7 Rated Books Book Reviews Old School Wednesdays

Old School Wednesdays: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

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This week, Ana tackles a REALLY old school kids Fantasy, Over sea, Under Stone the first in The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper

Title: Over Sea, Under Stone

Author: Susan Cooper

Genre: Children, Fantasy

Publisher: Multiple publishers over the years
Publication date: First published in 1965
Paperback: about 200 Pages

Over sea Under Stone

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that — the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril. This is the first volume of Susan Cooper’s brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.

Standalone or series: First in The Dark Is Rising sequence

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print


Funny story: I’ve always wanted to read The Dark Is Rising sequence and so I went and bought what I thought was the first book in the series, The Dark Is Rising only to be told by a friend that no haha that is not the first book, it is the second one. Book title, why you trolling me? Anyway.

Over Sea, Under Stone is the first in what became known as The Dark Is Rising sequence and it’s a mystery/adventure/ quest following three siblings on holiday in a small town in Cornwall where they discover an ancient map in the attic and embark on a dangerous quest.

With the help of their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry, Simon, Barney and Jane run against time and dangerous enemies to decipher the map they found as well as a manuscript that was found with it.

And it’s like: all the nostalgic elements of Great Old Adventures are here. With the holidays setting, the omnipresent narration moving from head to head, the slow pacing, the adventurous shenanigans, the dynamics between the siblings and the portentous danger that people will hint to but not really clarify apart from saying “oh the GRAIL and KING ARTHUR and also THE DARK.” And why did the kids, these kids in particular were So Important and Instrumental in finding the Grail which was really, when you think of it, so easy to find, we never come to know.

But here is the funny thing: I enjoyed this book very much in the way that – having read it now as opposed to when it came out in the 60s – it became an amalgamation of some of my favourites: a bit of The Goonies here, a dash of Swallows and Amazons there, plus The Lord of the Rings and then a bit of the Tricksters, Narnia, any King Arthur story ever and so on and so forth.

And the kids are fun even though I was, at first, a bit torn about Jane’s portrayal as a stereotypically traditional girl who doesn’t like to get dirty, who is a bit of a mother figure and the “sensible one.” However, I checked myself as I don’t see why any of these things are intrinsically negative especially because she is the one who actually deciphers how to read the map.

Even though this is the beginning of the The Dark is Rising sequence, this first book reads much more as a self-contained, stand-alone quest than the start of an ominous series of adventures.

I wonder what happens next. I am so glad I already have The Dark Is Rising.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

Once upon a time… a long time ago… things that happened once perhaps but have been talked about for so long that nobody really knows. And underneath all the bits that people have added the magic swords and lamps they’re all about one thing – the good hero fighting the giant or the witch or the wicked uncle. Good against bad. Good against evil.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)


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  • Angie
    January 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

    This makes me so happy. I adore this series. Each book gets better and better. I can’t wait to hear what you think of The Grey King.

  • Octavia
    January 28, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Please, PLEASE do the rest of them. This is my favourite series ever, I’m ridiculously fond of it and have read it several times a year since childhood. I’m so obsessed with it that I’ve even written a giant 5000 word screed on the nature of sacrifice as explored in this series! I love it so… TDIR was my crack as a kid.

    Over Sea, Under Stone is I think the worst of the bunch. The Dark is Rising is my especial favourite and The Grey King is just awesome. One of the touchstone books of my childhood.

  • hapax
    January 29, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Huh. Like you, I started with THE DARK IS RISING, but I didn’t go back and read this one until many years later. Maybe it was my age (but I don’t think so), but this one struck me as much more … juvenile? than the rest of the series. Not worse, mind you, but lighter in tone, lighter in theme, and definitely narrower of scope.

    And as much as I love the series as a whole, I almost stopped with THE DARK IS RISING as well — honestly, if there had been more decent fantasy aimed at (what we later came to call) YAs, I probably would have. The imagery was glorious and the world-building mesmerizing, but the character of Will Stanton bored me to tears, and still does.

    Honestly, by the third or fourth time some Mysterious Ancient Power basically stopped and handed Will a random trinket and said, “Here’s your Plot Coupon, no need to thank me, you’re Just That Awesome”, I was ready to hurl the book at the wall.

    But the rest of the series is wonderful — the Drew children become much more interesting (Ana, I cannot *wait* to hear what you think of Jane after GREENWITCH — and Bran is just lovely.

  • Julie
    January 29, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Aww, Will Stanton was a long-ago literary crush of mine. I especially loved him in Greenwitch and The Grey King. I agree, Bran stole the show in the last book, Silver on the Tree. (I would love it if any or all of these were featured as future Old School Wednesdays!)

    Anyway, I’ve only read Over Sea, Under Stone a few times (as opposed to the many, many times I read the rest of the books in the series). I once read an interview of Susan Cooper where she said she wrote it for a book contest submission with no thought beyond just the one book. So while it was needed from a starting off point for the series, it does make sense that it would be comparatively weaker than the others. I don’t think I’d have read the rest of the books if not for the “Mer -Lion…Merlin?” ending that grabbed me (I was super into King Arthur mythology when I first came across these books).

  • Bibliotropic
    January 31, 2015 at 9:03 am

    This is definitely a series I want to make time for. It’s pretty much impossible to have not heard about it by this point, and so I really ought to actually see what the fuss is about one of these days.

  • Sara L.
    February 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    I’d been meaning to start reading the Dark Is Rising Sequence for a while, and I finally started that in November by reading this book. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, too! I do agree with you that the specific danger or evil wasn’t outlined clearly enough to the reader (and to the three siblings).

  • Becca
    February 2, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I remember liking these as a kid…glad to hear that it holds up to an adult reading! One of these days I’d like to re-read the whole thing.

    Also, I remember I read The Dark is Rising first…I think really you can start with either The Dark is Rising or Over Sea, Under Stone, just as long as you read the other before moving onto the third book.

  • Estara Swanberg
    February 8, 2015 at 5:03 am

    Still love this series. Personally I think the Dark is Rising is the strongest book of them all and I still love Will Stanton. The end of the series… well if you get that far I’ll love reading your impression of that ^^.

  • Ana
    February 8, 2015 at 7:00 am

    So I decided to carry on reading and reviewing the series, one entry per month until I am done. Next up: The Dark is Rising on Feb 11. 🙂

  • Previous Faculty Wednesdays: The Darkish is Rising (The Darkish is Rising Sequence #2) by Susan Cooper | TiaMart Blog
    February 11, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    […] got here to move that I lastly learn the Over Sea, Under Stone, the primary ebook within the Darkish is Rising Sequence a few weeks in the past and I actually […]

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