in this book, really. I understand that once Will comes into his gifts, he’s not really 11 any more but an Old One (or an old soul as I’d like to think of it). His eleventh birthday awakened this Old One inside of him that gave him wisdom and age far beyond his years. That notion is downright interesting and I’d completely believed that if he hadn’t been speaking like that from the very beginning. It’s not necessarily the terminology but the propriety of his word choice that makes the speech just a little unbelievable for me in an eleven year old. Maybe the British are different. Maybe they’re much more refined by that age. Or it was a product of the time. Or both. But the language of the boy was the largest drawback for me in this book.

But that was pretty much it. And it was something I got used to by the end because the transformation of boy Will into Old One Will was evident by the end of the story so it was only natural. I just wish his dialogue and thoughts were truer at the beginning. Other than that I thought it was just a fantastic, beautiful story that I wished I had been turned on to when I was younger. Although, in all honesty, I don’t think I would have appreciated (or even liked it) nearly as much then as I do now. The language is fluid and perfectly captures the constant battle of the Light and the Dark, this archaic struggle that has been going on since long before Will’s existence.

As I said before, the growth of this young boy in such a short amount of time is phenomenal but even as it’s pointed out in the story, he’s no longer Will Stanton the boy but Will Stanton the Old One; two vastly different entities entirely. This isn’t Harry Potter where he had the help of everyone around him and really didn’t exhibit any intellectual or magically inclined growth at all throughout the books. Will had to stand on his own through most of the battle. He had support, sure, but there was no sidekick to work out the problems he couldn’t (or wouldn’t). His compatriots forced him to work out the things he had to. And he did. (That’s not to say I didn’t like Harry Potter, but I’ve never been a fan of Harry, the character, and I thought the kid got way more credit than he ever deserved.) He grew a tremendous amount in such a short amount of time.

I think the language is out of touch with today’s youth and I can certainly see more teens and middle grade readers turning to the movie more so than the book but then again but I could rightly be wrong. I think the story’s compelling enough that any reader, regardless of age, would get sucked into it and stand there, beside Will, fighting the Dark with him. It’s obviously doing something right since it’s proven the test of time already.

I did cave and watched the movie when I was about halfway into the book and I do have to say, it was a pretty good book to film adaptation. And in this case I actually liked the book better (unlike Stardust, for instance where I liked the film more than the novel). It was just much more visual for me. More realistic and just carried with it more weight. I could visualize it better. The scenes were stronger and I wish they had kept the scene with the king and the Sign of Water. I would have loved to see that. I also liked the book alluding to the fact that that king was King Arthur. If you’ve ever done research on the mythical king, you’ll know that if he had existed, it was sometime in just post-Roman, between 400 and 800 AD, or thereabouts. I think the nod was obvious and it made me like the story even more.

I do plan on reading the rest of the books in the sequence because I’m officially hooked now but as you can see on the right, I have a few more books to get through before I have a chance with those. If you haven’t read The Dark Is Rising, go buy it now and read it. It’s something you won’t regret



Mary E. Lewis said...

The Dark Is Rising was one of the very first Sci-fi/Fantasy books I ever read. I was around 11 years old and I loved it! I re-read the entire series a couple of years ago, and I still loved them.

Donna said...

It really isn't a surprise that it's stood the test of time thus far.

J. Kaye said...

I agree about the cool movie part, though this looks like a great book too!

Donna said...

I'd definitely recommend it!

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