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The Dark Is Rising #1

Over Sea, Under Stone

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On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that -- the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril. This is the first volume of Susan Cooper's brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.

196 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1965

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About the author

Susan Cooper

102 books2,199 followers
Susan Cooper's latest book is the YA novel "Ghost Hawk" (2013)

Susan Cooper was born in 1935, and grew up in England's Buckinghamshire, an area that was green countryside then but has since become part of Greater London. As a child, she loved to read, as did her younger brother, who also became a writer. After attending Oxford, where she became the first woman to ever edit that university's newspaper, Cooper worked as a reporter and feature writer for London's Sunday Times; her first boss was James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Cooper wrote her first book for young readers in response to a publishing house competition; "Over Sea, Under Stone" would later form the basis for her critically acclaimed five-book fantasy sequence, "The Dark Is Rising." The fourth book in the series, "The Grey King," won the Newbery Medal in 1976. By that time, Susan Cooper had been living in America for 13 years, having moved to marry her first husband, an American professor, and was stepmother to three children and the mother of two.

Cooper went on to write other well-received novels, including "The Boggart" (and its sequel "The Boggart and the Monster"), "King of Shadows", and "Victory," as well as several picture books for young readers with illustrators such as Ashley Bryan and Warwick Hutton. She has also written books for adults, as well as plays and Emmy-nominated screenplays, many in collaboration with the actor Hume Cronyn, whom she married in 1996. Hume Cronyn died in 2003 and Ms. Cooper now lives in Marshfield MA. When Cooper is not working, she enjoys playing piano, gardening, and traveling.

Recent books include the collaborative project "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" and her biography of Jack Langstaff titled "The Magic Maker." Her newest book is "Ghost Hawk."

Visit her Facebook pages: www.facebook.com/SusanCooperFanPage

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,755 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,633 reviews5,001 followers
September 20, 2022
a slight but winning intro into a phenomenal series. this opening book follows the Drew children on summer holiday in Cornwall as they hurtle breathlessly from place to place, ancient map in hand and Arthurian treasure awaiting them as they skillfully avoid the forces of evil.

this is probably my 3rd or 4th time reading this book, and this particular time found me more amused than impatient. once upon a time, a long time ago, I started this series by reading The Dark Is Rising - and Over Sea, Under Stone was rather unimpressive to read after the intensity of that classic. but perhaps enough time has passed. the swift pace and uncluttered prose, the nonchalant realism of how the children relate to each other, the process in which the clues on the map are discovered, the mysterious Grey House, the pleasant atmosphere of Cornwall itself... I found it all to be quite charming. I appreciated the often ambiguous menace of the forces threatening the protagonists, in particular the idea of Evil wearing a pleasant, cheerful face while bringing you sandwiches or tucking you in for bedtime. this book also features Rufus, who is not just a good dog, but a smart dog as well. he knows something bad's afoot when owls hoot in the daytime. plus he is able to control his barking when necessary, for example when Evil is looking for him and the children as they hide in the grass. good Rufus!
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
June 26, 2020
how great is ariel?? ariel is exactly this great:

i had never read this series, but had always wanted to. so ariel straight up mailed it to me! like santa! in june!

ariel, i have also always wanted a choker made of rubies and emeralds and sweet sweet diamonds.

while i am waiting for that,i will write a review for this book. obviously, there are going to be comparisons to that narnia series - british siblings shuttled off to a spooky house with secret passageways behind a wardrobe with an eccentric older relative and some christian mythology thrown in for funs.


even better than narnia, this reminded me of my very favorite series of children's books by peggy parish (but not her amelia bedelia stuff - that just paid the rent). the better series of books were the ones featuring liza, jed, and bill (the only twins that are not evil). they had the best relatives who were always leaving them mysteries to solve in the form of secret notes and clues and maps and little carved wooden toys.... i believe i read all of them, but reading this made me want to read them all again and cross fingers that there was one i missed so i can go back and have an all new exciting adventure with my favorite detectives!!

but i will finish this series,too, naturally.

thank you ariel. i will go run to mailbox now.
jewels!! they come!!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
October 28, 2020
Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising #1), Susan Cooper

Over Sea, Under Stone is a contemporary fantasy novel written for children by the British author Susan Cooper, first published in London by Jonathan Cape in 1965. Cooper wrote four sequels about ten years later, making it the first volume in a series usually called The Dark is Rising (1965 to 1977).

Over Sea, Under Stone features the Drew children, Simon, Jane and Barney, on holiday with their parents and Merriman Lyon, an old family friend, usually referred to by the children as their great-uncle.

The Drew family meet him in the fictional fishing village of Trewissick on the southern coast of Cornwall. In the attic of the big Grey House they are renting from Merriman's friend Captain Toms the children find an old manuscript.

They recognise a drawing of the local coastline that may be a kind of map, with almost illegible text, but Barney realises that the map refers to King Arthur and his knights. The children decide to keep the discovery to themselves.

The family are visited at the Grey House by a very friendly Mr. Withers and his sister Polly, who invite them to go fishing on their yacht. The boys are thrilled, but Jane feels suspicious and declines to join them.

