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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
6,6611391,453 (3.8)2 / 368
Three children on vacation in Cornwall find an ancient manuscript which sends them on a dangerous quest that entraps them in the eternal battle between the forces of the Light and the Dark.
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» See also 368 mentions

English (135)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (139)
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
It's possible I would have liked this in my pre-20s mad for anything Arthurian days. It's also possible that the plodding tale and the complete acceptance of her brothers' belittling her for being a girl might have made me less than enthusiastic. At one point, middle child Jane gets picked up and carried during a chase. Now the ever so 60s emphasis on good vs evil doesn't go over with me at all. Arthur was fighting for law and land, not for abstract good, though it's easy to frame it that way, just not really meaningful or interesting. ( )
1 vote quondame | Mar 15, 2024 |
On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children—Simon, Jane and Barney—find themselves drawn into an exciting but dangerous adventure, as they discover a treasure map, and embark on a quest to find its object: a chalice that once belonged to the legendary King Arthur. Their search is about far more than a lost artifact however, as they discover from their Great Uncle Merry, a mysterious figure in their lives. No, it is all part of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil, between Light and Dark, and the children must struggle to ensure that the chalice does not fall into the wrong hands...

Published in 1965, Over Sea, Under Stone is the first in Susan Cooper's five-volume Dark Is Rising fantasy sequence, and is a book that I read and reread (along with its sequels) countless times as a girl. I am rereading it now as part of a group read of the entire series that I am currently conducting with some friends, and I found it every bit as engrossing as ever I did. Cooper has a knack for making places come alive, and the small Cornish village of Trewissick is no exception. One feels as if one were right there with the children, making discovers and fleeing the enemy. Suspenseful, entertaining, utterly gripping—this is an almost perfect blend of the classic British holiday adventure story and a work of fantasy fiction. Of course the latter is rather oblique: we get the sense of the great cosmological struggle in the background, but it doesn't emerge fully until the second book in the series, The Dark Is Rising, which switches focus (and protagonists). Still, there is a powerful sense of menace here, created through Cooper's skillful writing and storytelling, and the reader races along for the conclusion. I finished this one eager to continue my reread of the series. Highly recommended to all young fantasy fans! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Feb 3, 2024 |
In an odd way, having read/listened to The Dark is Rising first made this earlier novel in the series more enjoyable. Both of them scratch a particular itch I developed long, long ago in my own childhood. On to Greenwitch. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
The first book in the series, it has some rough patches where you can tell that maybe the author hasn't yet found her voice. From what I understand, the books continue to get better (if darker) through the rest of the series. Overall, though fun read and makes me look forward to the next book ( )
  rumbledethumps | Nov 29, 2023 |
This is the first in the Dark is Rising sequence, but really forms a kind of prequel to the series because it is a classic story of children solving a mystery to find something - the Grail cup, it seems. It even has a slight Narnian vibe, when the children dislodge an old wardrobe to find stairs behind it, which take them into an attic where they discover the manuscript which will give them the clues throughout the tale.

Classically, their parents are oblivious to everything, and the children more or less run around unsupervised apart from the occasional involvement of their mysterious honorary great uncle Merry, a history professor but much more. There are a few hints that he might be a guardian character as in the rest of the series, and the youngest boy, Barnaby, even works out a clue at the end to his identity, which fits with the Arthurian theme. The force known as the Dark is present, in the form of a villainous opponent of Merry, aided by a couple of sidekicks and bolstered by locals in the Cornish village where the children are holidaying. A nice element is that even people who are jolly and make nice scones might really be nasty spies who endanger children without a qualm.

The children have to solve puzzles using logic and reasoning, which is a nice touch. The story is also well written on the whole. However, there are some niggles. For those who come to the book after 'The Dark is Rising' and its sequels, as I did originally, there is a definite disappointment: as stated above, it is not an overt fantasy. The fantasy elements are very low-key and alluded to occasionally, but the book is more a Famous Five (Enid Blyton) type adventure story. Secondly, although it must be borne in mind that this is a product of its time (1965), the three chidren are fairly privileged middle class kids, whose parents are a doctor and an artist, and gender stereotypes are well enforced. Not only does Jane have to be carried on one occasion, although she is not the youngest child, but the phrase 'poor Jane' jumped out three times, rather jarring. The boys were definitely not 'poor Simon' or 'poor Barnaby' no matter what discomforts and alarms they were put through.

So although it is quite a page turning read, it is not particularly memorable. In some respects, it sets up the series, but I don't think it is essential to read this book in order to understand the rest of the novels. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
The story, which starts slowly, becomes more compelling as the supernatural starts to take over, although the mystic powers never reach the terrifying proportions they should have, and the ending, necessarily ambiguous, seems uncomfortably contrived.
added by rretzler | editKirkus Reviews (pay site) (Apr 20, 1966)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Cooperprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gill, MargeryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, JulieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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?"
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(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.
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Three children on vacation in Cornwall find an ancient manuscript which sends them on a dangerous quest that entraps them in the eternal battle between the forces of the Light and the Dark.

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