This book is a rare act of creative imagination in which the listener will be equally moved by the warm happy village life Will shares with his large family and the nearly overwhelming danger he encounters, often in other centuries and places, while he seeks the Signs and learns their power. Interweaving ancient Celtic and English traditions with the legends of the Buckinghamshire hills and valleys where she grew up, Susan Cooper has written a superlative dramatic fantasy of the eternal conflict between good and evil out of which all myth is made.
Listen to more in the Dark Is Rising Sequence.
©1973 Susan Cooper; (P)2000 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group
"As narrator, Alex Jennings superbly conveys Will's mixed emotions." (AudioFile)
"So perfect is the match between Alex Jennings' voice and this mysterious magical tale that it is difficult to imagine any other voice reading these words." (The Horn Book Magazine)
Well, I have to say I never thought I'd hear Susan Cooper criticized for not creating a believable world, though everyone's tastes are different. I read these books frequently as a child and absolutely adored them. The whole series weaves together a large number of old British folk traditions and legends to form a tight plot fabric. I have no trouble deciphering British accents, so the reader isn't a problem for me either.
Will Stanton was the Harry Potter of MY childhood - a hermetic, pagan, and somewhat fatalistic Harry Potter - but a kid wizard nonetheless.
That being said, this is an extraordinary children's book. If it is unrealistic and predictable, then it is so only to the degree that all children's novels don't pay the same attention to place and plot-twist as some adult novels.
The appeal of this piece to a non-child "Audible" listener should be akin to that of well-done animation and fairy tales. Cooper interweaves somber Celtic myth with modern middle-class life. The effect is enchanting and - at times - unsettling. The accomplished narrator, too, I insist performs a conscientious and careful re-telling of what is, essentially, a dark and pre-adolescent Arthurian legend. Unlike the tales of the other kid sorcerer, Will's story wraps around archetypal imagery and highly abstract themes from the vantage of a sympathizable "everyboy" protagonist. Thus - it does not FEEL like a children's novel - nor at any point will a listener feel condescended to by the novel. It treats its child-audienced readers like adults and with dignity. It does not make itself easily accessible for them as some childrens' books do.
Freud could have a hey-day, carrying on about child-Narcissism and the damaging effects of fantasy writing on childhood development, so I won't recommend it for children anymore than I would Harry Potter. But if you must choose of the two - pick this piece for its 'humanist-responsibility' theme, impressive lexicon, and broad spectrum of emotional imagery. And for adults ... we all like cartoons and crayons - try out this title, which I highly recommend for that exceptionally gifted pre-adolescent in everyone.
I read "The Dark is Rising" for the first time at eleven and absolutely loved it- it pulled me into its world so completely that finishing the story was actually disorienting. I read it again at fourteen and couldn't understand it at all. When I purchased the audio version as an adult I fully expected to be royally confused again, but I just couldn't resist the chance to- maybe- recapture some of the magic I remembered from my first read. It was, in fact, confusing- the timeshifts and the 'logic' of the world were surreal and difficult to wrap my head around... but when I was able to stop *trying* to wrap my head around the story and just let it carry me along, it was almost like I was eleven again. I could feel the wonder and excitement. At least until some more grown up sensibility popped in to my head and spoiled the effect, rather like having the most amazing dream and then realizing that it's just a dream and can't be real. Would I recommend this story to others? Yes. Especially if they happen to be around eleven years old and in that age where they can just let stories happen. For grown-ups I'll just say that the narrator is excellent, the production is crisp and clear, and that if you didn't read this in your youth and love it, you probably won't "get" it.
This series has always been one of my favorites and I've read this book innumerable times. I was hesitant about the audio version, because it can change the way you perceive the book. My only complaint would be that the recitation of the poems/chants wasn't, to my opinion, done very well, but that is a minor complaint. I really enjoyed the addition of the correct accent to the way I've always "heard" the story narrated in my mind.
This was the first sci-fantasy series I recall reading when I was about 8. That was nearly 40 years ago and I still recall the prophesy poem and story highlights quite vividly.
This series touches all the great tropes: The grail, Arthur & Merlin, great Old Ones, magic, effigies, animal companions and magical trees... and kids saving the day.
Glad this series is available ... love the tale! And Jennings is a wonderful narrator.
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