While Jane is alone in the Grey House she finds a guidebook to Trewissick, written by the local vicar, in an old trunk. She realises that the map in the guidebook is similar to the secret map, but also different somehow, so she decides to visit the vicar. The man at the vicarage is not the writer of the guidebook, but he offers to help Jane. He asks some probing questions that arouse Jane's suspicions and she decides to return home. ...

‏‫‬‭Over Sea,Under Stone, Susan Cooper, ‏‫‬‭New York‏‫‬‭: Harcourt ,Brace & World, Inc‏‫‬‭, 1965, 252p

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه اصلی: سال 1974میلادی

عنوان: برفراز دریا، زیر سنگ؛ نویسنده: سوزان کوپر؛

بر فراز دریا، زیر سنگ؛ از کودکان خانواده «درو»: «سیمون»، «جین» و «بارنی»، که در تعطیلات به همراه والدین خود و «مریمان لیون»، یک دوست خانوادگی قدیمی، که کودکان با عنوان عموی بزرگشان از او یاد میکنند، سود میبرد؛ خانواده «درو» با او در روستای ماهیگیری تخیلی «تروسیک»، در سواحل جنوبی «کرنوال»، دیدار میکنند؛ آنها یک اتاق زیر شیروانی از دوست «مریمان»، به نام کاپیتان «توماس» اجاره میکنند، کودکان در آن اتاق، یک نسخه کهن پیدا میکنند؛ آنها درمییابند آن نسخه، نوعی نقشه از خط ساحلی محلی باشد، «بارنی» درمییابد که نقشه به «شاه آرتور»، و شوالیه های ایشان اشاره دارد؛ آنها تصمیم میگیرند، که این کشف را پیش خودشان حفظ کنند؛ ...؛ این کتاب و شماری دیگر از نخستین کتابهایم با متن انگلیسی، از یادگاریهای همخانه ای انگلیسیم بودند و هستند؛ ایشان که نامشان را فراموش کرده ام مهندس راه و ساختمان بودند، و این فراموشکار با ایشان در شرکت «مهندسین مشاور سابراکو»، همکار، و در خیابان «میرداماد کوچه اطلسی»، همخانه بودیم؛ ایشان شرکت را که ترک میکردند، کتابها را به این فراموشکارهدیه دادند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 06/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,218 reviews376 followers
March 1, 2022
2022 Reread:
Cooper's writing evokes other writers of the time period, notably Lewis and Tolkien (who were published only a decade before) and her descriptions are incredibly atmospheric. I got suckered in both times by her beautiful depictions of Cornwall. Plus the fact that I have Cornish ancestors... you get the idea. The revelation at the end of the book still gives me Excited Goosebumps. More please!

Original review:

Thanks tons for the recommendation, Meg! <3
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
359 reviews320 followers
February 22, 2018
The first book of my all-time favorite children's fantasy series. Yes Harry Potter is amazing, The Chronicles of Prydain is exceptional, Redwall is pretty fantastic. But for my money, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series ranks as my #1 favorite. It has everything - an Arthurian theme, witches, the Holy Grail, Celtic Mythology, fun characters, and the writing is just superb. It's no wonder these books garnered a ton of awards because it really does stand out like a shimmering diamond in the children's fantasy genre. I can't recommend this series enough.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,906 reviews1,235 followers
January 30, 2019
Over Sea, Under Stone reminds me of that endless string of ’80s and ’90s movies featuring plucky groups of child protagonists outwitting bumbling adult villains. You know the ones I mean—The Goonies is probably the most famous example, but there are others. Children get into real danger and use a combination of courage and clever planning to defeat the bad guys and save the day. In this case, Simon, Jane, and Barney work together to decipher a medieval treasure map that could lead to the Grail of Arthurian legend. They run up against a contained cast of characters all bent on acquiring the Grail for unspecified, but no doubt nefarious reasons—and they don’t think twice about stooping to the level of threatening children.

Cooper obviously understands the ingredients needed to capture a child’s imagination. It’s evident in the way her characters speak and the way she describes their environment. From the beginning, the story has a fantastic, Narnia-like quality to it: an old house not their own, with a hidden world (in this case, a room) behind a forgotten wardrobe. The children find an ancient manuscript and decide it has to be a treasure map, a deduction later confirmed by their ephemeral Great-Uncle Merry, who keeps disappearing at the most inopportune times. The children begin working to decipher the clues on the manuscript and follow the trail they put down in order to find the Grail; meanwhile, they have to work hard to dodge the antagonists who dog their every step. Each chapter feels packed with adventure and a hint of danger.

The mythology of a Celtic King Arthur pervades the story, which is set in 1970s 1950s Cornwall. It would be a mistake to pick up this book solely for this reason, however. Cooper uses the mythology as a backdrop and a reason for the quest, but she doesn’t explicate so much as signpost. Familiarity with Arthurian legend is neither helpful nor required, and aside from the romanticism such allusions allow, any historical connection might have done just as well. I was disappointed that Cooper couldn’t come up with a richer way of integrating the legends than she does.

