Seaward – Susan Cooper

3c5615fcb98bccd5979494d6177434f414f4141Here’s another reread. This story is somewhat based on Celtic mythology, but draws in two young people from the “real” world. Westerly and Cally have both lost their parents, and in their grief are both drawn into another world where they met Lugan and Taranis – who both have extraordinary powers. They both know that they must reach the sea, and that their parents may be there, but Taranis will do all that she can to prevent them. They must find their way together.

This is a very sweet story – it was published in 1983, so predates the current YA craze, and it’s therefore a lot shorter than you might expect if you came up reading those books. It ages beautifully – the parts of the world that West and Cally come from are recognizable, but not sketched in such a way that they’re limited to any one time.

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The Grey King – Susan Cooper

9ab96bcea8ef90659316f2b5477434f414f4141I can’t reread The Dark is Rising without also rereading The Grey King. The other books in the series I have to be more in the mood for, but The Grey King to me is totally linked to The Dark is Rising. It’s actually the first book I read in this series (back in the days when you had to track down hard copies of books, and there was no internet to aid your search).

I can’t tell you what it is about this book that I love so much – it might be the atmospheric descriptions of Snowdonia in Wales, or the way that Cooper seamlessly integrates ancient magic into the modern day (and though this was published more than forty years ago, it has a very timeless quality to it – sure, the kids would have cell phones today, but you don’t miss them).

This book was a Newbury Medal winner, and very rightfully so.

 

The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper

5e8e488ea2799085979436a5467434f414f4141Since I’ve been on a rereading binge this year, I had to bring out The Dark is Rising. Set during the twelve days of Christmas, it’s how eleven-year old Will Stanton discovers that he is an Old One – the guardians of the Light, and his first quest as an Old One – to gain the six Signs of power.

This story still completely holds up – though it was written in the 70s, it’s a perfectly recognizable modern day family story, until the ancient British myths and legends surrounding the Old Ones and their power are brought into the tale. I highly recommend this book to any young adult fantasy lover – it’s a classic of the genre.

Legacies – Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

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Spirit White wakes up out a coma after a car accident, to find her parents and sister are dead, and that her parents had made arrangements to send her to Oakhurst Academy in the event that they both died before she turns twenty one. Turns out, Oakhurst is a school for magicians, and that one of Spirit’s parents had to have gone there.

It’s a weird place – rich prep school in the middle of nowhere, Montana. And Spirit doesn’t seem to have any magic. But, she does make friends, and all seems ok, until a few students disappear. Spirit and her friends investigate, and come to interesting conclusions about the school.

This is very much a set up book – the end game of this story is clearly only the beginning. There’s definitely a lot of things these kids aren’t being told, and it sure looks to me like a lot of parents are dying when they don’t need to – I’m actually surprised no one talked about it in this book, but I’m sure it’ll come up again later.

My favorite part, and I don’t think I’m being too spoilery here – the Wild Hunt as zombie bicycle/ATV/assorted other wrecked vehicle gang. Loved that.

I’m interested to see where this goes. It’s clearly laying some Authurian groundwork, but is still open to nearly endless potential.

Pendragon – Stephen R. Lawhead

I was very curious to see how this book was going to work – it’s a tacked on end to a former trilogy that actually ended with the death of Arthur.    So bringing back another Arthur story was definitely a bold move.     What this story does is go back to a few moments in Arthur’s youth that serve to illustrate the king he will become, and then go into detail about one of the first great battles he has after he is made king.

I liked this book better than I did Arthur – I think by concentrating on one time period, it served the story better.    Arthur looked at three distinct periods in his life, and became a little disjointed because of it.    It’s a shame the author hadn’t decided to go this route in the first place.

It was also a little less overly Christian.    I don’t know – the idea of a fully Christian Merlin just really rubs me the wrong way – but it just doesn’t seem as in your face in this book as the others.

Arthur – Stephen R. Lawhead

This in the final book I had read in the Pendragon Cycle, back in the day (aka, high school).    It was also formerly the last book in the cycle – and it’s very much an end book, so it would appear that the two books that come after it take place in time frames covered by this book, as this book starts with Arthur taking the sword from the stone, and ends with him going to Avalon, gravely wounded, after the battle with Medraut.

These books have always taken their own path through Arthurian legend – Arthur is the son of Aurelius, not Uther; when he takes the sword from the stone, the other kings will not immediately accept his High Kingship, so he takes up Uther’s old title of Duke of Britain instead; Gwenhwyvar is an Irish queen (in her own right) and warrior – I could go on.

As I’ve noted in my rereads of the previous two books in the series, this is also a very Christian book.    Again, perhaps not in a modern way that would tie into any particular flavor of Christianity of our time, but it’s a contrast to many other modern retellings where the struggle between the pagan religions and Christianity coming in is much more pronounced.

The other thing about this book it’s very compact compared to the other two.    I think that’s partially because the other two really do deal with the life of particular person (or two – Charis and Taliesin, and Merlin), and while this book focuses on Arthur, it’s about more than just him – it’s the whole Summer Kingdom.   I suspect that’s why the author chose to expand the series.     And now I’ve tracked those two books down (as well as a sixth book – Avalon, which is apparently a modern day postscript).     So I’ll be out of reread territory, and into something new.

Merlin – Stephen R. Lawhead

Here’s another technical re-read, from back in my high school days.     It’s the story of Merlin, from childhood, to when he claims the baby Arthur from Uther Pendragon.

In this series, Merlin is the son of the bard Taliesin and the Princess Charis of Atlantis, daughter of the Fisher King.     He is foretold to be a king, and in his younger days, he rules alongside his step father as king of Dyfed.      The death of his wife and unborn child drives him mad, and he disappears into the forest for a number of years.     When he emerges, he is no older, but many of his companions have died.      His legend has grown, especially when people see he has not aged.

A young man named Aurielus is shortly to become High King of Britain, and his younger half brother Uther is the chief of his army.     Anyone familiar with Arthurian legend knows where this is going.

The first thing I noticed is how Christian this book is.     Not in a modern sense, but Merlin is firmly a Christian from birth, despite also being prophesied by the Druids to be their king.     It’s an interesting take on things – certainly a way different view than The Mists of Avalon, for instance.

The other thing is that I really didn’t get a sense of Merlin as a man.     He’s a young appearing man.      And his life before Uther seems quick.      (I suppose the fact that he’s mad for a good portion of it helps.)     I just don’t get a good sense of deep-seated power from him.    I suppose this Merlin is born to his power, but I feel like I need to understand better where it truly comes from, and this story left me lacking.    Still, it’s a good transition to the next book, called Arthur, so you know exactly where the story is headed.