Book Review: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

“The Dark is Rising” is the second book in The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper. It follows “Over Sea Under Stone” but it has a very different feel and a different main character child.

This novel follows Will Stanton on his 11th birthday and soon after Christmas when he discovers his identity as an Old One. He then has a quest to find the six signs and stop the Dark from rising.

It is a much more magical novel than the first and jumps around in times some. The imagery is much more fantastic and sometimes hard to picture in your mind. The conflict between Dark and Light is described in much more detail and various magical rules or guidelines are arbitrarily given with no real logic behind then. The book maintains the mystery elements from the first book, but adds in the possibility of almost anything happening magically.

Personally, I didn’t like this book as much as the first one, but I would still recommend it as a good middle school fantasy fiction novel. My main caution is that for readers who are Christians, this book is explicitly dismissive of Christianity as being naive and out of touch with what is really older magic (according to the book). I don’t think this disqualifies the book from being read by Christians, but I do think parents should open a discussion about this point of view. It is a prevalent enough idea among children’s fantasy literature that it should be talked about openly and honestly. There is a lure in pagan folklore and mythology of antiquity, but historically, this is only true in certain regions. The history of the Judeo-Christian world view is very ancient. Christians do not need to fear this discussion at all.

So, even with my reservations about various points, I do think this book is a good one for middle school and up readers. I like books that make me think, whether or not I agree with everything. I do like how it pulls from Cornish folklore and both English and Welsh myths. I also found the characters very compelling as well. I look forward to the next book in the series, “The Greenwich.”