Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper
Jane, Simon and Barney are thrilled to spend a vacation in Cornwall with their Great Uncle Merry. When he disappears for a while, as he’s wont to do, the three children find themselves disappointed and at loose ends. One rainy day they decided to explore the sea captain’s house where they’re staying, and in a dusty corner of the attic they make a startling discovery. The ancient scroll they find sets them irrevocably on the path toward danger, adventure, and an even greater discovery–if they can avoid the forces of evil long enough to make it that far.
I guess it was inevitable that I’d read The Dark is Rising Sequence at some point–it’s a classic of children’s fantasy, and it’s been recommended to me by any number of trusted sources. So I finally gave in, and picked up Over Sea, Under Stone. I have to admit, I was…not exactly skeptical, at first, but not exactly sure I’d have a good time reading it, either. I am a lover of fantasy, but within the genre, the adventures of British children from the 50’s and 60’s aren’t my particular cup of tea. Still, I tried to come at the book with no biases. I did like the prose, though it had a dated feel to it, and I decided to overlook the fact that the adventure proper begins when some children explore a house they’ve never been to on a rainy day. Maybe at the time this book was published, the scene where they discover a door in the wall behind a huge wardrobe would have read as a loving reference to Narnia, rather than a scene I’d seen too many times before. It’s hard to say. So I kept going–and it got better. I was pretty absorbed in it by the end, even though I’m not left with the overwhelming love for it that other people seem to have. I’ll certainly read the rest of the series, though–I’m the kind of person who can love the shape of a long story arc, even if there are pieces I wasn’t thrilled with. So we’ll see how it goes! For this opening gambit, though, you get four stars–quality but not spectacular.