on October 12, 2000
_Silver in the Tree_ is the fifth and final book in the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. It tells the story of the final confrontation between the Light and the Dark. Here the threads from previous books come together: Will Stanton, Merriman, the Drew children, Bran Davies, the Rowlands, the Stantons, and more. Cooper also introduces new characters, like Gwion, who leave lasting impressions both on the characters and the readers. In this book, the Light tries to find the last thing of power--a crystal sword--that will help them in the last and greatest rising of the Dark.
On a more serious level, this book addresses questions such as: what does it mean to *belong* to a family or a place? What right do people have to make decisions for others? The answers are neither simple nor easy. The disappointment of some of the other reviewer here shows that. (Warning: Some of them give away the ending, so reader beware). Personally I thought the novel's conclusion was fitting--it went well with the message of the other parts of the series. Cooper's prose style meshes well with her story.
Fantasy buffs, especially those with an interest in Arthurian legend, will love this series. I recommend this book very highly to middle school readers or advanced late-elementary school readers. But read the series in its proper order! This book gets its much of its poignancy from what comes before it. The order of the series is: _Over Sea, Under Stone_, _The Dark is Rising_, _Greenwitch_, _The Grey King_, and _Silver on the Tree_. The first two books can be read in interchangable order; I might even recommend reading _The Dark is Rising_ before _Over Sea, Under Stone_, but don't read _Greenwitch_ without reading the first two.
on May 7, 1999
A couple months ago my very dear friend said "You have to read these books by Susan Cooper" Since she usually likes the same books I do, I checked out the first one. I was hooked! Just a few days ago I finally finished the last book, Silver On the Tree. Fantastic. Really, if any adult doesn't read this because they think it's a kid's book, think again. I know many kids my age (13) who wouldn't get the subtle hints that go throughout the series.
Susan Cooper is such an excellent writer. She can make totally realistic, everyday, family scenes, and then turn around and write about journeys through fantastic fantasy worlds. She is also really good about writing descriptive scenes that let you picture something so exactly.
I can't decide whether this ties with The Grey King as the best book in the sequence, or if Grey King is a bit better.
The ending wraps things up just right. Except, I don't think the Drews & Bran should have had to forget. That's was probably the only complaint I can think of.
"Silver on the Tree" is the fifth and final book in "The Dark is Rising" series, and if you have never picked up the previous installments, then don't start here - you won't have a clue what's going on. If however, you have read "Over Sea, Under Stone," "The Dark is Rising," "Greenwitch" and "The Grey King," then here is the big finale you've been waiting for. Finally, all our main characters are reunited for the first and last time - Merriman Lyon, Will Stanton, Bran Davis, the Drew children, the Rowlands and the rest of the Old Ones who have come together for the final battle against the malevolent powers of the Dark.
They have gathered in Wales, following the last lines of the Light's prophecy; "when the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back", in order to find the last talisman of the Light. Whilst Will (the youngest of the Old Ones: guardians of humanity) and Bran (the son of King Arthur who was transported forward in time by his mother) travel across the Lost Land in search of the crystal sword, Merriman and Simon, Jane and Barney Drew face their own challenges when the powers of the Dark catapult them into different time periods. Soon it is a race to the finish line and the Midsummer Tree, but with a traitor in their midst and the forces of the Dark towering around them, it's hardly going to be easy to finally defeat the Dark.
Cooper again introduces several historical and legendary figures from England's past, including Owain Glyndwr, Herne the Hunter, Gwion/Talisan and of course King Arthur himself, and she invokes the landscapes and countrysides beautifully. By the end of the series, we are met with the inevitable sadness of farewells and life-changing decisions that place "The Dark is Rising" amongst the best of children's fantasy literature - this is not simply a hackneyed battle between opposing forces; it involves real betrayal, real heartbreak and real pain - where the climatic moment is not a sword-fight, but a decision that must be made by a human being that has just lost everything he's loved. Our characters have only half-won the battle: for as she points out in the beginning of the novel when a young Pakistani boy is targeted for bullying, the real enemy lies within humankind.
There are a few things that I'm not quite sure on, but before I start pointing them out I have to say that Susan Cooper is an extremely sensitive and subtle writer - if you don't read carefully you can miss half of what she has to say. As I have only read "Silver on the Tree" twice, (once when I was quite young, and once when I was in a hurry), I'm quite certain that I fall into this category. Her themes are deep, her writing is articulate, and she doesn't make it easy for insensitive readers. If you want to get the most out of these books, then you have to work for it.
