Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Dark is Rising

Susan Cooper
Puffin Books

"When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, three from the circle, three from the track; wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; five will return, and one go alone.” 
With these mysterious words, Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavour is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding; Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined.

Book two of Cooper's series of the same name takes a slightly different tack to the first.  What we see here is a far more developed and cohesive storyworld than in the first. The Blyton-esque overtones are much less obvious and the story has considerably more depth.  

The core idea here seems much the same - there is an eternal battle between good and evil / the Light versus the Dark - and the old fella putting the kids at risk in the first is back recruiting yet another wee fella to the cause.  This particular tiddler though is a bit special as he's the last 'Old One', one of the protectors of the world, heir to their power and magic and the chosen one who will find and unite the six signs that will herald the victory of the light.

Cooper has created a whole mythology for these 'Old Ones' tying them into human events throughout history and incorporating folktales such as 'Wayland Smith' and 'The Wild Hunt' which in many ways means the back story is more well developed than the book story which again is a little too pat.  The 6 signs almost literally fall into young Will's lap and by the halfway point it's apparent that - whilst obviously - he's going to succeed in his endeavours he's also going to do so without any great expenditure of effort.  It's an unfortunate flaw as in all other ways this is a most enjoyable read filled to bursting with invention that left me intrigued to see where she is going to take her story next but also with the knowledge that the story may be a little too pat.

Buy it here -  The Dark Is Rising: Modern Classic

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