What impressed me more was Cooper’s dedication to deductive reasoning and methodical planning on the part of the children. Too many books pitched at young adults have shallow, even insipid plots that require little originality or problem solving on the part of the protagonist. The adventure usually consists of a series of physical feats, and the mental obstacles, if any, are tired and repetitive. Here, the children face a number of obstacles that they overcome through rigorous reasoning and ingenious innovation. For example, at one point they use a ball of cotton thread Jane has to hand to try to measure the depth of a hole they find. Another scene has them reasoning out how the relative placement of three standing stones on a slope affects their apparent heights, and thus the heights of the shadows they cast. By including these details and showing the children’s thinking process, Cooper exposes her younger audience to deductive reasoning. I devoured juvenile mystery series as a boy—Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown were among the best—and I could see myself enjoying this dimension of Over Sea, Under Stone.

Alas, much like the movies this book resembles, the relentless, positive portrayal of the children and their adventure is far from satisfying. Every setback is quickly turned into a triumph; every apparent defeat is actually a victory in disguise upon further reflection. Though there is the hint of danger, it never really emerges. I can understand the appeal of this type of storytelling when pitched at younger readers, but I’m not overly fond of it. And I firmly believe it’s essential to scare kids once in a while. Though I can’t accuse Cooper of leaving out the conflict in this book, I wish it had been more fully developed. I wish the children hadn’t succeeded so easily. There is certainly plot here, in the form of adventure, but the story itself leaves much to be desired.

I’m reading this as part of The Dark is Rising Sequence omnibus. As I write this, I’ve read both this and The Dark is Rising. I’m not quite rushing to add this to my nephew’s future reading list. Which is not to say the books are bad, or dull, or even particularly unimpressive. I enjoyed them. But they don’t achieve the intense highs or agonizing depths that I want from my books, young adult or otherwise. I can’t speak for whether younger me would have had a less critical opinion of them, sorry. And perhaps, at the time when they were published, this was innovative and inspirational. As it is, I think the market and genre have widened to the point where there are certainly more worthwhile stories in which children can immerse themselves. But if there aren’t, then I suppose this would do in a pinch.

My reviews of The Dark is Rising sequence:
The Dark is Rising

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Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,823 followers
October 31, 2020
In these incredibly anxiety-plagued final days leading up to USA’s Election Day, I decided to go for what I was hoping would be a comforting read, and this sort of obliged. It’s sweetly written, with likable, resourceful children doing their best to solve puzzles and evade bad guys. Unexpectedly, it featured a few dated, discomfitingly racist tropes, and its pace sputtered a bit more than I would have wanted. I’ve heard that the later books in this classic children’s fantasy series are much more accomplished, and there’s enough whimsy and heart in this one to encourage me to see if that’s so. But I did want this to have a bit more heart-stirring magic in it than it does; it wound up being only mildly diverting.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,209 followers
November 17, 2016
A Nancy Drew-esque adventure in which some kids with the last name Drew attempt to find the Holy Grail.

"Another book on the Arthur legend?" I groaned before commencing a hearty dismissive snore. I guess I didn't read the description close enough on Goodreads or on the back of the book. I knew it was YA, but expected magic. Even sampling of it. This was not the fantasy novel I was looking for.

These days reading about three English kids romping around the Cornwall seaside in search of King Arthur's grail is just not my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, it's a damn fine book! I think if I was growing up in the '60s when this was published, I would've been over the moon to get my hands on Over Sea, Under Stone. Now though, there's a plethora of much more fun fantasy to be had.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
December 23, 2015
It’s time for a The Dark is Rising sequence readathon again! If you wish to join, you can do so via this blog. It’s the perfect time of year to reread the books, at least the second one in particular, with the winter solstice coming up. I always try and read them around this time of year!

With that said, here goes my millionth (ish) review of Over Sea, Under Stone. I’ve noted before that it’s basically an Enid Blyton adventure/mystery story, with Arthurian trappings. This time through, I noticed a bit more than that; despite the fact that it is much lighter than the later books in tone, for the most part, there are moments of darkness and fear: the moment on the top of the cliff with the standing stones, Barney captured, Barney in the cave, the last few pages before the epilogue… Because of that link to Arthur, because of the figure of Merriman, the seriousness that we see later in the story is still there. The Dark doesn’t go away safely in the way that the criminals always do at the end of a Famous Five book.

I think it’s partly that which makes the books survive for me — under the concerns of the children, there’s that darkness and fear.

Another thing which gets me is how all the people act like people. Jane and Barney and Simon get scared, they get jealous of each other, they puff themselves up and act important… The adults are indulgent, complacent. And then there’s the poetry of the quiet moments, the moon on the water and the quiet dusty attic and… Yeah. Brilliant writing. Not as compelling as the later books, but even here it’s very fine.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
December 13, 2009
Very few people [who know me at all:] are unaware that The Dark Is Rising is possibly my favourite series of books in the history of ever. Still, I haven't done a series of proper reviews for them, which is a horrible shame, and I'm going to do that this time through.

This is probably the fifteenth time I've read Over Sea, Under Stone, give or take a few times. Someone I knew recommended skipping it, since it's the most childish book in the series -- written, if I recall correctly, well before the other four, and most definitely aimed at kids. The scenario reminds me a little of a faintly Arthurian Enid Blyton story: three kids are on holiday and stumble into a mystery. On the other hand, it's much fuller than an Enid Blyton story. It's a fantasy story, at its most basic, really: the Dark vs. the Light. There's hints at an underlying story about King Arthur.