In saying that, some things came across as rather puzzling. The sequence and timing of events are rather patchy, and often things happen that don't seem to make much sense (although keep in mind, I may be misinterpreting them - I'm sure Cooper knows more about writing than I do). The book is divided into four parts, and although the first provides a promising beginning, and the last an exciting conclusion, the two middle parts are problematic. The situation with the Drews, in which they are transported back into time seems a little unnecessary - they do not seem to learn or gain anything of value that justifies their presence there. Meanwhile, as Bran and Will traverse the Lost Land, they come up against several obstacles that are disposed of rather easily - such as the terrifying spectre of a moving horse skeleton: the boys are saved when the petals of a may tree falls upon it. Huh?
Furthermore, the powers of the Dark just didn't seem that scary this time around. Previously, they were one of Cooper's strongest inventions, whether they appeared as amiable siblings, sullen, half-crazed painters, sweet-faced farm-girls, haggard tramps, a malevolent mountain-presence or the terrifying visage of a Black-cloaked Rider. But here, rather than appearing as a truly foreboding threat, the bad-guys do little but tail our heroes, mock them, and generally come across as annoying. Cooper drives home the point that the Dark can do the good guys no physical harm so many times that we loose all fear for their safety. I had no doubts that they'd make it through with no causalities - but the emotional scarring that they'd been exposed to is also negated when all but one of the main characters loose the memory of their adventures.
As mentioned, Cooper's work is immensely subtle and there is too much to be discovered for me to give it all away. I'll just reveal just one: read the descriptions of the Old Ones in the ships carefully at the story's end - she does not give names but "a tall burly figure in a smith's apron, a small man in a green coat and an imperious grey-haired lady, leaning on a stick," are all characters that we've seen before. So read carefully and frequently if you want to get the most out of this particular book, as well of the rest of the installments in this award-winning, immensely rewarding series.
I've posted this review, in basically this form, for all five of the "Dark is Rising" CD audiobook sets, because there aren't any other reviews of the CD sets. I have all five books and have been uniformly pleased with the audio quality.
I'll skip any summary of this book or of the series; dozens of reviewers have done that quite well. I assume that you are familiar with these books, probably have read this volume, (likely more than once), but now wish to have the book available as an audio CD. Perhaps a long car trip is in the offing? Good for you.
I am happy to report that, at least for me, this audio version gets high marks across the board.
First, I can hear it and understand it. No mushy sound recording. No odd imbalance in volume that requires you to keep turning the volume up and then down. All of the spoken words are crisp and clear.
Second, there are no sound effects or such folderol.
Third, there is a single reader. This is not a play for voices and is not read by a number of different character actors.
Fourth, Alex Jennings is a marvelously effective reader. His approach is dynamic but not overly dramatic. He is never coy or arch, and does not ham up any of the big scenes. In the first chapters he can be a bit tentative in distinguishing among the major characters and is inclined to give short shrift to minor characters, but after that he settles into the various roles and adds a distinct and recognizable identity to each character.
Finally, the reading is very respectful. By that I mean the book is not read as though it were just some silly children's book. It is treated as the triumphant work that it is and this adds greatly to its weight and impact.
Please note that there are 8 compact discs. Runtime is a bit under nine and a half hours.
on February 21, 2000
I'm a twelve-year-old from KL and I first read this book when I was eleven, two years ago. Ever since then I have reread it about a million times. This book is the last in the series and one of the best. In the beginning Will begins to see shades of fleeing people. He calls a gathering of the Old Ones, only to find that the Lady is not present. He is drawn into an adventure with Bran Davies and the Drew children, ending in a struggle to cut the blossom from the midsummer tree on the Chiltern hills with the crystal sword, which will enable the Light to vanquish the Dark. This is one of the best books I have ever read. Susan Cooper shifts from time to time and place to place seamlessly. I loved the Lost Land and the climax at the midsummer tree. When I first read this book I was rather upset that Bran and the Drews had to forget their adventures completely. However, after rereading this book a few times, I began to think that the ending was, after all, quite appropriate. I did feel sorry for Will, though, because he had to bear this burden alone. I loved this book.
