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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good adventurous read -sort of Famous Five meet King Arthur!
Simon, Jane & Barney are off on their summer holidays with their mum & dad, to a holiday house in the village of "Trewissick" on the Cornish Coast, where they will all stay with Great-Uncle-Merry in a rambling old house overlooking the sea. They are all thrilled to be going to Cornwall, but none more so than Barney, the youngest, who loves the stories of Arthurian Legend...
Published on 31 May 2007 by S. Barnes

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Children's fantasy
Other reviewers have given good plot description, so I won't repeat that. I did think that this was very much a children's book. I know that it IS a children's book, but much children's fantasy and fiction appeals to adults (e.g. Narnia). This had me quite bored. It noodles along with three cyphers for main characters, a benevolent Great Uncle who is also a bit...
Published on 6 Feb 2012 by Archy


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good adventurous read -sort of Famous Five meet King Arthur!, 31 May 2007
By 
S. Barnes (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Simon, Jane & Barney are off on their summer holidays with their mum & dad, to a holiday house in the village of "Trewissick" on the Cornish Coast, where they will all stay with Great-Uncle-Merry in a rambling old house overlooking the sea. They are all thrilled to be going to Cornwall, but none more so than Barney, the youngest, who loves the stories of Arthurian Legend and dreams of stories of King Arthur and his Knights. He can't wait to see Cornwall, the land of the Pendragon, the centre of Arthurian myth.

On a miserable rainy day at the beginning of their holiday, the children decide to make an adventure of exploring the house where they are staying. Locked cabinets, chests and personal papers are out of bounds but they are free to explore the rest of the house as they like. In real Enid Blyton style they soon discover a secret stairway hidden behind a large heavy wardrobe in the boys' bedroom... and off they go to explore.... An ancient treasure map soon emerges & the children have found an adventure for their holiday... secrets to discover.

But are they out of their depth? They don't seem to be the only people chasing after hidden treasure. Soon, they find an ally in Great-Uncle-Merry & Rufus, the dog... but can they reach the treasure before the sour Mr & Miss Withers, the rude ruddy-faced boy, Billy and the man they think is the vicar?!!

A good, innocent, Famous-Five-style adventure story (first published In 1965), with just a hint of Arthurian legend & magic thrown in. From reading other reviews, it sounds as though the magic & legend are developed in the rest of the series, so here I guess just the foundations are laid. The children are all very cheery, optimistic, happy-go-lucky, although individual characters aren't developed at all in the story. Well-written, with more depth than an Enid Blyton story, lacks pace in a few places but overall recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ARTFUL READING OF AN ARTHURIAN TALE, 25 July 2001
By A Customer
Few stories are more popular among readers than the age old battle between good and evil, which is exemplified in the legend of King Arthur. Susan Cooper gives that scenario an imaginative twist with "Over Sea, Under Stone." It's a narrative sure to pique the imaginations of young ones, especially as read by popular British actor Alex Jennings.
When, during a vacation in today's Cornwall, the Drew children discover an old manuscript in the attic of their rented house, they suddenly find themselves involved in an exciting and dangerous quest. Their very lives are jeopardized as they search for the grail, the one antidote to the power of evil called the Dark. Their Great Uncle Merry is on their side, but much of what he knows he isn't telling.
Ms. Cooper's prose is both concise and thrilling; Mr. Jennings's reading is superb.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first/prologue volume to THE DARK IS RISING sequence, 17 Dec 2005
By 
Michele L. Worley (Kingdom of the Mouse, United States) - See all my reviews
"...in the old days when the struggle between good and evil was more bitter and open than it is now. That struggle goes on all round us all the time, like two armies fighting. And sometimes one of them seems to be winning and sometimes the other, but neither has ever triumphed altogether...But those men who remembered the old world have been searching for its secret ever since. And there have been others searching as well - the enemies, the wicked men, who have the same greed in their cold hearts as the men whom Arthur fought."

