Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Over Sea, Under Stone

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising, book one)
By Susan Cooper
Published 1965 by Harcourt Children's Books

While on holiday visiting their great-uncle Merry, the three Drew children discover a crumbling map in the attic of the house in which they're staying. Determined to solve the mystery and thinking that perhaps treasure will await them at the end of the map, the children try to piece together the clues and follow the map's journey. What they don't know is that the map is the key to an ancient battle between good and evil - and now the kids are involved whether they wanted to be or not.

Here is another installment of Sarah is a Bad Librarian - this is the first Susan Cooper book I've ever read. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I really didn't read much fantasy when I was a kid or teen - I stuck to horror and realistic fiction and, by the time I was in high school, I was reading adult contemporary novels (and my assigned reading, of course). So, there are a lot of fantasy classics that I missed out on. Recently, I've become more interested in Arthurian mythology - and definitely in fantasy in general - so when I put two and two together and realized that, hey, this book might have some Arthurian legend in it, I decided to give it a shot.

Here is the Sarah is an Even Worse Librarian - I hated this book. It is short, especially in comparison to middle-grade/teen novels of today, clocking in right around 200 pages. But I promise you - those 200 pages felt pretty much like the longest 200 pages of my life. I thought for sure this book would be exciting. I expected it to grip me right from the beginning and not let me go. I was wrong. This is not that sort of book. Yes, the Drew kids go an incredible adventure, but it's not action-packed and it's not a mile a minute. There are quite a few action scenes - after all, the Drews are not the only ones on the map's trail - but they never read as particularly exciting to me. While I think Cooper did a good job with characterization of the Drews, I never found myself all that interested in them. In fact, I found them rather annoying. This may be a quality of the British-ness of the story or of the age or of me, the reader. Additionally, I expected a lot more Arthurian-ness to the story. I can see how it will develop more as the series continues; unfortunately, I didn't like this book enough to want to read more.

And, yes, that is the first edition cover up there. Very blue. And pensive.


  1. You definitely, definitely should give this series another try! The next book, The Dark is Rising, has a COMPLETELY different feel. I almost wonder whether the series was originally supposed to be a stand alone at first. The first book has a cutesy Bobbsey twinnish feel...and the next book as I said is...well it's just very different. It's definitely darker, and there's much more action. Only Merry makes an appearance in this book - the children appear in later books, and you're introduced to Will (who is a totally awesome character).

    I'd say if you don't like the second book you are unlikely to like the series, but I wouldn't judge by the first book. And trust me, the Arthurian part is definitely not going where you think it is (Well, partially you get it, but mostly there is SO MUCH MORE to it.)

  2. I'll take your comment under advisement. With so many other books, I don't know when I'd have the time to pick up a sequel to a book I really didn't enjoy, but maybe someday I'll give it a shot. We'll see. But trust me, it was a disappointment to me that I didn't enjoy this book, since this series has quite a few fans.