Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Silver on the TreeInformation

Goodreads: Silver on the Tree
Series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence #5
Source: Purchased
Published: 1977


The Dark rises in preparation for the final battle, but the Light has one chance to stop them: if they can complete the steps of the prophecy in time and cut one silver bough off a tree, all will be well.


Silver on the Tree reunites all the characters from the past four books for one final battle. Though Will as usual possesses enough knowledge to make his part of the story seem almost pointless, the presence of others who are not Old Ones adds spice to the plot.  In fact, the characterization proves the strongest part of the story; readers will delight in the new dynamics as the Drew children try to accept that other special children exist, the nonmagical adults attempt to assimilate magic into their lives, and more.

Though watching the Drew children cope with their jealousy over Will’s friendship with Bran proves a treat, the plot itself did not have enough strength to capture me.  As in the rest of the series, the mini quests seem random and most of them lack any sense of danger thanks to the all-powerful might of Will and his mentor Merriman.  The greatest danger comes from ordinary folk–and that observation gives the series a real depth it otherwise seems to lack.  Petty jealousies, racial bigotry, a desire for revenge–the “small” things often change the fate of men.

Most of the story, unfortunately, just never makes sense.  Why did Will have to seek six Signs to make stuff happen?  Why does he then need magical artifacts?  What exactly do the Six Sleepers do and why are they so special?  Why does the branch from a tree have the power to decide the fate of the world?  Why, at the climatic moment, does the Dark willingly submit itself to the authority of some magical court?  I understand it was a sort-of last attempt to prevent the Light from reaching the supernatural tree first, but accepting the authority of the law (what law?) seems so out of place for something called the Dark.

Furthermore, I am not convinced that the special status of the Drew children was ever really explained.  Plus, it does not seem fair that they should be repeatedly asked by the Light to make sacrifices and risk their lives without ever being told what they are doing.  The Light claims their puny minds cannot handle the truth (at least, that’s what I got out of it), but the Drew children seem to assimilate to the existence of magic much better than the adults.  Must (SPOILER!) all memory of their adventures with the Light, with their friends, with their great-uncle actually be erased at the end?  After all, Merriman gave an adult character a choice.  (Note, however, that after all the stuff about the free will of men, this one abdicated his choice.)

The ending was sort of bittersweet, but mostly frustrating.  I suppose I ought to feel sorry for many of the characters, but mostly I felt indignation on behalf of the Drew children.  Ultimately, I took what solace I could from the potential of a slowly budding romance.  I do not see myself rereading this series any time soon.


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