Friday 23 November 2012

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Book 1) - Susan Cooper

Title: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Book 1)
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1965
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

“Over Sea, Under Stone” by Susan Cooper is the first novel in a Children’s fantasy series known as “The Dark is Rising” sequence. What I find interesting about this series is that even though it supposedly quite famous, I had never heard of it until there was a movie made based upon the 2nd book in the series. This is a shame as I imagine that a 8 year old me would have loved this book much more than I did when I read it as an adult.

The story follows the antics of the Drew siblings, Simon, Jane and Barney, who spend their summer holiday in Cornwall alongside their mysterious great-uncle Merry. Whilst exploring the house rented by their Uncle Merry, they find a treasure map that appears to be related to the various legends of King Arthur. They soon decide to embark upon an adventure to try and follow the map to discover what ancient treasure has been hidden. Of course, it turns out that they are not the only ones interested in following the map and it soon becomes clear that they are now embroiled in a conflict between the light and the darkness that has been going on for millennia.

One of the first things I noted as I read this story was that it really did feel like a book aimed at children. For example, the characters are all rather simple in how they are portrayed with only Uncle Merry really offering any sort of complexity. Don’t get me wrong, I found the Drew siblings to be quite endearing and I enjoyed seeing how they would get scared and doubt their own actions but it was all very one-dimensional in a manner that I think will appeal much more to children than it does adults.

Another aspect of the story that highlighted its target audience is that the action, thrills and excitement aren’t drawn out with any exposition, they are direct and immediate. This of course ensures that children are kept entertained but it does limit some of the bigger picture type scenarios and ensures there is very little suspense that lasts more than a few pages.

Quite simply the entire novel reminded my quite strongly of an Enid Blyton style adventure that many children will love. However, I felt that there was a little bit more depth to this story as Cooper has included elements of fantasy and hinted at a potential epic good vs. evil scenario. I enjoyed this little diversion from the standard children’s mystery novel and think Cooper has done a good job at trying to gently introduce young readers to the fantasy genre.

Overall, as an adult reader I would have to admit that this book could only really be classed as being okay. I did find it both enjoyable and endearing but the simplicity in both the characters and the way the plot is presented does limit its appeal somewhat. However, I can really imagine sitting down and reading it to my daughter in a couple of years and this is where I believe the book will shine. I have been told that the next books in the series are aimed at a slightly older audience so I am now looking forward to seeing how Cooper manages to progress the series in both plot and in style.

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Year of the Fantasy Classic Challenge


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