Author Archives: Krysta
Goodreads: Oliver Twist
Orphaned at birth, Oliver Twist has grown up starved for food and for love. He has nothing more to look forward to in life than an apprenticeship where he can expect the same ill treatment. Alone and scared, Oliver sets off for London, no plan in mind. A boy known as the Artful Dodger promises he can have a home, but Oliver does not realize he will be expected to earn his keep as a pickpocket. Other kindly souls take notice of his plight, however, and thereafter ensues a struggle for Oliver’s very soul.
Oliver Twist has permeated popular culture to such an extent that I thought I had a vague idea of its plot. After all, everyone knows the famous line, “Please, sir, I want some more.” This, combined with snippets I have seen of the musical Oliver! as well references in literary criticism to the thief Fagin, gave me the impression that the book followed Oliver from the workhouse to the streets of London, where he subsequently lived a merry life with a gang of pickpockets led by a singing and dancing leader who was some sort of latter-day Falstaff. What I read was actually much more Dickensian than that.
Oliver Twist was Charles Dickens’s second published novel and his preoccupations with the poor and the unjust laws that keep them so are already clear. Oliver’s mother dies at his birth, so readers can follow him from his early days in the workhouse (where the officials purposely keep the orphans underfed and the local impoverished unprovided for so that they will eventually cease requests for more handouts) to the streets of London where he is introduced to the children who must steal to survive. Dickens has plenty of blame to throw around. He directs most of his biting humor at the government officials, but ordinary people receive personal censure for not extending the kind word or the helping hand that might have saved a child from being forced to sin in order to live. The thieves do not get off free, either, however–the portraits Dickens draws are various, and one or two illustrate characters who delight in, rather than shrink from, the sordid lifestyle they lead.
Readers can never know if some of the characters they meet were once like Oliver–young and innocent and repulsed by the notion of doing wrong even to save themselves. Fagin’s observations about women like Nancy–that they take interest in orphans like Oliver until they go to the bad, so to speak–suggest that some of them were. Thus, even in depicting the thieves in their worst moments, Dickens suggests that they could, they might, be better. He may even seem to hint that society is remiss in offering opportunities of repentance and freedom only to those they deem worthy.
Ultimately, Dickens refuses to romanticize the thieving lifestyle. Nancy may repent, but her desperate cries to save the others fall on deaf ears and she herself does not know how to leave the only life she knows. Fagin tellingly reveals his character when he reveals how he keeps boys in the business–he traps them in their own sense of sin and shame so they feel they can never get out. And, no matter how the boys may delight in the “game”, eventually they will all end up either at the gallows or on a ship to be deported. The group talks about giving it to society when they make their final speeches at their trials, but the gesture is ultimately meaningless, and the readers know it, even if the boys do not.
Of course, Dickens was not above romanticizing a good deal of his book, even if he refused to do it for criminals (excepting, of course, Nancy–Dickens’s requisite angelic woman). The main plot line actually follows the fortunes of Oliver as he falls into various kindly hands and a “mystery” surrounding his birth soon develops. It is not hard to figure out where that mystery is headed–both because the device is familiar and because Dickens is such a careful craftsman. Already in this book he shows his beautiful economy, never wasting a scene or a character. Everything and everyone comes back full circle and readers get a snugly wrapped-up conclusion to reward their interest.
I do not think Oliver Twist is Dickens at his best, even if it seems ever-present in our culture. It does, however, showcase many of the author’s great strengths and talents–his social commentary, his dry humor, and his ridiculous characters. Though it was not what I expected, it certainly was classic Dickens.
Goodreads: Hydrogen: The Essential Element
Rigden explores key advances in physics by focusing on the hydrogen atom.
In Hydrogen, John Rigden attempts to bring the beauty and elegance of physics to the general reader through a brief survey of some of its greatest puzzles, theories, experiments, and applications. Along the way he introduces his audience to a host of famous names from Niels Bohr to Albert Einstein, imparting a personal element to a discipline too often considered detached and cold. Rigden’s enthusiasm for his subject permeates every page, and even readers who consider themselves allergic to science may find themselves unexpectedly excited at the prospect of a new discovery or baffled by a particularly odd observation.
