Tuesday Author Discussion: Susan Cooper

I read Susan Cooper when I was a kid, but I have to admit I don’t remember doing so. I owned several of the books, and had that vivid sense that I read them, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I really discovered The Dark Is Rising Sequence. I was studying in England, and there was a new trade paperback of The Dark is Rising from Puffin with a cover that I Had To Own.

It sat on my shelf for a few months, until one day, bored with my school books, I picked it up. And didn’t put it down until I’d finished it.

I could talk about Cooper’s ability to create atmosphere, her use of myth and legend, and a lot of other things. But what really stood out for me, as an adult, and especially as a fantasy writer, was the prophecy.

Here was a book concerning chosen ones, ancient evil, Arthurian legend – the works. But the kids, especially Will, were so much just kids. I loved that. I loved that they had destiny, but still argued and fought with their siblings. I loved that Will was unsure of himself, frightened. This was high magic woven into everyday, into normalities – the very thing about urban fantasy I love best.

I’ve always been intrigued by prophecies, by the way they can (or should) complicate questions of choice, of free will, destiny, and how we live our lives. But so often, in fantasy novels prophecy is treated as just something to add cool points, or as a stand in for characterization when it comes to the MC. Cooper makes her prophecy a vehicle for character development and intrigue.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

12 thoughts on “Tuesday Author Discussion: Susan Cooper

  1. When I first read The Dark Is Rising, it was given to me as a Christmas Gift for my 11th Christmas. And it was one of the few years that snow came to Mississippi. True story.

  2. Woah.

    That would have freaked me out. Or given me a complex.

    Assuming I hadn’t already developed one. Or ten.

  3. Yeah, it freaked me out a little. Especially since the bedroom I was in fronted onto the street. And my mother had this christmas wreath she would hang on the outside of our window every year. The darn thing had to be hung with wire to stay up and it was lit with electric christmas lights. So, if you can imagine it, at night there would be this faint glow from the wreath that would filter through the blinds. The wind would whip past the corner of the house and set the wreath to banging softly against the window screen every so often.

    Talk about chills running up and down your spine. Didn’t stop me from reading it a hundred times that Christmas. To this day, I can still smell bayberry and cedar when I read that book.

  4. I’ve had several friends rave about this series. I picked up the first one through the library I work for.

    Couldn’t finish it. I found the protagonists so annoying and stupid I would have happily read 50 pages of them being tied down and tortured to death with belt sanders. Granted, I’m told the rest of the series is much, much better, but that book left such a bad taste in my mouth that I highly doubt I’ll try the others.

  5. that book is sitting on my porch this very moment (although it is admittedly a library version with a much, much older cover) with a bookmark around page 80.

    perhaps I’ll go get it and finish it now.

  6. I love hearing this kind of thing. It just goes to show that you can’t possibly please everyone!

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