Liz's Reviews > Over Sea, Under Stone

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
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It doesn't matter that this book was written 30 years ago, it easily withstands the test of time. It's actually superior to so much of the children's literature that's being put out these days.

The writing harkens back to a time when children were expected to have a much higher reading ability at a far younger age than they're allowed to get away with today. This book doesn't talk down to its audience whether it be child or adult, it doesn't dumb down the vocabulary or spend pages repetitively going over plot details; it's fast paced and presumes that whomever is reading it has at least a passing knowledge of Arthurian legend and Grail mythology, which any child of two or three decades ago probably would have.

This is a great adventure book, a classic story of good vs. evil set in relatively modern day England. Three children, Simon, Jane, and Barney, find an ancient map hidden away in the old house their great-uncle is renting for their family over the summer, and with that discovery they're plunged into a quest and a conflict, both straight out of legend.

It's a great deal to drop onto such young shoulders, but they're well equipped for it. Between the three of them they have all the skills they need to find the answers to age-old riddles and escape their evil pursuers. Not that the latter is always easy, and there's a great build up in tension a few times when you aren't really sure that they will get away.

Not all questions are answered at the end of the book and the ending itself isn't a complete wrap up of the story, but it fits well with the rest of the story, and with reality. Sometimes you just don't know who the other side really is and you do have to settle for half a prize rather than none. It's not at all annoying or frustrating here, it just feels...right. Besides, the Merlin reference at the end really made for a wonderful ending. So appropriate.

This is high quality adventure and suspense, the real world colliding with a magical one in a way that's far different from Harry Potter, and in some ways better than the HP series entirely. Children's literature just isn't written this way anymore, which is a real shame.
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