Character-wise, at this point it's relatively simple. Simon, Jane and Barney are pretty typical kids: the bossy older one, the practical and prepared girl, the youngest daydreamy boy. Still, they're endearing: Barney would have had my heart from the moment he opens his mouth and calls his big brother "cleversticks" -- if he hadn't had it already from being as devoted to King Arthur as I am. They may be simple characters, but they're also realistic. They get scared about what they're getting into, they doubt things, they underestimate the danger...

The writing itself is lovely. Not too fancy, and yet still describing things well. There's a real sense of ominous danger in parts of it, and yet the writing also brings across a feeling of childhood, summer vacations and sunburns and going to see the sea.

All in all, reading it now and knowing what the rest of the series is like, I look for the hints and things that will connect up, later. Something I've noticed this time through especially is the hints at Barney being something special, which is followed up on in Greenwitch and Silver On The Tree. It's interesting how often he knows or intuits things which seem hidden from everyone else.

Over Sea, Under Stone isn't my favourite book of the sequence, but it's still worth reading if you can get into it for the light it sheds on the later books.

Now, onto The Dark Is Rising itself! Spending a book with Will and the other Stantons feels like a lovely idea right now.

Reread again in December 2009. Oh, Barney Drew...
Author 6 books122 followers
April 27, 2019
What can I say. It's winter; we're snowed in; temperatures will be plummeting. Time to reread, even if it means returning to a children's series that I only discovered as an adult. This is the first of the Dark is Rising series, and although I've read the Dark is Rising, the second book in the series, more than once, I thought this time I'd indulge myself and start at the beginning and read them through. They are quest stories, rich in Arthurian lore with bits of magic with history and artifacts thrown in. And while they may have been written for children, their appeal is universal. Great stories live on and satisfy us no matter our age. This introduces us to the Drew children--Simon, Jane, and Barney--who return later and to their uncle Meriman Lyon, whose name ultimately suggests a more familiar Arthurian figure. The children find a manuscript and a map but must battle the forces of evil to save the object of their quest. It's a lovely series for those of us who enjoy Arthurian legends, quests, and intriguing puzzles. In fact, knowing how books sometimes disappear, I ordered the set for my 4-month-old grandchild--and look forward to sharing it with him! Eventually.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
January 29, 2020
I first read this series when I was about ten or eleven and coming back to them now, some thirty-and-change years later, has been an absolute joy. These were the books that first got me hooked on the Arthurian myth and sparked my interest in British folklore.

If you’re a fan of fantasy and/or great children’s books, you really MUST try this series! Oh, and if you had the misfortune to see the abysmal movie adaptation a few years back PLEASE don’t let that travesty put you off reading the original novels!
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews523 followers
March 27, 2012
I am on a serious childhood nostalgia bender over here. Let that be a warning to you.

This series came back to me like a bolt from the blue on a perfectly normal day last week, and I suddenly had to read it right now. But, fantastic, no problem, I thought. When I originally read these books -- and read them, and read them, and read them -- it was on cassette. The good old National Library Service for the Blind cassettes in their snap plastic cases. And the NLS has been busily digitizing the collection (only about a decade late) and I could swear I saw these books go up . . .

Indeed. The NLS had digitized four out of the five, and I was sure I could ahem find Greenwitch on the back of a truck in one of the internet's ahem alleyways. So I snagged this first one and put it on my handheld and trotted off to groom the dog.

And then I turned on the book.

And it was not my narrator.

I remember her very clearly: she was British, a contralto. A gentle delivery, but with a lot of life for the children, particularly Barney, and even more gravitas for Gumerry. She read this book to me a good twenty times between the ages of eight and thirteen, and she was all that is right and proper.

And sometime in the last few decades, the NLS re-recorded the books and reissued the titles. Those old cassettes were wearing out, I'm sure, even the master copy.

And it was not okay. He was American, and he was doing his best, I'm sure, but he was not right.

Which consumed my attention for the entire book, so I don't actually have much to say aside from outraged nostalgia. This is younger and lighter than I remember. A quest story with cartoonishly simple us/them dynamics and some cute kids. Reminded me a startling amount of Arthur Ransom, because the whole thing had that quality of taking place in a bubble of childish creation, where great adventures happen and then you have tea. I was also interested to see the near-total lack of magic here, given the scope of the powers at work. Made me think about the work the rest of the series does to make sure the Drews, the mortals, remain separate. Three from the circle, three from the track. How that matters to these books in ways I'm still unpacking. But that's a subject for a later book.

But the narrator was wrong.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
745 reviews164 followers
November 13, 2022
Over Sea, Under Stone is in many senses, the typical children’s adventure story involving a seaside holiday, cliffs, a hidden treasure, adventure and danger, yet it has elements that make it much more. Our story opens with the Drew family, father, mother and most importantly for us, the three children, Simon, Jane and Barney arriving in Cornwall where they are to spend their holiday with their mother’s uncle, Great Uncle Merry (not a real uncle but a close family friend). They find that Great Uncle Merry has rented an old house, Grey House where they will all be staying. There is a housekeeper, Mrs Palk and a dog Rufus who ‘come with’ the house. Exploring the Grey House and creating their own adventure on a rainy day soon after they arrive, the children find an old manuscript with strange writing and a map. Simon can decipher some of it with the little Latin he has learnt at school but it is with Great Uncle Merry or Gumerry as Barney calls him, that they are able to understand what they’ve really found. A treasure map alright, but not an ordinary one, one that will lead them to an extraordinary treasure (related to King Arthur) and also expose them to great danger, for once again, the eternal battle between Dark and Light is coming to the fore.

