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Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Over Sea, Under Stone (1965)

by Susan Cooper

Other authors: Margery Gill (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Dark is Rising Sequence (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,322991,144 (3.81)1 / 248
  1. 30
    The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (tyranist)
  2. 20
    Earthfasts by William Mayne (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Another classic children's book with an Arthurian theme, bringing the Matter of Britain into the 20th century.
  3. 10
    The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Hibou8)
  4. 10
    Elidor by Alan Garner (bookwyrmm)
  5. 00
    Mystery at Witchend by Malcolm Saville (humouress)
    humouress: The same sense of adventure, and children in mid 20th century Britain striving against sinister adults.
  6. 00
    The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway (bookwyrmm)

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Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
"""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.""

Few thing in life are more rewarding than picking a book to read, thinking that it's going to be, at most, average, and having your expectations exceeded. My first contact with this story was back in 2007, when some friends were sleeping over at my house; we didn't have much to do but watching some movies, really, so we discovered a new movie called ""The Seeker: The Dark is Rising"". I actually enjoyed the movie, but didn't think further about it during the next few years. One day, during one of my early-in-the-morning useless Wikipedia ""researches"" I found a series of books called ""The Dark is Rising Sequence"", then I thought ""Hey! This name is familiar!"". It didn't take much time after this for me to link the dots and find the books. Before starting to read this one, though, I couldn't help thinking that maybe there wasn't a sequence to the first movie because the books were not that good. Fortunately, I soon discovered I was wrong. This book, despite being different from any other fantasy book aimed for children that I had read to that point, was an incredible read. I read some reviews of people who tend to compare this to Harry Potter, like it is an earlier version of that story or something; I strongly disagree. Cooper doesn't waste any time giving the characters time to be happy, she gives them no breaks. Yes, there is adventure, but darkness is always present; at times it felt more like a thriller book than a fantasy book, to be honest.

The story takes place in the fictional coastal town of Trewissick, England. It all begins when three siblings, Simon, Jane, and Barney, and their parents join their great uncle Merry for a summer vacation, renting a mansion known as the Grey House. At first, it strongly reminded me of [b:The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe|100915|The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)|C.S. Lewis|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1353029077s/100915.jpg|4790821]; the children, after settling in, found themselves utterly bored. They decide it would be a good little adventure to explore the house, so they go on different directions, opening every door, until they find a manuscript from the days of King Arthur. The artifact to which it points renders the children dumbfounded, for they never thought such thing could exist. The strange thing is, soon after their discovery, bad events start happening; the house gets sacked, weird visitors start, per say, to try and make their way into the family's inner circle, the Drew parents start acting uncharacteristically. It comes to a point when the children finally realize that the only person they can truly trust is their great uncle.

Despite it being a classic story about good against evil, Cooper excels at building both her characters and her story. It is a story intended to be read by children, but the way it is told is so mature, full of suspense, tension and darkness, that you ultimately forget you are reading a fantasy book. The plot is so intricate, yet effortlessly put together, what makes up for its lack of originality. The fact that such young children are thrown into an ancient battle between forces they can barely understand, facing evil forces which seem much more resourceful than them, gets you breathless after every single action scene. Ah, that! There is one thing which I think Cooper has yet to improve: writing battle scenes. She is a genius when it comes to building suspense, but the few physical confrontations present in this book seemed, to say the least, quite pedestrian. What I'm trying to say is that I got more exhilarated by the fact that the children were in danger against way stronger and unknown enemies than by her mastery with words, when it came to action scenes.

Anyway, I'm genuinely happy for having read this first installment. Even though I got the feeling that the author didn't expose that much about the future of her story yet, she brilliantly captured the essence of childhood innocence; the characters were all extremely believable and the way the plot was naturally developed under the perception flow of childish curiosity was an welcome change from the heavy stuff I had been reading before this book. The perfection by which Cooper built all the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat more often than not, so it was a real page-turner. I'm only taking one star out of this book because, as mentioned, the action scenes could have been developed somewhat better.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
""'You remember the fairy tales you were told when you were very small - 'once upon a time...' Why do you think they always began like that?'"" 'Because they weren't true,' Simon said promptly. Jane said, caught up in the unreality of the high remote place, 'Because perhaps they were true once, but nobody could remember them.'""

The Last Passage
“We shan’t know what his secret was, that Gumerry talked about and the enemy wanted.”
“We shan’t know about that other odd thing the manuscript said—the day when the Pendragon shall come again.”
Barney, listening to them, looked again at the mysterious words engraved on the gleaming side of the grail. And he raised his head to stare across the room at Great-Uncle Merry’s tall figure, with the great white head and fierce, secret face.
“I think we shall know,” he said slowly, “one day.”
" ( )
1 vote AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
A 1965 children’s fantasy book in which Magic can be seen as a metaphor for the enigmatic realm of adulthood, a frightening place of risk and danger and too much choice, into which one is best initiated by a fearfully wise, but kindly, wizard.

A child spies on a beloved adult, and sees something opaque:
“Great-Uncle Merry, coming back towards the car from the Grey House, had suddenly stopped in his tracks in the middle of the road. He was gazing down at the sea; and she realised that he had caught sight of the yacht. What startled her was the expression on his face. Standing there like a craggy towering statue, he was frowning, fierce and intense, almost as if he were looking and listening with sense other than his eyes and ears. He could never look frightened, she thought, but this was the nearest thing to it that she had ever seen. Cautious, startled, alarmed … what was the matter with him?” (7)

A child gets to be a hero for a brief, terrifying moment, and something crumbles from his vision of the world:
Barney follows the bidding of his older brother “secretly relieved to be able to accept commands. He felt he had had enough of being the lone hero that day to last him for years - so that his private dreams of solitary bold knights in shining armor would never be quite the same again.” (196)
  maryoverton | Jul 2, 2015 |
Great book. Read it as a child and again a year it so ago. Loved it than and now. ( )
  Ben_Harnwell | Apr 26, 2015 |
I enjoyed this Arthurian YA fantasy tale quite a bit. It struck me as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys go to Narnia with a pinch of Wrinkle in Time. Plotwise, not everything makes sense but I still found it an engrossing story. I plan to read the rest of the series this year. ( )
  ScoLgo | Apr 17, 2015 |
Yes, but Kindle.
  Xleptodactylous | Apr 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Cooperprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gill, MargeryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For my mother and father, with love
First words
"Where is he?"

Barney hopped from one foot to the other as he clambered down from the train, peering in vain through the white-faced crowds flooding eagerly to the St Austell ticket barrier. "Oh, I can't see him. Is he there?"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This LT work, Over Sea, Under Stone, is Book 1 (of 5 Books) in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence. Please distinguish it from other single titles in the series, and from any combination(s) of part or all of the series. Thank you.
Publisher's editors
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0020427859, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:03 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Three children on a holiday in Cornwall find an ancient manuscript which sends them on a dangerous quest for a grail that would reveal the true story of King Arthur and that entraps them in the eternal battle between the forces of the Light and the forces of the Dark.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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Average: (3.81)
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