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Silver on the Tree

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In Brief: Awkward storyline; some nice set pieces; Good & Evil as two opposing forces

Cover of Silver on the Tree

Author: Susan Cooper

Series: The Dark is Rising

Publisher: Puffin

Published in: 1977

Age Range: Children+

Period: Contemporary

Setting: Wales

Genres:  ArthurianMagic


Characters:

  • Will Stanton is the youngest of the Old Ones, sent to find the last of the objects of power which the Light will need to win their final battle against the Dark.
  • Bran Davies is the Pendragon, rightful wielder of the Crystal Sword.
  • Simon, Jane & Barney Drew have been brought to Wales to be part of the Circle of Six to fulfil the prophecy of The Light.
  • John Rowlands is the Welsh shepherd who throws his lot in with The Light.
  • The Black Rider and The White Rider are two of the Lords of the Dark, determined to prevent Will and the others from completing their quest.

Synopsis:

Will, Bran and the Drews are gathered in Wales for the final part of the quest begun with the finding of the grail in Trewissick. Each must face a challenge before they have the Crystal Sword they need for the final conflict that awaits them.

Notes:

One has the impression that the author wasn't quite sure how to finish the series, and opted for this rather jigsaw finale, loosely turning on the challenge each of the youngsters will have to face. Will and Bran's experience in the Lost Land is a slight novelette within the main story and is quite attractively done. The journey to the point of the final conflict is interestingly arranged, but the most important part in the book, and arguably in the series as a whole, is played by John Rowlands, the simple Welsh shepherd.

The continuing relationship between Bran and Will is nicely handled; there is a mixture of friendship and mutual respect, each knowing the other's true meaning. The Drew children are little more than ciphers in this particular plot, each playing his part or hers in the steps along the way, but doing little else, and really just tagging along. Shame, because they each have interesting characters from the earlier books.

The series as a whole and this book in particular give Good and Evil in the world the form of The Light, championed by the Old Ones, and The Dark, represented by the Riders. At the end, Merriman tells the children: “We have delivered you from evil, but the evil that is inside men is at the last a matter for men to control. The responsibility and the hope and the promise are in your hands... For Drake is no longer in his hammock, children, nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping, and you may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it is up to you.”

Then some words came in another voice, clear and strange, and she knew that it was Bran calling Welsh; and again the echo came faintly back, bringing the words to her again, familiar even while meaningless.

The wind flurried, the mist blew in a ragged shroud over the far side of the lake, hiding the Happy Valley. And on the echo of Bran's call, as if following a cue, a third voice came, singing, singing so high and sweet and unearthly that Jane stood without breathing, caught out of movement, feeling every stilled muscle and yet as totally transported as if she had no body at all. She knew it was Will; she could not remember if she had ever heard him sing before; she could not even think, or do anything but hear. The voice soared up on the wind, from behind the hill, distant but clear, in a strange lovely line of melody, and with it and behind it very faint in a following descant came the echo of the song, a ghostly second voice twining with the first.

It was as if the mountains were singing.

And as Jane gazed unseeing at the clouds blowing low over the lake, someone came

Saturday 19th July 2003