Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

July 26, 2009


The Dark is Rising sequence, by Susan Cooper. Book 3.

I remembered this one as being rather weak compared to the other three (obviously, I’m not counting Over Sea, Under Stone in here, because that’s by far the weakest of the five) but on re-reading it stacks up well.

Will Stanton, from TDIR, meets the three children from OSUS for their followup quest. The grail they found has been stolen from the museum, so they need to get it back and retrieve the leftover part – an extra scroll which was hidden inside the grail, and fell into the sea. Interestingly, there isn’t any arbitrary puzzle solving involved here – instead, Susan wins by going to the ancient local ritual of constructing the Greenwitch (a wicker effigy) and making an unselfish wish for her to be happy, whereupon the Greenwitch decides to help her and give her the plot coupon.

The Dark’s purpose for the Grail isn’t frustrated; instead, it gets characterized as something necessary but unexplained, which will ultimately serve the Light. There’s a lot of middle-book syndrome going on.

Interesting use of unsympathetic resonance: the Dark’s agent in this book is a painter, who does nasty, scary work… but it’s still good art, interesting and creative and Artistic. And it’s a spell (technically, three spells – the spell of Mana, the spell of Reck, and the spell of Lir – and the same three spells the Light were going to use) which Merlin had forgotten was possible.

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