I find it difficult to say whether Rigden actually succeeds in his goal of introducing physics to the general reader. My sense is that he provides enough information and enough background that the general reader could indeed follow along, at least getting the main points. However, even a little background in physics or chemistry is guaranteed to help, just so that having an assortment of names like the Balmer series, the Bohr model, and the quadrupole moment of the deuteron do not become overwhelming. (Don’t be alarmed if you forget everything from your introductory high school course on classical physics, however–this book focuses on the birth of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Newton will only get you so far.) A few figures illustrate the text, but they seem to be present mainly for those who want them and not because they are indispensable for understanding. If readers find they do not want to look at energy state diagrams, they can continue on reading and still get something from the book.
Perhaps Rigden’s greatest achievement in Hydrogen is not explaining physics to the general public, however, but in providing an illustration of how science works. Depictions of scientists in popular culture show men and women who live in a world of absolutes where everything is neat and pretty and all the numbers always add up. In reality, science is often confused and messy. Rigden’s very subject–the development of wave mechanics, the birth of quantum electrodynamics–shows how scientists were aware for decades of gaps in their knowledge and how gaps still exist in their current models for understanding the world around us. The biographies he inserts show scientists who stumble upon great discoveries by pure luck (though, of course, intelligence is still needed to recognize significant data when one sees it) as well as scientists who worked fruitlessly for years because they relied on wrong assumptions. The hydrogen atom, Rigden likes to remind his readers, reveals amazing secrets about the world, but also cautions us to be humble in our search for knowledge.
Hydrogen is a great book for those interested in learning more about physics and some of its most startling discoveries. Rigden employs an engaging writing style that he couples with some witty observations in order to make his topic come alive. Some of his stories may change the way readers look at physics.
If You Like, Then Read is a feature where we offer reading suggestions based on books you already like, scheduled once a month. If you have more suggestions, feel free to tell us in the comments! You can check out the rest of these lists here.
The Ashtown Burials series by N. D. Wilson
In Book 1, The Dragon’s Tooth, Antigone and Cyrus Smith live in a dilapidated hotel with their older brother Daniel. No one ever checks in, until the night a strange man requests a specific room. By morning, the man has died, the hotel has burned to the ground, and Daniel has disappeared. Informed that the only way to save their brother is to join a mysterious order of explorers dedicated to preserving the world’s treasures and imprisoning the world’s monsters, Antigone and Cyrus find themselves racing against time to find the order and swear their loyalty. Not everyone in the order, however, welcomes the new initiates. Surrounded by enemies, the two will have to prove their skill and bravery if they want to reunite their family. The series continues to follow the Smith family as they fight an enemy determined to unleash some of legend’s most fearful monsters upon the world.
Atlantis Rising by T. A. Barron
T. A. Barron explores the roots of Atlantis’s legendary greatness in this book dedicated to celebrating the rise of the island rather than chronicling its fall. In his version, a thief named Promi joins forces with Atlanta, a girl with natural magic, in order to decipher a prophecy that seems to indicate the end of all magic. The gods, however, have separated themselves from mortals and no hope seems left for those who would save the land from ruin.
The Theodosia Throckmorton series by R. L. LaFevers
Eleven-year-old Theodosia Throckmorton practically lives in London’s Museum of Legends and Antiquities where her father works as curator. Only she, however, can detect the ancient curses that linger on the artifacts her mother brings back from Egypt, and only she knows the rituals that will render the curses innocuous. Adults may not believe her stories, but she nevertheless devotes her gifts to saving the British Empire.
The Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
This series features the Greek gods as adolescent students attending Mount Olympus Academy. The first book in the series is Athena the Brain.
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
Fifteen-year-old twins Sophie and Josh Newman find themselves embroiled in a centuries-long battle between alchemist Nicholas Flamel and his foe Dr. John Dee. Flamel and his wife need a book called known as the Codex in order to continue making the elixir of life or they will both die–Dee, however, plans to use the Codex to destroy the world. The Alchemyst is the first of six books in the series.
Series: Matched #3
Now members of the Rising, Cassia, Ky, and Xander wait for the final push against the Society to begin. They do not know when or how it will occur, but their trust in the Pilot keeps them blindly following orders. Then Plague strikes and even the Rising does not have the capability to combat it. Love has carried the three this far, but can it triumph over death?
The Matched trilogy previously left me feeling conflicted. Although its identity as a dystopian series implies a desire to comment on government, authority and choice, its focus always remained on the love life of Cassia Reyes. The novels never convincingly demonstrated that Cassia fully understood the magnitude of the atrocities committed by the Society or decided to rebel against it for reasons other than a desire to make out with a man not chosen for her by someone else. Sometimes, like Xander, I wondered if Cassia even really loved Ky, or simply wanted him because he was forbidden.
