Book review

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (1965)

When the age old legend of King Arthur's battle for Good against the forces of Evil springs into life again in modern Cornwall the three Drew children are caught in the thick of it. For it is they who find the mysterious manuscript in the attic of their holiday house, and that leads them through many dangers to Arthur's Grail, hidden for many ages over sea and under stone. Fortunately they have the protection of their impenetrable Great Uncle Merry who seems to know more about their oppressors than he is willing to reveal.

And in this first book of The Dark is Rising sequence, meeting Great Uncle Merry is a bit like bumping into an iceberg floating in the ocean, because two thirds of the character is submerged. Only at the very end does Barney say softly to himself:

'Merriman Lyon...Merry Lyon...Merlion...Merlin...'
He looked across the room to where Great-Uncle Merry's white head towered over the rest; slightly bent as he listened to what someone else was saying. The angular brown face seemed more than ever like an old, old carving, deep eyes shadowed and mysterious above the fierce nose.
'No,' Barney said aloud, and he shook himself. 'It's not possible.' But as he followed Simon and Jane he glanced back over his shoulder, wondering. And Great-Uncle Merry, as if he knew, turned his head and looked him full in the face for an instant across the crowd; smiled very faintly, and looked away again.

This is an exciting quest told in uncomplicated language and with clear explanation of the historical background.

What can I read next?

Great-Uncle Merry, whoever he is, features much more prominently in the next book in this sequence of five. Do read them in order:

  • Over Sea, Under Stone
  • The Dark is Rising
  • Greenwitch
  • The Grey King
  • Silver on the Tree

If you enjoy Susan Cooper's books, you might like to look at this one by Alan Garner:

Or this one by Diana Wynne Jones:

You might also Like to try Philip Pullman's trilogy:

You might also like to have a look at anything by Arthur Ransome:

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