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Friday, March 02, 2007

cover of The Dark is Rising

Will Stanton is the youngest of a very large family, the seventh son of a seventh son, and as he celebrates his birthday on Midwinter's Day (just turning 11), he learns that he is the last of the Old Ones-- an ancient and powerful beings that fight against the Dark-- and that the Dark is rising again. As the Dark's power grows between Midwinter and the twelfth day of Christmas, Will is given a quest to find the six ancient signs, emblems of power made of (or representing) bronze, iron, stone, wood, fire, and water. Once they are collected and joined, they will help drive back the dark. His mentor and teacher is another Old One, Merriman Lyon-- known as Great Uncle Merry to the Drew children in Over Sea, Under Stone, and in fact we learn in this book that the Arthurian grail the Drew children helped find is another contested emblem of power.

One of the most interesting characters is the Walker. Among their other powers, Old Ones can move in an out of time. Merriman brings a 16th century mortal, one of his liege-men in that time, forward through time to help with a particular task, and this turns out to be more than the mortal can bear. This man betrays the Light and becomes the Walker, tramping and surviving through the centuries carrying a sign to give to Will in his own time-- used by both Light and Dark, he still clearly has choices to make about who he will serve.

Herne the Hunter and his white hounds make an appearance near the end of the book, which made me think of Dogsbody, although they are portrayed rather differently here. Neither a servant of the Light or the Dark, he hunts the dark out of England and to the edge of the world, effectively driving it back for a time.

I read this series at least once a long time ago, but when I came across some news about this book being made into a movie, I had only the vaguest recollection of what the books were about-- so I decided it was time to re-read them.

Title:The Dark is Rising
Author:Susan Cooper
Date published:1973
Genre:Children's Fantasy
Series:The Dark is Rising Sequence
Number of pages:232
Notes:Repeat reading. A Newbery Honor book.


Unknown said...

This is another one of my favourites of the sequence - the most favourite being The Grey King. Like you, I loved the character the Walker. I feel sorry for him at the beginning, while I also feel wonder at how Merriman could have trusted him. At the end, I felt bad for both Merriman and the Walker. I can't really articulate what I feel for them, but a whole lot of it is regret.

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