I was able to take Reached more seriously as a dystopian novel because it broadens its focus from the personal journey of Cassia to encompass not only the journeys of Ky and Xander but also the fate of the Society as a whole. Previously Condie expected me to believe that stealing kisses in the forest was a noble act of rebellion and not simply teenage hormones. Now she illustrates the infrastructure of the Society crumbling under the pressure of plague and civil unrest. Even though the tactics of the Rising never made real sense to me, I found watching them attempt to take power much more interesting than watching Cassia moon over her crush.
Despite the broadened focus, however, the other characters continue to attach undue importance to the actions of Cassia and her love interests. While reading Matched, I found myself baffled by the willingness of Cassia’s family and friends to risk their lives in order to allow her to continue meeting her crush in secret; everyone seemed honestly convinced that conducting a forbidden love affair was the first step in taking down the government. While reading Reached, I found myself baffled by the interest of the Pilot in Cassia and her friends. Even though, as the leader of an uprising, he must have men and women under him who can look into suspect activities, he chooses to investigate Cassia personally. He then chooses Cassia and her friends for a top secret mission (on which the whole fate of the Rising happens to hinge) even though one would assume that, of all the people who follow him, there must exist some more qualified for this sort of thing than three teenagers.
Reached also fails to fulfill promises to explore more in depth the nature of government, authority, and rebellion. Condie has hinted before in the trilogy that the Rising might not be what it appears. Events in Reached suggest that, indeed, the Rising possesses elements of corruption. Events furthermore suggest the dangers of idolizing any one figure or movement. The characters, however, seem unfazed by these revelations, never really questioning their involvement in the Rising or learning any lessons about placing complete trust in people they barely know. I suppose it is to their credit that they continue to believe in the inherent goodness of people and to hope for a better future, but Condie obliquely acknowledges their danger of repeating past mistakes and erecting a new Society instead of staging a true revolution.
Reached proves a fast-paced novel filled with enough action and danger to make it the most exciting book in the trilogy. Fans will find their eyes glued to the pages as they follow Cassia, Xander, and Ky through a new adventure and see how the three grow in maturity as they are forced to go their separate ways. An exciting plot and good character development cannot, however, completely obscure the flaws in the trilogy, and I find myself wondering what the books could have been like had they been more fleshed out and made more sense.
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Goodreads: Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things
Series: Mister Max #1
Published: September 2013
Max’s parents arranged to meet him upon the Flower of Kashmir to take the trip of a lifetime. When Max arrives at the harbor, however, the ship does not exist and his parents are missing. Luckily Max possesses a talent for finding things—lost children, lost dogs, and even lost loves. Dressed in various disguises, he roams the city solving other people’s mysteries—but will he be able to solve his own?
The Book of Lost Things was a delightful surprise. Sometimes books in a genre all seem to blur together. Sometimes middle-grade offerings all seem the same. Cynthia Voigt, however, takes a standard middle-grade plot–that of the missing parents–and transforms it into something new. Readers may not fully swallow the details of the plot, but the adventure on which Max takes them is so fun that most will probably suspend their disbelief willingly, just to continue.
This book announces its determination to do something different from the very beginning–when Max loses his parents, but is not left alone. That’s right. Max has a grandmother and she loves him and cares for him and feeds him. And she helps him solve the mystery. Max still wants to be independent. He seems to think that caring for himself will make losing his parents more bearable. But that’s okay. His grandmother is still there if he needs her; she gives him space without ever letting him do anything too stupid. And thus we have a rare example of a book in which children can rely on adults while still having fun.
Max’s independence comes largely in the area of getting a job, which also makes sense since his grandmother does not make enough money to support both of them. (Her job, incidentally, is also a pretty good way of keeping her out of the way when Max goes off exploring.) The job he eventually lands will probably tax the belief of readers–he becomes some sort of detective, which means he dresses up in various outfits, pretending to be a portly middle-aged man, a university student, and more all while still a child. And people buy it. But, hey, at least Voigt tried to explain it by making his parents actors. And the job search itself was pretty realistic for these times–Max looks all over town but no one’s hiring. Usually characters seem to land the first job they walk into.