In fact, it may have already begun, for a Mr Withers and his sister Polly—living in the neighbourhood—have been to invite the family to come out on their yacht and Jane distinctly feels uncomfortable around them. While Great Uncle Merry does help and support them in searching for the treasure, actually deciphering the map’s clues and finding the treasure is for the three to do. But can they do this on their own? Do the Withers brother and sister catch up with them?

I quite enjoyed this introduction to the Dark is Rising series, which put me in mind of the many Enid Blyton adventure and mystery books that I devoured as a child. A holiday by the sea, a treasure map, rock caves and cliffs were staples in many of her books, particularly the Famous Five stories, and it was fun finding these incorporated in this story. Typically, in these, the parents must be away for the children to be able to really have a full-fledged adventure and be exposed to the kind of danger that they do. Here while Mr and Mrs Drew are present, they are also not—much of the time, they are busy in their own pursuits (fishing/boating and painting, respectively) and believe the children’s excursions to be just a game they’re playing. They do also ‘go away’ for a bit very conveniently when the children need to go out at night to solve part of the puzzle. Blyton isn’t the only author who is an inspiration, though, for the explorations inside Grey House besides the wise professor uncle and a large wardrobe are definitely reminiscent of the Narnia books.

What makes this book a little more that just a children’s adventure, is one the historical/legendary aspects that come in for the mysterious manuscript and treasure are related to Arthur and Arthurian lore, as are the forces of dark that have been unleased. Also with the children being the ones to ‘find’ the map, an element of destiny, even prophecy (even though not specifically mentioned) comes into play for it is clear that it is they who must find the treasure. Great Uncle Merry (we are given an idea as to who he could be, but I won’t spoil the fun) helps and is there to protect them when needed (even distract the ‘villains’), but never takes the lead or tries to takes over the treasure hunt. Again, the danger, that comes from the Withers as well as some other characters representing the ‘dark’ is far more sinister than in an ‘ordinary’ children’s adventure.

And yet, despite these elements, I liked that the book retains the feel of a children’s adventure. The three Drew children, all likeable, are not extraordinary or superheroes in any way, just ordinary children but ones who are on a rather dangerous treasure hunt.

On a side note, while this story is set in a fictional Cornish village, among the events are a carnival and a floral dance (though this was not in spring) which reminded me very much of the spring festival Flora Day in Helston which I recently came across in another book set in Cornwall. I wonder if this was the inspiration?

Overall, I had fun with this first entry in the series, and am hoping to catch up soonish!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,977 reviews3,296 followers
May 7, 2021
Over Sea, Under Stone is the first book in a modern classic series of childrens literature, following siblings on holiday in Corwall who discover a map to the Grail of Arthur and must face down villains also seeking it.

I think I would have enjoyed this more as a child, but coming to it for the first time as an adult there were a couple of things I couldn't get over. First, the children were SO STUPID!!! The number of times they did dumb things that got them into trouble, like pulling out a secret artifact when you know an enemy is nearby, or not thinking to bring a flashlight to go exploring a cave... It ended up feeling to me like a lazy way to create conflict rather than letting the children be smart.

The other thing is how awful all the adults in their lives are. They are either not paying attention or truly villainous. Supposedly with the exception of their great uncle, but he PUTS THEM IN DANGEROUS SITUATIONS ON PURPOSE!!! He's supposed to be painted as this fun uncle letting them in on grownup secrets and helping them on their quest, but what I see is a grown man allowing children to endanger themselves so that he can get what he wants. And look, I know having adults not paying attention for one reason or another is a very common trope in children's literature, but something about how this was done just hit different for me.

And again, part of this is I'm a parent myself, not reading this for the first time as a child, and those protective instincts are leaving me horrified at the behavior of the uncle. I wanted to give this a try because it is considered to be something of a classic, but I think it just wasn't for me. Also some content warnings for racism and brownface.
Profile Image for Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all).
1,950 reviews181 followers
May 13, 2016
Three stars from the adult me. When I first read and raved about this series (or as much of it as I could find when I was in middle school--I think I never got hold of Vol 5), it would have been a solid five--or perhaps 7! I was King Arthur-mad in those days, and "fantasy fiction" was a relatively new phenomenon in my environment. The story of three siblings (and a dog) who search for the Holy Grail in Cornwall, dodging bad guys as they go, was just my drop in those days. I didn't remember anything at all about it when I came across it again, so it was like an unknown book, except I remembered loving it.

