11 August 2005

reading notes: The Dark is Rising Sequence

I checked out the entire series from the library to reread it... By author Susan Cooper, this is a fantasy story of good versus evil, the Light versus the Dark.

It's a good story, and I would strongly recommend it for children and people of all ages. Although it is a fantasy series, it has a lot to say about the world we live in and how we act. It's based on the Arthurian legends of England, Cornwall, and Wales, but I think there are also some Christian elements, framed in abstract language, that come through.

A few observations: These are a very quick read, since they're written for a younger audience. There are five books in total, and they probaly don't add up to even one Harry Potter book, but the action moves quickly, and the plot is compelling. (In order: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree.)

I liked Cooper's observations about the Dark, which I think are quite true: that the Dark acts according to its nature and takes advantage of the normal human emotions of anger, fear, spite -- twisting them into something beyond normality. It doesn't mean that these emotions are good, but they are normal and people will feel them.. but they leave us vulnerable. It also says a good deal about the inclinations of human beings, that we can be inclined toward good or bad by our nature and also that our inclinations and the result are not always in line. That is, that we can intend to do good or to do evil, but the result may be the opposite of what we set out to do for a variety of reasons. The ending is nice, of course, because the good wins of course, but also because the characters have to make some sacrifices and have difficult choices facing them. It's not necessarily an easy ending, for all that the obvious and expected overall outcome is the end result.

It's a good series, and I'm glad I've read it again as an adult, because it has just as much to offer me now as it did when I was young.

Notes: The Dark is Rising (2nd book) was a Newbery Honor Book in 1974 and The Grey King won the Newbery Medal in 1976.