If readers can get past these amazing feats of disguise, they may very well find the rest of the plot both enchanting and amusing. It is always fun to see who Max will be next and how his clients will react to his appearance. He seems to have a pretty good idea of how people work–apparently it comes from reading Shakespeare–and his reasonings for costumes are just as fun as the outfits themselves. Some of the plot elements will be familiar (this is a middle-grade book and not all “mysteries” are that mysterious), but surprises are still in store and I think most will not predict the ending.
The only problem now is that I have to wait to get my hands on the sequel.
Goodreads: The Dark Is Rising
Series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence #2
On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton learns that he is the last of the Old Ones, an ancient group dedicated to fighting the Dark. He is the Sign-Seeker, the one destined to bring together the symbols of power that will help the Old Ones in the final battle. But the Dark is rising.
The Dark Is Rising is a solid fantasy adventure that will keep readers flipping pages long after their bedtimes. It possesses a likeable hero refreshingly grounded in a loving family life; a magical quest full of mystery and danger; and, of course, an epic struggle of good and evil. Throw in a little legend and myth, and you have a story that seems guaranteed to succeed.
The characters really stood out in this installment of the series. Whereas the Drew children (protagonists of the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone) seemed like typical children, nice but not particularly noteworthy, Will comes alive as a character in his own right–due, interestingly enough, to his relationships with others. He is one of nine of children and his home is constantly bustling with activity, yet he never gets lost in the chaos. His family loves each other and looks out for each other, so that no matter what happens in the plot, readers have a sense of its far-reaching consequences; this book is not just about darkness overcoming the world, but about darkness hurting the people you love.
Though the siblings are obviously not as involved in the action to the extent Will is, Cooper still manages to sketch out a personality for each of them–and she does not do it the typical way, which is to give each some sort of distinguishing characteristic or notable talents, so that they almost seem like caricature. Yes, Paul likes music, but the rest of the family does, too. And he is so more than that. He is also perceptive and kind, and he has a way of knowing when people need to be alone or do not want to talk. Likewise, though Mary could have just been that annoying older sister, she is shown to be caring in her own way. The entire family is always faintly alive in the background.
The plot arguably contains a lot more action than Over Sea, Under Stone, yet I would argue it is not as strong. Will’s status as one of the Old Ones means that the Dark cannot actually harm him (though it can attack his family). Thus, a lot of the sense of danger is lost. Furthermore, the entire plot hinges around a quest that was predetermined in days gone by, thereby destroying any suspense. We all know from the beginning that Will will succeed, thanks to all his mentors who repeatedly emphasize to the boy that thus it is ordained and he need not fear. After all, though he is ostensibly seeking the six Signs, the other Old Ones know where they are; this is not Harry seeking the Horcruxes. All Will really has to do is walk up to them and collect them. A lot of fancy magic gets involved and one wonders why–perhaps the Old Ones just like to do things in style. Actually, one wonders why Will had to do this at all. Yes, magic has its own rules and the Old Ones surely know something the readers do not, but all the stuff about things happening “in their time” eventually starts sounding like an excuse to cover up a lack of any real logic.
I plan to continue the series, but I hope that Cooper allows her heroes to face real dangers and make real sacrifices. Everything in this book was just a little too neat for me to believe that the world was ever in any real danger.
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Goodreads: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
Devlin examines the impact of the arithmetic book of Leonardo of Pisa, commonly known as Fibonacci.
I picked up this book with the mistaken impression that it told the life of Fibonacci and, consequently, found myself disappointed. As Devlin explains, history knows very little about Fibonacci; generally, we know only that his real name was Leonardo of Pisa, that he travelled to Africa while a teen (and learned there the Hindu-Arabic number system), that he wrote quite a few books on mathematics (one of which inspired Europe to adopt the Hindu-Arabic number system), and that he was considered important as a result. Add a few more random details like visits to emperors and what his father did for a living, and you have just about everything. So, of course, I found myself wondering how the author managed to get 158 pages out of it.
Had I read the subtitle more carefully, I might have suspected that the book does not focus on the life of Fibonacci, but on the results of his publications, particularly his Liber abbaci, which taught how to use the Hindu-Arabic number system in everyday situations. That means that Devlin devotes chapters to topics like the sources Fibonacci used to write his book or the books that his book inspired. Other full chapters illustrate in detail the methods Fibonacci used to calculate (notation was different then and explanations of problems we would find simple needed pages of explanations). Not being a historian of mathematics, I found myself rather bored by the lists of book titles, the intricacies of which author wrote which manuscript, and, above all, the multitude of lengthy quotations from Liber abbaci. After the first two or three, I felt like I’d gotten it—it took Fibonacci an insufferably long time to explain stuff.
