• William Stark

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper: Epic ending to an epic series

Fifth book in the The Dark Is Rising series


Overall rating: 9/10


Plot: 8.5/10

Quality of writing: 10/10

Characters: 9/10

Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): small

Difficulty: 4.5/10

Age level: 10 and up


Summary

In Susan Cooper’s epic conclusion to the The Dark is Rising sequence, the protagonists from the four previous books join together in order to find the enchanted crystal sword Eirias that will allow the Light to defeat the Dark (the forces of evil) forever. Together, they travel to Wales in a quest that will take them through space and time, in hopes of defeating the Dark’s last and greatest attempt to conquer the world. With imagery and characters borrowed from Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology, this story will appeal to fans of classic High Fantasy authors such as Lewis, Tolkien, and Lawhead. This is not a book to be missed!


Plot

While the book overall is excellent, the plot is a bit confusing: the rising action seems to drag on and on, but is punctuated by brief sections of rapid action. Additionally, the characters travel to alternate time periods more often than seems necessary, which makes the storyline somewhat confusing to follow. That said, once the plot really does get underway, it is engaging and exciting, and progresses at a reasonable and well thought-out pace towards the conclusion. The conclusion itself is satisfying and brings plenty of resolution without any hint of deus ex machina. Overall, the plot of Silver on the Tree has both excellent and not-so-excellent elements, and deserves a 8.5 out of 10 rating.


Characters

The protagonists readers know from the other books in the series don’t get so much development in this book, simply because they have already appeared in the other books. That said, we do see Bran having to come face to face with his unique role as Arthur’s heir for the first time in this book, and having to decide at the end of the story whether to join his father in Avalon or to stay with his adopted family in the twentieth century. The other character that is particularly well-written and well-developed is John Rowlands, a man from the twentieth century who has come to take a fatherly interest in Bran. However, when he consents to judge a dispute between the Light and Dark over whether Bran actually belongs in the 20th century (since Bran is actually the heir of King Arthur who was transported forward in time by Merriman), he discovers that his wife, Blodwen, is allied with the Dark and that his ruling in favor of the Light will mean losing her forever. Through Rowlands’ dilemma, Cooper really underscores the issue of deciding whether to do what is right, or what would make one happy. In conclusion, several of the characters in Silver on the Tree are especially well-written, and the characters overall deserve a 9 out of 10.


Difficulty

More so than other books in the series, Silver on the Tree uses a semi-archaic, almost poetic style that, while it is beautiful and showcases Cooper’s skill, doesn’t make the book the easiest of reading. Additionally, the plot is less straightforward than some of the others in the series, which, although it adds a pleasing element of complexity, also makes the book a bit tricky, especially for younger readers. Overall, this book gets a 4.5 out of 10 on difficulty.


Quality of writing

Cooper’s individual style is a big plus, not only in this book, but throughout the entire series. While it may occasionally come across as being a bit “old-fashioned” and archaic, her style for the most part complements the storyline (which is already full of characters from Arthurian legend and Welsh folk tales) with its “epic-poetry-like” quality, adding a whole new dimension to the story. Cooper also does an excellent job of defining her conflict: the Dark is bad, the Light is good, and that’s that. (No need for the reader to wonder whether a character is a villain, a hero, or neither.) On the whole, Cooper’s quality of writing in this book is excellent and merits a 10 out of 10.


Concerning content

Most readers will not have to worry about this book: it has no violence or language; the only potential issues are a number of “scary” scenes. These include a scene where the protagonists combat an afanc (a nightmarish lake-monster), and another where they are chased by the re-animated skeleton of a horse. Overall, however, these are not too big of an issue, since the book is clean (i.e. no language or graphic violence).


Age level

This book has no language or violence, but does incorporate several “scary” scenes. Additionally, the style could prove somewhat somewhat challenging for unaccustomed readers, but certainly not insurmountably so. On the whole, this book is recommended for ages 10 and up.

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