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.