- Great-Uncle Merry ("Gummery")

"So therefore, I trust it to this land, over sea and under stone, and I mark here the signs by which the proper man, in the proper place, may know where it lies..."

- from a certain manuscript

I recommend the unabridged audio edition read by Alex Jennings (who played Nevil the junior solicitor in the 1988 TV adaptation of THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR). I enjoy hearing what the Cornish dialect sounds like; Jennings has a very pleasant voice and works at making the characters distinct.

--

This first volume of the five book series THE DARK IS RISING can stand on its own; I read it years before learning that it had sequels and didn't feel cheated.

The entire series features six principal characters, four of whom are introduced here: the three Drew children (Simon, Jane, and Barney) and their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry, a distinguished scholar of history and legend (especially King Arthur). The kids can hardly believe that the unpredictable Gummery, usually far away on digs or at university, will be with them for an entire month's holiday in Trewissick, a seacoast village in Cornwall where their artist mother has come to paint and their father to fish.

The Drews are the viewpoint characters for this book, so it features an "everyman" perspective of complete newcomers to the ancient conflict between good and evil that is about to surface.

Stuck indoors on a rainy day, the kids explore the Grey House. Finding a mysterious old map in the attic with Arthurian names on it, they naturally keep quiet so as to have a chance to follow it up. But when the house is broken into, with all the books, maps, and pictures turned over by someone searching for something, they confide in Gummery, the one adult they trust to take them seriously.

Also introduces one of the major opponents, although (as Merry says) the enemy can appear in many guises and under many names.

It says something (possibly only about me) that my favourite scene is the kids' first real conversation with Great-Uncle Merry, when he explains the endless war between good and evil, and how their discovery puts them in the middle of the battle.

They're drawn as realistic and individual kids, not miniature adults. There's a nice repeating motif about what they want to be when they grow up (mostly whatever profession they've seen lately that looks cool). Their dynamics are good; they squabble and gang up on each other as needed, and each can be separated from the others to carry separate scenes.

- Simon, the eldest (and bossiest), has been superior about studying Latin for two years, and now has to deliver when the map turns up. He's also the fastest runner.

- Jane worries over details, and the boys needle her for being motion sick (which means she's off on her own while the boys fish with their father).

- Barney, the somewhat visionary youngest, can get into places the others can't (and isn't above trying on an innocent/cute routine under pressure, though he hates being treated like a baby). Since he's prone to bad sunburn, he misses a night outing, but nothing can possibly happen while he's home in bed, can it?

Very well constructed story, setting up situations for development in later books without bogging down the tale at hand. Some very tidy illustrations that things and people aren't always what they seem, which becomes even more apparent on a second reading (particularly a second reading of the entire series).

While there's little physical violence, there are various creepy/scary moments:

- multiple chase scenes

- multiple extended scenes in the dark (including pursuit and lying awake in a not-so-deserted house)

- character falling into a trap the reader knows about but he doesn't

- dancing in the streets (a carnival and swimming gala provides plenty of distraction for both sides near the end)

I tend to prefer the books in which the Drews appear (such as GREENWITCH, which returns to Trewissick); they have a genuine Everyman viewpoint, which makes the story feel more like something happening in the real world, just with extra and unexpected depths. (The other two viewpoint characters, while also good, differ in this area).

