The Dark Is Rising

by Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising
2nd book in the series

Children's book review by Sarah Denslow

Young Adult

Protecting The Light against the forces of The Dark

For obvious reasons, I don’t ordinarily recommend reading the second book in a series first. However, I’m going to make an exception for Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, the second book in the series of the same name.

There are a number of reasons for this deviation.

The first is that I believe that this first book is overall a better book than Over Sea, Under Stone (also reviewed on this site). While Over Sea Under Stone is a wonderful adventure story, this book creates an epic story of good, evil, and the human heart.

This is the book that won a Newberry honor medal, and is consequently almost always available at bookstores. Over Sea, Under Stone, however, is sometimes difficult to find.

And, of course, there’s the fact that The Dark Is Rising, though part of a larger sequence, is basically a standalone novel.

Leaving behind Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, Cooper introduces us to young Will Stanton. Will is about to turn eleven, but on his eleventh birthday Will finds out that he is not an ordinary young boy. Will is the last of The Old Ones, immortal beings charged with protecting The Light against the forces of The Dark.

Readers of the first book will recognize the figure of Merriman, who appears as a mentor and guide to Will.

Will is charged not only with learning to use his new magical abilities but also with uniting six magical signs that will be used in the Light’s final stand against the dark.

He travels between his own time and the past in order to complete his tasks, and Cooper weaves in bits and pieces of British folklore along the way. Cooper paints a wonderfully vivid picture of both Will’s own modern English life as well as the worlds of past.

The Dark is Rising is perhaps my favorite book in the series, and it is often cited as the book that turned many adults into readers. And some of those adults, no doubt, read this second book in the series before the first.

The series also includes:

Read more of Sarah's book reviews.

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