Sienna's Reviews > The Dark Is Rising

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
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's review
Jul 14, 11

bookshelves: 2011
Read in July, 2011

I have this theory about winter, and Christmas (or your seasonal celebration of choice — Yule would be the most appropriate to mention here), of which probably everyone I know in New Zealand has had more than an earful: in the northern hemisphere, the holidays help us get through the long cold months, or at least the first of them. We step outside ourselves to think of loved ones, decorate trees, perform annual rituals rooted in our childhoods (or as an escape from them), and in doing so we make those few daylight hours brighter, the waxing nights more bearable. I love that time of year. Our family traditions revolved around food, with a hearty brunch and Christmas crackers after morning presents (my grandparents always got each other so many shirts) and a Mexican feast in the evening: enchiladas, salads, Spanish rice, tamales, empanaditas, yum! Though I grew up in Southern California, where our roaring fires were ornamental at best, my last five years in the US were spent in chillier climes. I relished the snow.

The southern hemisphere, by contrast, offers no such respite from winter. There aren't even minor holidays to get us through in New Zealand, with a conspicuous gap between Queen's Birthday in early June and Labour Day in late October, nearly five months of damp, misty weather to endure without a break. Christmas represents the start of summer and the silly season, with lamb roasts and pavlovas and fresh fruit and, bizarrely, elaborate winter scenes at department storefronts like Smith & Caughey, even though everyone's just waiting to get out of town for their beach holiday up north. It's lovely wearing flip-flops and sundresses, but I find Christmas here so depressing in its unfamiliarity. It feels wrong.

That lengthy preamble is just to say that Will Stanton perfectly captures that enthusiasm for the holidays, for snow, for the magic we may never even have felt as children but are nonetheless convinced ought to be a part of our celebrations. The fact that this constitutes a major theme of The Dark is Rising endears it to me in ways that make an objective rating nearly impossible. The characterization is stronger in this one in spite of the large cast, and the writing is at times staggeringly beautiful (had to fan my writerly self after "I am fire-fretted and I flirt with wind"). I struggle with monochromatic good-versus-evil showdowns and didn't find the plot particularly compelling, but was so delighted with the Book of Gramarye and the pagan elements and the music that I made it through without much sighing or eye-rolling, except when Cooper used the word "sepulchrally" again. My only major complaint is to do with the incredibly unsatisfactory backstory of the Old Ones. We know next to nothing about their lineage and mythology, not to mention how or why Will is the last of these enigmatic immortals, but the remaining books will presumably rectify the problem.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Johnston I really liked this series - which I read or the first time a year or two ago. But I wish I had of found it when I was 12, so I could have loved it, like I know I would have then.

Sienna Exactly — I'm really kicking myself for not reading these at a time when I would have been far more susceptible to their charms. Ditto for Madeleine L'Engle's YA/middle grade books. At least we can foist them upon the young people in our lives.

message 3: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Johnston Among the many concerns I have about child-raising: what if they don't like my favourite books?

Sienna Hopefully the good taste in our respective gene pools will prevent that from happening, 'cause otherwise my only reaction to that is a horrified emoticon.

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