Greenwitch by Susan Cooper


Goodreads: Greenwitch
Series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence #3
Source: Purchased
Published: 1974


Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew return to Trewissick to recover the ancient manuscript that will enable the Light to use the grail in their long battle against the Dark.  This time, however, their great-uncle Merry has brought along another boy, Will Stanton, to help in the quest.  Though Will possesses mysterious powers,  jealousy may prevent the children from working together.


The third book in The Dark Is Rising sequence seems to serve mainly as a bridge between volumes, accounting perhaps for the noticeably shorter page count of Greenwitch.  After introducing two separate groups of protagonists in the first two books, Cooper apparently just wanted to get the Drews and Will Stanton together.  The recovery of the manuscript lost in Over Sea, Under Stone provides a sort of justification, plot-wise, for the existence of the book, but the recovery easily could have formed part of a minor episode in a longer work.  Like many a middle book in a series, Greenwitch largely fails to distinguish itself from the other volumes.

The book does, however, provide significant character development–a fact that pleased me as I thought that Cooper previously failed to make the Drew children memorable.  Perhaps balancing three protagonists proved problematic.  In the first book, only Barney stood out as possessing something special, an unacknowledged sensitivity to the magic around him.  Simon was vaguely interesting, a practical sort of boy who always knows what to do in a perplexing situation.  Jane was just sort of there.  In Greenwitch, Barney continues to stand out with his budding artistic skills and Simon is highlighted as a loving older brother.  Jane, however, shines.  Greenwitch is her book, the one in which she not only proves herself useful to the mission before them, but also experiences great personal growth.  Placed in a situation in which it would have been easy for her to lose her moral compass through a need to win against the Dark,  Jane remains focused on the people around her.  Sensitive to their feelings and needs, she becomes the heroine of the story through her compassion.

Will Stanton is present, too, but Cooper has the good sense to present him through the eyes of the Drews.  His book, The Dark Is Rising, suffers from a lack of suspense not only because the Light must always win against the Dark, but also because no agent of the Dark can hurt an Old One–that is, a member of the Light.  Furthermore, the Old Ones seem to possess some sort of foreknowledge or just general knowing that enables them to make the correct choices all the time.  Following events through the eyes of someone who already knows the outcome and therefore possesses no fear or worry is boring.  The Drews, thankfully, can innocently wander into dangerous situations or find themselves tricked or manipulated by the Dark.  They can also be rather blind to the agents of the Light, and watching their distaste for Will simply because he came with their great-uncle, on whose affection they had assumed they had a monopoly, proves quite amusing.

The workings of the Light, however, continue to confuse me.  For instance, if the Light knows just about everything and ordered the events of the world so that they would collect the objects of power in time for the final battle, why did they lose the grail but not the six symbols from The Dark Is Rising?  Why does Uncle Merry allow the Drews to know about the existence of the battle between the Light and the Dark, to know about the objects, and to know vaguely about his power–but does not permit them to know that he and Will are Old Ones? The Drews know that magic exists and that Uncle Merry must work it, but when they actually see him in action, someone has to erase their memories.  It does not make sense to me.

Greenwitch was a delightful interlude in the series, a special chance for Jane to show her character.  I expect the action to pick up considerably in the next book, however, as the series leads readers to the final battle.

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