Book Review: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

I’ve mentioned before that my son likes to read fantasy.  He’s a very good reader, but he’s only eight.  The benefit to his young age is that he misses a lot of the content (or context) of what he reads, so something that I might find questionable as I read passes right over his head.  The con is that it’s very difficult to find appropriate reading material for his age.  I like fantasy literature to a point… unlike J, I’m not into the monsters or fantastic planets.  I enjoy a powerful, well-written story that is not bound to space and time.  But I have to preview (or at least keep up with) what he’s reading, so we can discuss it together.

My husband read this series by Susan Cooper several years ago without our son’s particular needs in mind.  So when we picked it up again on CD for a recent road trip, I felt compelled to read it myself. 

I found myself sneaking into J’s room at night to take the books away from his bed so I could read ahead while he was sleeping.

Susan Cooper writes beautifully.  We’ve read a few other things recently that interested J more, but these books are so well written.  I wanted to keep reading just to see England and Wales from her perspective.  The characters– of very different ages and backgrounds– were vividly portrayed, and even the ones who appeared on the side were believable.  I wish I could write like she does.

The "theology"– though I don’t think you could call it that– was not Christian.  J, at a young eight, missed all of the brief mention of religion.  The protagonists are "Old Ones," creatures of the Light who live forever and whose only purpose in the world is to fight The Dark.  I liked the good v. evil motif, and the idea that we have to choose one or the other (this is also why I like the Harry Potter books), but at one point she says that the Light v. Dark battle has been going on outside of Time, and before even God.  So be warned that these are not Christian books.

My husband heard an interview with the author about the recent movie.  Apparently the movie is significantly different from the books.  I don’t think I’ll rush out to see it.  These books fit in the category of those books I see so vividly in my mind, I don’t want to share them with a big screen– I don’t want anyone else’s vision of this imaginary world to change how I see it right now.

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One thought on “Book Review: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

  1. I loved those books growing up, but even then, the scene where the vicor is afraid of the dark ones, and the old talismens saved him that looked like crosses but weren't was off putting. After college I got rid of my copies thinking that I shouldn't keep books like that around for children to borrow, but we did let B watch the new movie (OK as a movie, not really a book companion) and then let him read the book, since he'd read other books not in the Christian worldview, and pointed out the differences. I miss my old copies.

    When I glanced through the book, it was as beautifully written as I remembered.

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