Sunday, February 20, 2011
Book Review: Over Sea, Under Stone
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is the first book in a five-book series that should by no means be read first. As a quest story involving three children searching for the holy grail (yes, THAT holy grail), it's diverting enough on its own in a mid-20th-century adventures in caves for youth sort of way, but nowhere near as powerful as the second book, The Dark is Rising. Almost all of the magic is kept offstage and some major plot points such as disappearances of important characters are never explained. The pace is slow and there is little tension. There's certainly cleverness in the "treasure map" area and the sense of place is vivid, with Cornwall as a backdrop, but there's too much that Cooper was obviously learning as she went. One of the surprising revelations at the end about a character that was also in the second book is actually unmentioned in the second book, so you still get the reward of that if you read this second. So although I'm usually an adherent of the "published order" philosophy, I say it's better to read this second and to sort of steel yourself to slog through it with the reward of the third through fifth books in the series. Sam liked it fine, and I'm not going to let onto him that it's in my opinion surprisingly weak -- I'll let him figure that out for himself.