Maggie's Reviews > Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
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Sep 26, 2009

did not like it
Read in September, 2009

I remember loving these books as a child but I had forgotten how much I skipped over. Re-reading childhood favorites is dangerous, but in the case of the Dark Is Rising books, you really should not do it.

What I loved was the Drew children, because Stone Over Sea is a wonderful book and I kept reading to get more of them. But everything having to do with Will Stanton was so outrageously irritating, I nearly didn't finish the fifth book, Silver on the Tree. Good lord. He magically gets all these outrageous powers with no effort, then is a rarefied Old One and crucial to the survival of the world.

First off, I hate it when people get superpowers without any cost. Second, Will is boring. He just is. He doesn't have to fight for anything. Third, his powers are awfully convenient, or inconvenient, and that's just annoying. Every E. Nesbit book is infinitely more careful about powers and rules and costs than these books.

Silver On the Tree was the worst offender, followed closely by The Dark Is Rising, for being full of convoluted and nonsensical challenges and mysterious labyrinths of guesswork. About fifty pages of Silver on the Tree, the part in the Lost Lands, could have been cut out with no discernible loss.

I went back to read these because of my own writing in YA, and I did learn a lot, but I never expected so much of it to be what not to do! I learned a tremendous amount about writing terror in children. Stone Over Sea is completely terrifying, Barney and Jane and Simon constantly in situations far beyond their understanding or capabilities. But that is nearly always human danger, danger from recognizable human sources, even when those are driven by the Dark.

When the danger is oversized and silly, it's impossible to grasp, like the absurd Tethys and the bellowing Greenwitch, who just become bizarre and almost laughable in Greenwitch, after a very promising beginning with an extremely frightening figure made of branches and leaves. Whereas by far the most terrifying thing to me in the whole series was the farmer who shot Bran's beautiful dog. I'm still in shock from that.

So when I write YA with supernatural elements, I want to be sure to keep my evil and my danger located firmly in the human. The supernatural is always a metaphor, somehow, isn't it? The supernatural Dark should stand for the darkness within us, not the other way around.
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01/29/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 1 star

Tim Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I already lambasted The Grey King for a bunch of these things (the no-cost power, the all-around tediousness of Will) and am thinking about what to say about Silver on the Tree. Because I'm pretty sure it was worse... more than anything, it bored me. There were no stakes. There was no one I cared about. There were no choices that mattered.

I almost didn't finish it either. And for a total fantasy nerd like me, that means something is very wrong indeed.

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