It's still well-written, and in its way a rattling good yarn--but. There's a definite smell of The Famous Five about it when I read it now. Mom and Dad are never around; Mom's a painter, so she's either shut up in her "studio" or off painting somewhere on the coast, and Dad? Well, Dad is just sketched-in, but mostly he's off fishing, or acting like a big kid. They even have a borrowed dog, a big bouncy mutt called Rufus who apparently "came with the house!" We're never actually told how old the kids are, I figured probably between 10 or 11 and 15, the cut-off point for getting all excited about treasure maps and legends of the Maltese Falcon sort. I suppose not stating ages would help young readers identify more? At this reading, I noticed that it's mostly Simon and Barnabas (the boys) who do the running, the dodging, the rescuing--and even most of the searching. Jane mostly thinks. Oh, she comes up with some very useful ideas and answers, that send her brothers crashing off to do stuff. But she mostly stands or sits and waits for them to come back. They need her, but in a passive tarry-by-the-stuff role. (She does go out at night a couple of times--with Simon and Uncle Merry; yeah, girls can't/shouldn't act on their own, I guess.) However, the book was published in 1965, and possibly written before then, by a woman born in 1935, so her gender-roles were probably pretty fixed. This also assures it's a good clean adventure, though the end is rather truncated, I felt. We go from the hugely exciting (for kids) adventure at sea scene to a leap into the future--how long? never told--and nothing in between.

And of course the adult me figured Uncle Merry out in the first chapter, the first time he refused to answer a direct question and put that faraway Eagle-on-a-crag look on his face.

It strikes me that I probably only read this once, back in the day. True, there were more volumes to the saga, but it says something if you're me. I enjoyed it then, but the fact that I remembered nothing at all about it tells me it made little lasting impression. It wasn't the crashing comedown that some childhood re-reads have been, though.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
361 reviews49 followers
February 21, 2023
***Updated review---Wow! I can't believe I read this almost 7 years ago and still haven't returned to finish the series until now. It really is a great start to a story. Once again, I loved traipsing through the Cornish countryside with Simon, Jane, and Barney. The addition to this story of some King Arthur archaeology is fantastic and still one of the points I love best about this book. I listened to it this time on audiobook, which enhanced the experience. Alex Jennings was the narrator and all I can say is it's fantastic!

I don't understand how I missed this series as a child. It may be because I've never been a big fan of fantasy books, even as a kid, but the mystery in this would have been enough to have overshadowed that for me. I loved the setting and that, except for the absence of a few modern technologies (cell phones, etc), it could take place in more recent times. The mix of history with mystery was a great addition to the story. I've picked up the remaining books in the series and can't wait to read them.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews145 followers
March 1, 2023
And so it begins. Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence evolved a lot over five novels and twelve years, but Over Sea, Under Stone grounds the story firmly in Arthurian mysticism, which has inspired Western lore for untold centuries. Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew are visiting the village of Trewissick on the coast of Cornwall, England with their parents as our story opens. They're staying at Grey House, a manor being rented by their great-uncle Merry, also known as Professor Lyons. He's a peculiar fellow, an old, old man of indefinite origins; he's not a blood relative of the Drews, but has been a close friend of the family since long before the children were born, and they admire him as a man of deep, searching intellect. For Simon, Jane, and Barney, the Grey House is an invitation to adventure; long, musty hallways and side passages lead to hidden doors and massive attic spaces, where any sort of long-lost secret may be kept. The house is owned by a Captain Toms, but "Gumerry"—as the kids sometimes call Great-Uncle Merry—is in charge, and doesn't mind if the Drew kids explore. What intrigue might the manor hold for them?

It isn't savvy so much as luck that leads Barney to stumble across a tattered map in a forgotten corner of the attic. The paper looks hundreds of years old, and the faint handwriting is hard to decipher, but that's what Great-Uncle Merry is for. A bit of afternoon curiosity turns into something more when he tells the children of a war between good and evil that has raged since time immemorial, back to the age of King Arthur and much longer ago than that. The map is a copy of an original that Great-Uncle Merry estimates was written by a local Cornishman no less than nine hundred years ago. It is a set of obscure directions to the location of a hidden talisman—implied to be the holy grail of Christendom—that could tip the balance in the struggle between good and evil. It's up to the Drew children to find the grail, but Simon, Jane, and Barney are ordinary kids; do they have what it takes to fulfill an ancient quest?

Great-Uncle Merry insists this is the children's adventure and he will limit his role to that of protecting them. Our three young heroes learn not to trust local adults other than Gumerry; Mr Norman Withers and his sister Polly act friendly at the outset, but Captain Toms's red setter, Rufus, has them pegged from the start as ne'er-do-wells. They are among the evil ones that Great-Uncle Merry warned against, who would use the grail for ghastly purposes, and they must be stopped. There are others, too, with a malevolent eye toward the Drew children, or who would betray them for a bribe. As our trio closes in on a discovery bound to change perception of Arthurian mythos forever, a single chilling question drives their determination: if they don't step up as guardians against the darkness, who will?

