Saturday, August 31, 2013

Silver on the Tree (The Dark is Rising #5) by Susan Cooper

The strong ending saved me from abandoning this one as the plot felt like a dandelion gone to seed. Cooper tried to do too much and as a result the focus got lost several times. The three Drews along with Bran and Will must collect the Things of Power to drive the Dark away because it wants to control the earth by instilling fear and hatred in men. Will and Bran get the sword and the three Drews along with Merriman must meet at a special place to stop the Dark in a climatic battle.

The beginning has too much time travel that isn't grounded enough in the present. The different periods and strange overlapping of the past with the present was weird. I found it too confusing and distanced me from getting involved in the action. Then when something did happen to someone I wasn't sure if it happened in the past or present. It's the past. I did finally catch on. The shift in time and place had a jarring effect in the beginning. Funny, how it didn't bother me in the other books, but I think that's because Cooper spent more time with the characters in the present before slipping into the past. This felt like a breathless headlong race to cram as much information as possible in the book and the shifts were happening too quickly.

There is not much suspense or mystery in this novel. The poem states the quest and from the previous books it is known that the heroes will figure it out. The way the riddle-poem plays out is not predictable but I wasn't invested in the characters much; again I felt distanced from the plot. Perhaps there were too many characters and no depth could be achieved through one point of view. Or I'm tired from finishing my first full week working at school and teaching oodles of classes. Whatever the reason, this is what happened to me in the first book.

Rowlands was the character with the moral dilemma at the end and I found myself interested in the story at that point. Cooper shows how the human race can choose good or evil. It is each individual's free will to live as he or she chooses. This is reinforced with the theme of the senselessness of wars over the years. She shows the past Anglo-Welsh civil wars that killed so many people and were such a waste seeing that future people like Barney's ancestry comes from both sides. The scene where the bully is picking on an indian boy shows how these same prejudices are carried on from one generation to the next in a senseless, narrow-minded manner. While some gets a bit didactic I did like her message. Merriman at the end is particularly preachy as he exits on a note of warning.

Bran has an interesting twist as well at the end, but I never really got into his story. I liked the link between his mother and Wild Magic. She's described as a loose cannon and it fits. Cooper said she had Bran make his choice because she wanted to show that this is made by individuals. If he had chosen to go in the ship he would have been like martyr or Christlike figure which didn't reinforce the theme of choice. The theme of betrayal is linked through all the books and Will being isolated as an Old One as others memories are conveniently erased is also continued in this one. While I enjoyed the series, I'm glad to be done. On to the next stack of books.

3 Smileys

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