Really good book for a summer holiday, whether you're on one or just need one. Be prepared to get hungry while reading this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an old fashioned book but a good read., 17 July 2000
By A Customer
This is a good read, for children from nine or ten upwards. Its beautifully written and exciting, with a good sense of place. It does go over slightly worn ground and its treatment of Jane, the only central female character is dreadful. She is a girl truely stuck in the 1950's, disapproving of the boys adventures- a cardboard cut out of a female character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to feel more emotions you never knew you could, 24 Jun 2000
By A Customer
The author beautifully captures the essense of cornwall in this fantsy book about magic. This book is the first in the series about how three very ordinary children get caught up in the battle between light and dark. With amazing characters of which similar can only be found in children's books as wonderful as 'Harry Potter'. Perfect for young children and adults a like. I recommend all the books in the 'Dark is Rising' series
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traditional but very good, 22 Oct 2003
By 
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I hope I don't upset too many Tolkienistas if I say that this is to the Dark is Rising series what The Hobbit is to The Lord of the Rings. That is, while it does set the scene and introduces some of the characters, it was written much earlier in the writer's career, isn't as polished or inventive and was clearly written for younger children. Written as it was in the early 60s, there's the usual copying of Blytonesque characters and somewhat clunky dialogue from children's series books. But these faults never stopped children from liking the Narnia books and they are much less intrusive here. That said, I'm not sure all that would bother the average eight-year-old because the story moves along at a brisk pace, there's no pompous pseudo-archaic language to get in the way and there are no "boring bits". I think this would be of limited interest if you've already read the other four books but it might be something to get a younger relative interested.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Start of the Best Series I Ever Read, 18 July 2009
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
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I first read this book many years ago, and the follow up books that make up the "Dark is Rising Sequence". I think these books are perhaps the best series I ever read. Certainly they are the best young adult series. The series is a timeless wonderful masterpiece.

This book is - in my opinion - possibly the weakest of the series. But that is not really a criticism. This book is still wonderful, exciting, fast paced classic treasure hunting adventure. Three children on holiday in Cornwall with their parents and a mysterious uncle discover an ancient treasure map lost in a secret room in the house they are staying in. The very idea is wonderfully captivating. Throw in some Arthurian legend too and it is no wonder that children and adults alike can and do love this book. This is an absolute classic.

Re-reading it, I noticed a few things that irritate me as an adult reader (although I did not care when I was younger). One such thing is the slightly Enid Blyton feel, where the adults can miss the obvious and thus the kids solve all the mysteries. However, some of that is explained in later books - and where it is not explained, it does not really ruin the story.

I highly recommend this book and even more highly recommend the rest of the series. Well written, wonderfully imagined and perfectly set with good characterisations, an engaging plot. I have read all this series several times. Once again, part of the best series I ever read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, evovative and captivating, 7 Nov 2000
By A Customer
I first read this 15 years ago at a friends behest. I have always loved Cornwall, the Arthurian mythos and good fantasy books - this is a wonderful synthesis of all three. Read this and you'll never look at or feel the same in Cornwall again. Best of all the rest of the books are as good !!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good start, for an epic series., 20 Feb 2007
By 
Lewis J. King "Severian_Random" (Harrogate) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it's following series. Although it does have a weak start and at times may be a little hard to get in to, it is very much worth reading.

The next books in the series just keep getting better and better until you realise that although these seem like ordinary kids, they are in fact among the ranks of Frodo, Pug, and Harry Potter as they begin to experience their destiny. Magic and evil deeds abound but with a wonderful British historical viewpoint. Great for any age, read this, then find the rest of the series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, original book, sequels are better, 13 Feb 2000
By A Customer
I was first attracted to this book, as it is set in cornwall, where i'd just been on holiday. The first few chaptes seemed uninspiring, but i perserved, and am glad i did. Although sticking to some fantasy traditions, the bulk of the plot is completely original. The first book in a series of five, over sea, under stone seems to act as a set up for the sequels, as the plot, although thrilling and enjoyable,is a lot more basic than the almost philosifical follow ups. The sequels are, in my opinion, better than this book, but you ought to read this to set you on the road to the series. If from this, you think i'm not keen on this particular book, you're wrong. its one of the best books i've ever read. you'll be willing on the children, trying to work out what'll happen (and in some cases, whats going on now, it can be quite complicated!)and hoping the "baddies" don't win. Speaking of them, what seem like normal enemies turn out to be much more. This is revealed more clearly in the sequel, the dark is rising. If you read the sequel, it seems strange as it is about totally different people, but the children return in book three. So in short wonderful, fab, and their's better to come!
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Over Sea Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising)
Over Sea Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising) by Susan Cooper (Paperback - 30 Sep 2010)
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