Thursday, August 29, 2013

Greenwitch (The Dark is Rising #3) by Susan Cooper

This book returns to Cornwall where Simon, Jane, and Barney are trying to recover the grail that has been stolen from the British Museum. Will has joined the group at the request of Merriman as the Dark tries to retrieve the manuscript linked to the grail and lost at sea in the first book. Some might find the start a bit slow if they don't get into the ritual of the Greenwitch, but afterwards there is a good ghost story and plenty of action. I did think the character development was better in this one than the first book and I was able to get lost in the fantasy world. The point of view is mostly Jane's and she is fleshed out more as an interesting character. She has a prominent role in defeating the Dark, as it is her compassion that touches the wild nature of the Greenwitch and compels her to willingly give up her secret.  This twist on what you wish for if you had any wish in the world would make for good discussions and reminded me of djinn stories.

Like its predecessors, this tale incorporates many literary and mythological elements that have no roots in one particular myth. The Greenwitch is created of leaves and branches by the womenfolk before being  cast into the sea as an offering to the sea goddess by the townspeople. The folktale is that Greenwitch is the daughter of Tethys, a Greek sea goddess, but the villagers call her "King Mark's Bride" which is a from Arthurian legend. In my mind, I imagined Greenwitch as a sea nymph but I'm more familiar with Greek mythology than Kind Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Greenwitch is a part of Wild magic that is neither a part of the Light or Dark. Wild magic was introduced in "The Dark is Rising" when the Wild Hunt happened at the end and the Dark was dispersed all over the earth.

The three Drew kids grow up some in this story. Simon is not happy about Will coming to Cornwall because he's jealous that Merriman asked Will to come and he wants to be the most important person in Merriman and his siblings lives. By the end he isn't so snarky with Will. Jane is developed more as someone who notices details about people and thinks about others feelings versus her own. She becomes less self-centered and more mature when dealing with others feelings and the fantastical world of Merriman and Will. She is much more developed and interesting than in the first novel. Barney begins to embrace that he has an artistic talent. He has "always expressed horror at the idea" that he is artistic like his mother, but is willing to sketch landscapes in this story. Will is a supporting character who acts like an adult being patient with Simon. Jane notices, "Simon wanted to quarrel and you wouldn't, she thought. You're like a grown-up sometimes." Jane is the most observant of those around her and notices when the adults and Will are communicating with their minds, even though she doesn't know what they are doing.

While the plot is pretty simple and there are not oodles of myth connections like book 2, I found the character development and adventure engaging enough to keep me glued to the story. I think some will like the ghostliness of the Greenwitch when she invades the village and the phantom ships that come ashore to seek revenge on the man who betrayed them in the past. The theme of betrayal is in every book and shows how hurtful it is when someone turns on another person. This is in contrast to Jane's act of kindness that emphasizes the impact of choices people make in their lives that are either good or bad. A terrific fantasy series.

4 Smileys

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