Genre: YA fiction
Length: 196 pages
Setting: Cornwall, 1960s
Interest: It’s the first book in the Dark Is Rising series that I picked up to read to my kids at some point. I offered a couple of choices for Miss Adventure to pick for her bedtime story (we’re taking a little break from the Anne of Green Gables series to flush L. M. Montgomery’s writing style out of my brain) and she chose this one. I’ve never read the series, so I was happy with her choice.
Summary: Simon, Jane, and Barney are on vacation in Trewissick, staying at the Grey House with their Great-Uncle Merry. While they’re exploring the old house one day, they find an ancient manuscript. Great-Uncle Merry is able to decipher the message. It described a series of clues to find the hiding place for the Holy Grail from Arthurian legends. There are dark forces trying to find the Grail as well, in the form of the Wither’s and Mr. Hastings. The children search for the Grail’s hiding spot while Great-Uncle Merry leads the Wither’s and Mr. Hastings on a wild goose chase. It’s a close call as to who will end up with the Grail, but the children succeed in the end.
Final thoughts: This seems like a sneaky magic book. So far, the book is just your standard adventure-with-kids story. Kids find an old map, have to decipher the clues and find the treasure before the bad guys do. No magic, but many hints. Is Great-Uncle Merry actually Merlin? Who are these dark forces after the Grail? What’s the secret behind using the Grail? I’m going to guess the magic quotient increases as the books go on (kind of like you see in the Game of Thrones series).
The children are the main characters, and they are good role models who work together as a team to solve the riddle. Each sibling has a different personality, so there’s someone to bond with for most readers. For once, the parents aren’t completely AWOL (that’s always an annoyance to me reading the story – where are the parents who are letting their kids jaunt around everywhere unattended?), just not integral to the plot. They usually let the kids go off and do their own thing, but the parents do make a regular appearance.
As a read-aloud, it’s OK. The chapters are too long to read easily in one sitting, and there’s no logical break points within the chapters either. I also found it annoying to have to keep saying “Great-Uncle Merry” whenever he was on the scene. When you’re reading it to yourself, your brain can just skip over the whole set of words, but you can’t do that in a read-aloud. Regardless, we’ll be reading the rest of the series. I want to know what happens to the Grail and the children!
Reading challenges fulfilled: 39/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and an O in my Title Alphabet Soup Challenge
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