The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although she did not initially plan to write a sequence, Susan Cooper found, when she returned to provide a sequel to the first book, not only that she had four more books to write but also that the fantasy element, originally peripheral, had become central. The forces of good and evil, known as the Light and the Dark, are locked in a supernatural struggle for power over humankind. As the sequence title proclaims, the Dark is rising for a final major assault. The books describe how various talismans of power are collected to aid the Light in the impending crisis.

Over Sea, Under Stone begins as an exciting children’s adventure story set on the southern coast of Cornwall during the summer holidays. The three Drew children, Simon, Jane, and Barney, hunt for the Grail and, despite the danger posed by some sinister villains, they eventually find it, although the accompanying manuscript is lost in the sea. Only at the end do they begin to suspect that their mysterious great-uncle Merry, as they call Professor Merriman Lyon, is none other than Merlin.

In The Dark Is Rising, the setting shifts to the twelve days of Christmas in a small village in Buckinghamshire. Will Stanton, the seventh son of a seventh son, discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is the last born of the Old Ones, an immortal race with supernatural powers dedicated to the struggle against the Dark. The Old Ones are led by the Lady and Merriman, here in the guise of the butler at the village Manor. Their foes are led by the Dark Rider. Despite fierce resistance from the Dark, wielding the weapons of fear and deceit as well as cold and flood, Will succeeds in his assigned task of gathering the six signs of power. At the novel’s conclusion, he releases the Wild Hunt to disperse his enemies.


(The entire section is 744 words.)