Defying death wasn't what Simon, Jane, and Barney had in mind for their holiday at Trewissick, but they sought adventure and now they have it. Their encounters with the enemy are frightening; as Jane says, "It's as if there's someone waiting behind every corner to pounce on us. I only feel safe when I'm in bed." It doesn't feel good to constantly be on the verge of your life ending at the hands of evil people, but is it better to take that risk or stay tucked safe in bed where monsters have no reason to pursue? Great-Uncle Merry lays out the stakes of the endless war between darkness and light: "That struggle goes on all round us all the time, like two armies fighting. And sometimes one of them seems to be winning and sometimes the other, but neither has ever triumphed altogether. Nor ever will...for there is something of each in every man." The good versus evil conflict on a macro scale is mirrored in the heart of the individual, who struggles to tame his or her own darkness but never fully succeeds in this lifetime. To which side will we declare allegiance, regardless of our inability to be perfectly loyal? Simon, Jane, and Barney have made their choice, and so must we all.

Over Sea, Under Stone is one of the first novels I read on my own, so it's special to me. The writing is inconsistent—at times it feels herky-jerky, and the deductions that Simon, Jane, and Barney make as they follow the Cornishman's map are difficult to keep track of—but when the story gets on a roll it's easy to feel immersed in the action. The book ends with a dose of ambiguity regarding its mystical elements. I like Margery Gill's illustrations; her renderings of the sea are sublime, and she infuses each of the three young Drews with personality. I can't bring myself to rate Over Sea, Under Stone higher than two and a half stars, but it's the foundation of Susan Cooper's literary legacy: book two in the Dark Is Rising Sequence earned a 1974 Newbery Honor, and book four, The Grey King, won the 1976 Newbery Medal. What surprises await as the series moves forward?
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,641 reviews122 followers
August 24, 2013
I wanted to like this but couldn't sink my teeth into the plot or characters. Jane, Simon, and Barney, go with their parents to Cornwall to visit their Uncle Merry. The three explore the old grey house and discover an ancient map that puts them on the quest for the Holy Grail. The forces of Dark want the map too for its unlimited power and with the help of Uncle Merry it is a mad race to see who can find it first. The threesome are not sure who is good or bad and their innocent trust oftentimes leads them to dangerous situations.

Not that the kids know the situations are dangerous. That's one thing I liked about the characters. They are kids with short attention spans who forget about their quest because they are distracted by a carnival or want to lay out in the sun. Their imaginations interfere with their focus at times and it is endearing and also diffuses what might scare some. Others might find it annoying because it slows down the plot and as a reader you might be tearing your hair and shaking the book saying, "What are they thinking? They have to hurry or the bad guys will get there!"

I found myself more annoyed with the tension technique that comes from the kids or adults misleading the three kids on purpose or people miscommunicating with each other. This was used too many times and it is something I'm biased against. For instance, Jane should be telling Uncle Merry, Simon, and Barney about the vicar and his interest in the map but she doesn't because she doesn't think it is important. She's pretty bright through most of the story so I'm not buying that reasoning. Later, she makes the connection and it is pretty obvious the device was used to move the story forward. This happens again with other characters such as Barney and Mrs. Palk and I found it contrived and boring after awhile.

The setting has great descriptions and its easy to imagine this village on the harbor. The villains are one dimensional. They represent the Dark and sometimes appear nice and fun to the three kids. This is a good reminder that not everyone can be judged by outward appearances. The parents in the story are oblivious to what is happening with their kids and the quest. I wasn't quite sure why one villain had more power over the flunkies who served him. Perhaps the sequel will explain more of their relationships.

Jane is more stereotypical of a girl raised in the 1970's. She objects to her brother's dirty hands, wants to please those around her, it a bit of a sissy on the adventure having to be carried because she's so afraid, carries a spool of thread in her jacket, and who wants to tell parents about old manuscript. The mother is also presented as the stereotypical flakey artist. I did enjoy the voice of the characters with a Cornish accent, especially how they always said, "midear."

The plot was predictable and the clues weren't very interesting. The fantasy elements are all there in this book, it just didn't grab my interest. I'm going to read book 2 because it won a Newbery award. Cooper must have nailed it better than this one. I'm sure hoping so!
Profile Image for Mathew.
1,473 reviews171 followers
April 8, 2017
It was an absolute treat to revisit this book and begin again on the Dark is Rising journey. There is much to like about Cooper's writing, her characters and sense of place are strong but deep within the veins of the words is this sense of a connection with our history and heritage. I'm a suckler for anything with monoliths and megaliths in and this was is full to the brim. Not only that but much like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, there is this search and connection with an ancient past that I love so dearly. There is also a deep sense of fear here in the character of Mr Hastings and the battle between good and evil here is not a simple one nor one that speaks down to the child reader. Instead, it is rooted in something more primal. Although some of the language and dialogue between the characters may have dated somewhat, the story still beats truer than most.
489 reviews26 followers
June 14, 2020
Three siblings on summer holiday discover an ancient treasure map and race against the forces of the Dark in order to unlock its secrets.

This is one of those books that I’ve always known I should read and have finally gotten around to it. I have not been disappointed. Susan Cooper masterfully evokes long, lazy vacations in a seaside getaway, where every feature of the geography seems to promise wonderful things. I was reminded of my own beach vacations as a boy, my brother and I making up stories about every cave we found and longing for a real adventure. The fantasy aspects of the story are nearly nonexistent, so some readers may feel like they are the victims of a bait and switch, but the quality of this story and the writing is so high that I did not feel cheated. Many reviewers have noted that the series improves with later installments, so I know I have some great reading ahead of me.