If you are the type of person interested in the question of whose mathematic manuscript inspired whose, this book will no doubt appeal to you. (If, on the other hand, this concept seems strange to you, consider that students of literature often try to decipher what works inspired various authors—the question really does matter to some people.) I, however, found myself longing for other information—if not biographical details, then maybe some more information on everyday life in medieval Pisa or an explanation of what other mathematic and scientific advances were occurring around that time. Expecting to discover Fibonacci, I was disappointed to discover his absence.
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Goodreads: The Dragon’s Tooth
Series: Ashtown Burials #1
Antigone and Cyrus Smith live in a dilapidated hotel with their older brother Daniel. No one ever checks in, until the night a strange man requests a specific room. By morning, the man has died, the hotel has burned to the ground, and Daniel has disappeared. Informed that the only way to save their brother is to join a mysterious order of explorers, Antigone and Cyrus find themselves racing against time to find the order and swear their loyalty. Not everyone in the order, however, welcomes the new initiates. Surrounded by enemies, the two will have to prove their skill and bravery if they want to reunite their family.
The Dragon’s Tooth is one of those rare middle grade books that constantly surprises, not only with its imagination and the vividness of its world, but also with its unexpected depth. Though the plot may sound not unfamiliar—young heroes find they belong to an ancient order—Wilson sets it apart from standard fantasy fare by grounding it in the nitty gritty of everyday life. His characters have real backgrounds, full of pain as well as mundanity, that shape who they are. They face real challenges that test not only their physical endurance but also their moral character. And when they fight, they bleed. Far from being fantasy wish fulfillment, The Dragon’s Tooth looks life in the face and admits to readers that sometimes life hurts. But that does not take away any of its wonder or enchantment.
Wilson does so much right with this book that writing a manageable review about it all seems almost impossible. Certain aspects, however, immediately stand out because they contrast with elements I often see in contemporary media. For example, I think many readers will find themselves pleased with the strong emphasis on family. The Smiths’ parents are, actually, missing, if you want to put it that way—their father died in an accident and their mother lies in a coma. However, Cyrus and Antigone are cared for by their twenty-year-old brother, who had to give up college to provide for them and who works hard to do so. All three have a special bond that they recognize as especially important as a result of losing their parents. Their actions throughout the book are dictated by their desire to remain together and to help each other. They furthermore remain devoted to their mother, whom they visit regularly.
The setting of The Dragon’s Tooth also stands out. The Smiths currently live in Wisconsin. That’s right—Midwestern America, where you probably thought nothing ever happened. Their lives, however, have a certain Americana charm. They live in a dilapidated motel with one of those old neon signs and they eat in one of those classic truck stop diners. It is a really beautiful choice because I do not think I have ever seen it done. Like Suzanne Collins, who evidently wrote The Underland Chronicles as a sort of urban Alice in Wonderland, Wilson takes an overlooked location and gives it the possibility of magic.
Magic, however, never comes without a price and The Dragon’s Tooth pulls no punches. From the very moment they accept the invitation to join the order of explorers, Antigone and Cyrus find themselves battling not only monsters and villains, but also the pettiness of fellow students and resentful adults. Their acceptance to the order comes with a stipulation that no one else has to meet. But the Smiths meet their challenges with grace (well, most of them). They lost their parents at a young age and they know life is seldom fair and that sometimes they have to fight.
The fighting Wilson shows is not pretty, either. While some middle grade books seem to think children cannot handle reality, The Dragon’s Tooth not only shows the real effects of violence (though not in a gruesome way—just acknowledging that people are going to have broken limbs or bruises or bloody gashes) but also introduces a villain who performs ghastly experiments on his victims in order to achieve something he perceives as greater than humanity. There are corpses in this book, as well as grieving survivors. But Wilson seems to trust his audience to handle it—like the Smiths, they may well have experienced suffering in their own lives.