on July 9, 1999
The last of this fine series is a sweeping effort to bring all the characters from previous books together. Cooper writes well enough, and this is all based on an extremely complicated set of Arthurian mythologies. But by now we are rather tired of these vague metaphysical risings of power, which seem less chilling the more they happen. This novel flies all over the place in space and time, more like a series of adventures than a cohesive whole. It tends to seem a bit long and arbitrary (as when Blowden Rowlands is suddenly unmasked.) In short, this book gets lost in itself. Fantasy mongers may like it more than I did.
on June 5, 2016
An explosive ending to Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence, when the six come together to turn back the Dark, in the final battle between the Light and the Dark. Will Stanton, the sign seeker and Last of the Light; Bran Davies, the Pendragon, son of King Arthur; the Drew siblings, Simon, Jane, and Barney, led by the mysterious First of the Light, Merriman Lyons, are drawn to Wales to meet once again. With time drawing short, the children must find a way to meet with "The Lady" to clues to finding King Arthur's lost sword, Eirias. While Will and Bran go on an out of time travel journey to find and bring back the sword to present time, the Drew children await the arrival of Merriman and learn more of the past as they time shift to experiences brought on by the Dark to isolate them, creating danger and failure for the Light. If they are successful in recovering Eirias, the six will unite to complete the task demanded for the Light and the High Magic to banish the Dark from power forever. As armies from the past from all over the world for both the Light and the Dark converge on Chiltern Hill in Buckinghamshire, the battle will rage as the Dark using the forces of armies, deception, betrayal, and nature pour their fury on the six and the forces of the Light. In the end, decisions must be made that will forever change the lives of Simon, Jane, Barney, and Bran, as well as their friend John Rowlands. This series has been so powerful, that reaching they end leaves one with a sadness of departing from old friends. Like Tolkien and Lewis, this book and Susan Cooper's series will go down as a classic battle between good and evil. Superb reading.
on July 9, 2016
I liked this book a lot better when I was a kid; things I didn't notice at the time stick out to me now. It was often unclear what was going on and why (or why not). There are fundamental questions left unanswered about what the Light, Dark, High Magic, and Wild Magic are and how they function; it's hard especially to understand why both the Old Ones and the Dark are so powerful at times and so weak at other times. Many events serve no purpose in furthering the story and come out of nowhere. Are they metaphorical, easter egg references to real-world legends, page-fillers, or just supposed to make it cooler? I liked the last part when I was a kid - it seemed like characters were making noble, self-sacrificing choices. Now those same choices seem stupid to me - self harm with no gain, probably driven by subconscious fear of change.
I think the best way to enjoy this book is to adopt the mindset I had as a kid - I identified with the Drew family, as mere mortals who are glimpsing the supernatural but cannot truly hope to fathom what's going on. Then it's a wild and thrilling ride.
on March 26, 2002
The old one, Will, and his friends are on their final adventure together to save the world from the rising dark. Will start off with his brothers at a picnic and he discovers that the old ones cannot slack off and let the dark take over. Merriman tells Will to pick up the blet of the signs to ward off the dark for the final moment. Meanwhile, Jane, Simon, and Barney are vacationing in Wales near where the mountain of the Grey King was. They meet Will at a cliff and they meet Bran, the mysterious albino boy. Together they solve the last piece to the puzzle of the rhyme, the lost city. They find the lost city and enter it to find the crystal sword, the final weapon of the light. Then it is the race to the midsummer tree. Prophesy has it said that the first one to cut off the silver from the midsummer tree will rule the universe. There are lots of surprises in the book and the plot changes ever so slightly. Everything flows together.
I like the book because of the interesting plot, how each book and each event in each book flows into one another. I also happen to like King Arthur and his Round Table so this makes the book very appealing. I like how Susan Cooper uses real language and real places to explain the story which makes the whole story more believable.
My favorite part was when Will and Bran received the crystal sword from the unhappy king. I've always wondered why did the king decide to torture himself with his own thoughts. The book says the Dark has no power to harm but it can contribute to changing a person. Then can't the king resist the Dark's influence? Why must he suffer because he did something right? Great book overall!
on March 21, 2014
I first read this series in high school. I had kept the compilation hard back on my shelf and read it to my kids as they grew up. Then one day while living in England (we are military and spent 6 years there), I came across the movie The Seeker. I enjoyed it and bought the U.S. version. About the third time I watched it, I realized what it was from (different from book in some places). So I pulled out the big book to read again and realized it was too heavy to carry around and ordered the series on my kindle. It is a mixture of Celtic and Authoritarian stories. I highly recommend it to all ages of readers interested in fantasy and mythology, but also to those who enjoy a good story