Profile Image for Judith Johnson.
Author 1 book86 followers
March 20, 2022
Reading this for the first time in my sixties! It came out when I was a schoolgirl, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t come across it then, immersed as I was in John Masefield, Edith Nesbit, Tolkien, Alan Garner, CS Lewis etc.

Enjoyed reading it, and will read the others in the series, but have to say I think Masefield’s The Midnight Folk has the edge on it. But then, as I’ve said, I’ve not come to this as a child, and if it was the first book, all those years back, I’d read of this genre I most likely would have felt differently.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,548 reviews2,934 followers
March 19, 2017
This book was bad... Really bad. I think maybe if I had read this as a young child it wouldn't have bothered me, but reading this as an adult it wasn't a good read....

I picked this book up as a recent Magical Space Pussycats read and I had hoped to enjoy reading a kid's fiction for once. Unfortunately this story really suffered from prejudices and poor writing so I found myself getting more and more frustrated page by page.

In this story we not only see three young British Middle-class children making fun of the working class, anyone foreign, anyone gay and anyone even remotely different, but we see them doing so completely obliviously. These three children aren't 'bad', in fact they are the 'heroes' of the book, but the problem of the time it was written (60s) is that a lot of people (clearly including this author) held many of these prejudices themselves and had no issue writing these into their own works.

This is a story following three kids who go on an adventure to the coast and they stay in a very old house owned by their Great Uncle Merry. Whilst there they discover a map which they think will lead them to the Holy Grail of King Arthur so they follow the clues and try to find out where it leads.

For me this wasn't a good read and I definitely won't be reading more in the series or by this author. Sadly there are many other books from the 60s which are much, much better in terms of plot, writing, and not being entirely phobic of everything. 1* overall - wouldn't recommend.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
February 3, 2019
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

At one point, I read The Dark is Rising trilogy at Christmas every year, lining up the timeline of The Dark is Rising itself with the season, as the most obviously timed event in the books. I still maintain that it’s a good series: Cooper did some clever things with mythology and history. I recently read an article by Michael D.C. Drout, ‘Reading the Signs of the Light’, which made that very clear (though that essay is more focused on the second book of the series onwards than on this one). Cooper also has a very deft touch with character: the children behave like real children, with their bursts of moodiness, sibling rivalries, etc.

The main issue, really, is that I’ve read these books too much. Everything is all too familiar — though there are scenes that bring back the old dread and excitement even so, like Barney’s journey alone into the cave under the rocks, and Simon’s chase scene when he escapes with the map. This is the most juvenile of the books, and has worn the least well, all the same. It’s focused on the story from the point of view of the children, without a real idea of the seriousness and significance of the quest.
Profile Image for J.M. Hushour.
Author 6 books195 followers
February 4, 2019
I read the shit out of this series when I was a kid. I still have the above original copy I read as a kid. I haven't re-read them in years but they still stand out as some of, perhaps THE, best series of "fantastic" novels for children.
Revel in children's literature before the age of film adaptations, farting cartoon rabbits, and social messages being fuck-squared into the trapezoid of literary mediocrity!
Three English kids go on holiday to Trewissick in Cornwall (a fictional version of Mevagissey), stay in a place called The Grey House (awesome), hang out with their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry, find an ancient map and get sucked into a quest to find an ancient relic of power that the insidious local vicar and some other evil assholes are also looking for.
Chock full of memorable stuff! The carnival-as-trap, all the Arthurian stuff (no spoiler there--what could the source of an ancient relic of power in Cornwall be otherwise, people?), and the great ending. Introduced the series and while not as exciting and weird as the other entries, is just as great in its own right!
Profile Image for Kristy Miller.
402 reviews84 followers
August 7, 2017
This is the first book of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising cycle. The Dark is Rising is actually the second book in the series, and much like another famous English fantasy series **coughNarniacough**, the second book is the better one; though in that case you get in to written chronology versus story chronology, and the conversation becomes complicated. I hadn’t read this first one since my early teens. And while it is good, I can’t wait to get the next one in the series. I also noticed many similarities to another beloved English fantasy book from my childhood, The Box of Delights. Both are linked to the Arthurian legends, both involve children on holiday trying to solve a mystery, both involve shady clergy and absent adults and robberies. Since Box of delights came out 30 years before Over Sea, Under Stone, it’d be hard not to see the influence of the former on the latter.
Profile Image for Richard.
Author 4 books427 followers
February 10, 2017
This book is the first of a series. It has a weird family resemblance to the Chronicles of Narnia: some children explore a mysterious old house while on holiday by the Cornish seaside. There is even a wardrobe, albeit not one that functions as a conduit to a magical world. The book seems to start off somewhat slowly but builds up to a very tense climax near the end, as Simon, Jane and Barnabas Drew grapple with the powers of evil aided by Great-Uncle Merry and a lovable dog named Rufus.
Profile Image for Olivia.
698 reviews117 followers
May 21, 2020
Ultimately this is another one of those, "I'm now probably too old and will never experience the nostalgia that other people experience while re-reading this."

However, Susan Cooper's writing is pleasant and the story offers an exciting adventure, so I'm interested to read the next book.

It is (of course) aimed at a young audience, and I wish someone had given this to me when I was a child, I definitely would have loved the adventure.
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