Review of Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper

Silver on the Tree

by Susan Cooper
read by Alex Jennings

Random House, 2002. Originally published in 1977. 9 hours, 26 minutes on 8 compact discs.
2012 Margaret Edwards Award Winner

Silver on the Tree is a classic. It’s the fifth and final book of The Dark Is Rising sequence, which collectively won the Margaret Edwards Award for lasting contribution to Young Adult Literature. I love the way this book brings together characters from all the previous books — the three Drew children, Will and Merriman, and Bran Davis.

Like with the other books, this one is strong on atmosphere and not so strong on plot. It feels like everything they do has been prophesied, and Will and the other characters trust their “feelings,” and just “know” what they should do next at each step. Okay, there’s a few places where other characters give them the word they need that they’re supposed to remember, and then we know they’d better pay attention to that word.

But we never doubt for a moment that they will succeed in their quest and do just the right thing at just the right time. The only question is what, exactly, the prophecy will look like when it happens. We’re told that each step of the quest — found in each previous book — is crucial for the Light to have when the Dark finally rises. But we don’t really believe the Light won’t have each piece.

Now, I did like the way some Arthurian legend is woven into the sequence. And Susan Cooper is still strong on atmosphere and mood.

There was one thing, though, that I simply hated in this book. All of the mortals involved in the quest are forced to forget the whole thing, to remember only “as in a dream.” WHAT!?! They’re strong enough to save the world, but not strong enough to remember the part they played?!? No.

Related to that, I hated the choice forced on Bran Davis. So much for destiny! And now he doesn’t even get to remember? (I’m meaning that to be vague enough to not really be a spoiler.)

Listening to this book was a good choice, as Alex Jennings does a magnificent job with the different voices and accents. However, I should admit that I listened to part of the book when I was driving to an unfamiliar place, so I missed some of the nuances and was perhaps less captured by the narrative than I might have been otherwise. I also have a feeling this book would have a stronger place in my heart if I’d first read it as a kid. I don’t think then I cared quite as much if the characters have a plan or just follow their gut (and the “High Magic”) again and again.

Anyway, I’m glad I read the series again. It is a classic fantasy good-against-evil series, one of the pillars of the genre. The Dark finally rises, and the Light must prevent it, using all the tools they’ve amassed to this point.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

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