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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Dark Is Rising

Billy Goat and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best in the holiday season.

(Actual conversation at the library a few days ago, as I was checking out more than a dozen books -- Library patron: "Well, you're all set for Christmas, I see." Mister Troll: "Of course! What else are you supposed to do at Christmas, talk to people?" Library patron: "...")

One day down, one book down and I still have lots of time to talk with family. In the meantime, in the spirit of the season, let me recommend the best Christmas story...

Recommended: The Dark Is Rising (Susan Cooper)

This is the ultimate winter story. On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton learns that he is the last of the circle of Old Ones, born to seek the six Signs of Light. As Christmas falls upon the little English village, Will must stand alone against the full strength of the Dark.

The Dark Is Rising is filled with beautiful contrasts: the cheerful warmth of a family celebration and the sinister iciness of the servants of the Dark; the charm and familiarity of Christian traditions with the ancient, pagan symbols. This is a story for winter nights, to read snug at home, with chill and gloom outside your windows. In no other story have I seen Christmas drawn with such warmth and such iciness at the same time.

Ms. Cooper is a talented author. She is best known and loved for her series, The Dark Is Rising, of which this eponymous story is not the first: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree.

You may read the stories in any order, which is a lovely bonus (though probably you should save Silver on the Tree for last). The style of each is relatively unique, and Will Stanton does not feature in all of them. Of course, Rule Number One applies (no author is ceaselessly brilliant); most people pick either The Dark Is Rising or The Grey King as their favourite.


Joel said...

Great recommendation, Mister Troll. I'm reading The Dark is Rising right now, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. This is a magical series from my childhood, and getting back to it has been a pleasure.

I think The Grey King is actually my favorite of the series. It was the first one I read (as part of a Quiz-bowl-like school competition called Battle of the Books), and I had to read the rest of the series after experiencing it.

If you're interested in more Susan Cooper, I also enjoyed her later book, King of Shadows (published in 1999). It's about a kid who is transposed in time with a child actor (Nathan Field) who worked for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It's more personal than The Dark is Rising, but not as epic. However, it's got Shakespeare as a character, and his plays, and those are just added bonuses.

Unknown said...

Excellent review. I have this one. I am currently reading Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black. BG, did you read it yet?

Mister Troll said...

Glad I could remind both of you about this story!

Joel said...

Avid, I haven't gotten a chance to read Spiderwick yet. I'll have to check out your blog and see how you rate it. :)