Finally, I just have to note that those who wish for more diversity in contemporary media will probably see this book as a good start. For one, it is full of strong female characters—strong as in confident, skilled, compassionate, and intelligent. Some of them are fighters and some of them are not; they do not have to fit into a certain type of mold to be considered strong. Furthermore, the Smiths’ mother comes from Brazil, so the protagonists have a mixed background, one that is celebrated when another character notes that Cyrus and Antigone have inherited their mother’s darker skin and hair—he calls this a “gift.” Another important character is described as having black skin. So, if we ever get a movie of this series, we can hopefully expect a very diverse cast, one that honors the spirit of the order of explorers, which is international in character and celebrates the skills and insights its varied members can bring.
Aside from the technical notes of how family, setting, and diversity are handled, The Dragon’s Tooth is an enthralling read in its own right. The characters are likable, the premise engaging, and the plot suspenseful. Action fills nearly every page, yet the book manages to balance the need for plot advancement with moments that illustrate the emotional growth of the characters. The characters, just as much as the magic of the world they live in, drive the book, making me eager not only to continue their story but also to reread the parts of their story I already know. And a book that bears rereading is truly a good book.
After a tragic shipwreck, baby Sophie is discovered floating in a cello case. Charles Maxim, an absentminded scholar, determines to adopt her as his ward. The British government, however, disapproves of homes where dinner is served on books, the wallpaper is covered in notes, and young ladies are to be seen wearing trousers. The children’s agency wants to take Sophie away, but before she lets that happen, the now twelve-year-old girl convinces her guardian to take her on one last journey in an attempt to find the mother she knows is still alive.
Rooftoppers possesses a magical charm all its own from the delightfully comfy love between Sophia and her guardian to the breathtaking visions of beauty offered from the roofs of Paris. By turns clever, humorous, and knowing, this book stands out as one of the most original middle grade offerings of the year.
The strength of the book undoubtedly lies in its many stars. Readers have Sophia, the hopefully reckless orphan in search of her mother; Charles, the wise guardian who knows when to press his ward and when to grant her freedom; and Matteo, the orphan who finds freedom living on the roofs of Paris. Their relationships will warm and inspire; Charles here proves no absent guardian, but one firmly invested in giving Sophia the security and understanding he knows she needs. Sophia and Matteo, meanwhile, develop an unlikely friendship based on mutual trust and respect. Without ever overtly teaching a lesson, Rooftoppers demonstrates the true strength of love.
Though the characters are sure to charm, the setting and the prose prove equally important in creating the enchantment of Rooftoppers. The author takes readers on a unique journey across the roofs of Paris, introducing them to a wild freedom and a spectacular beauty through the eyes of the children who dared to imagine a different kind of life. All this comes alive through Katherine Rundell’s unique voice.
Only the ending marred the story for me. Though I suspected how the story would go, I did hope for fewer loose ends. I assume Rundell did not wish to ruin the moment with explanations about the inconvenient facts of life. Still, though I think Rooftoppers stands perfectly alone, my concern for the future of the characters has me wishing for some sort of epilogue, if not a sequel.
Even with my misgivings about the end, however, Rooftoppers triumphs as a beautifully artistic work about the power of hope, the power of love, and the power of friendship. I hope we can expect more magical worlds from the pen of Katherine Rundell.
Goodreads: Over Sea, Under Stone
Series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence #1
While on vacation in Cornwall, Simon, Barney, and Jane Drew discover an ancient manuscript that points to the hiding place of the Holy of Grail of Arthurian legend. At first the children think their discovery a new type of game, but as they try to decode the puzzle, they find themselves in the middle of an ancient struggle between good and evil.
The first book in Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence follows in the footsteps of fantasy giants like E. Nesbit and C. S Lewis, introducing readers to a to a modern-day Britain both familiar and strange. Though the village of Trewissick seems like a typical holiday spot, the Drew children soon learn that the area has an intriguing past, all bound up with King Arthur and the legendary Holy Grail. That past comes alive when the same forces that fought Arthur return to claim the Grail.
The great charm of Over Sea, Under Stone comes not only from the collision of magic with the everyday world, but also from the normality of the Drew children. None of them possesses unbelievable intelligence or athleticism; none of them possesses some arcane skill that just so happens to be the one thing that will enable them to save the day. They are relatable and believable, and readers feel that, in the place of the Drew children, they, too, would have the ability to solve the mystery.
Over Sea, Under Stone makes magic in the everyday world seem not only possible, but even probable. Its deep sense of history reveals the layers that combine to make our present, and in the process inspires surprise and wonder. Sometimes the current glut of fantasy series on the market makes finding a good one seem impossible, but it is no mistake The Dark Is Rising sequence has turned into a genre classic.