Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

This year Marshmallow has reviewed the first four books of Susan Cooper’s classic The Dark Is Rising series. Today she is finally ready to discuss the fifth and last book, Silver on the Tree, for the book bunnies blog. Sprinkles, who has also read the series recently, is taking notes and asking questions.

You can see Marshmallow’s reviews of the first four books here:  Over Sea, Under StoneThe Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, and The Grey King.

Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, tell me about this book.

Marshmallow: Silver on the Tree is the fifth and the last book in the series The Dark Is Rising. The series is about the ultimate battle between the Light and the Dark. The Light represents good and the Dark is evil.

S: So what happens in this fifth book?

M: Bran and Will, two of the characters we met in some of the earlier books, go to a different realm, the Lost Land, to obtain the last magic item the Light needs in its war against the Dark. The magical item is a sword made by the king of the Lost Land, and after some challenges, they manage to get it. Eventually though, the Dark does rise, and things look pretty bad for a while. There is an unexpected villain, someone we trust who turns out to be one of the Dark Lords. Pretty strange turn of events, and kind of confusing at times…

S: I know you had some difficulty following some of the plot at times, and you did not always enjoy the book.

M: Yes, I found it a little difficult sometimes, but overall the plot is actually quite interesting. One of the main issues I had with this book was that the style of writing felt unfamiliar to me.

S: What do you mean? Do you think the language was a bit old fashioned?

M: No, not that, but somehow the story-telling was very fluid, going from one location and time to another, and it was not always clear who was doing what. Some of the plot occasionally went over my head until a bit later, when something else happened and I had to go back to reread.

S: You are a very good and experienced reader, so this is interesting to hear. So I can say for myself that I really enjoyed reading each of the books in this series, but I can also see how sometimes things got a bit confusing. There were spots where the transitions between different times and actors were hinted at and not made very explicit, and the actual extent and implications of the threat of the Dark rising were vague, to say the least.

M: Yes, that is exactly what I think. It was not always clear what the Dark rising actually meant because the Dark was evil, but evil in humans was not always caused by the Dark. But I think it meant that once the Dark rose, there would be no more hope of good. Though they could never destroy the other side, so there would always be the Light, and some chance of good, but if the Dark did rise and win it all, humanity would be lost. They would be all slaves to evil. Which sounds kind of vague, honestly, but definitely also pretty terrifying.

S: But you were not really scared reading the books themselves right?

M: No, that was not what I meant. I was only really a bit scared while reading the first book Over Sea, Under Stone. But the Dark rising is a serious threat, I could get that.

S: I see.

Marshmallow is reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow is reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.

S: So overall, now that you are done with the whole series, what would you like to say to our readers about it?

M: I would recommend this book to people who like myths, because it blends Welsh mythology with King Arthur stories, and then adds some. There is magic, there is a big scary war between good and evil, and some quite ordinary kids having a role to play.

S: That sounds about right to me. If you could talk to the author, what would you say?

M: Well, I would say that the plots of all the books were very interesting though a bit confusing. I did love how she brought together different mythologies. But I really wished that she would have added some more female characters. The ones in the books were alright, I mean, Jane turned out to be useful in Greenwitch. And the Lady was one of the most powerful among those who fought for the Light, but more women and more girls could have made this story more captivating for me as a female bunny.

S: I cannot disagree with that! And I think you were quite disappointed by what happened to the main characters at the very end.

M: I think that is fair to say.

S: I know. But it also makes sense, no? That humans now have to make their own decisions, they cannot depend on the Light to save them nor can they blame the Dark for things that go wrong?

M: Hmm, I think you are now in spoiler territory!

S: You are right, I’m sorry. Let us stop here then. But in the end, I’d say that these are interesting books and this last one wraps things up in an overall satisfactory way…

M: Sure, I am happy to agree with that.

S: Okay, then how would you like to end the review?

M: I’ll adapt Caramel’s famous closing line to myself and say: “Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!”

Marshmallow enjoyed reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper, and though she found it a bit confusing at times, she is happy to recommend the books in the series to readers who enjoy stories that blend fantasy, magic, and ancient myths.
Marshmallow enjoyed reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper, and though she found it a bit confusing at times, she is happy to recommend the books in the series to readers who enjoy stories that blend fantasy, magic, and ancient myths.

Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow has already reviewed Over Sea, Under StoneThe Dark is Rising, and Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Today she reviews the fourth book in The Dark is Rising series: The Grey King.

Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoyed reading the previous books in The Dark Is Rising series, then this might be the book for you.

There is a Welsh legend about a harp of gold, hidden within a certain hill, that will be found by a boy and a white dog with silver eyes–a dog that can see the wind. Will Stanton knows nothing of this when he comes to Wales to recover from a severe illness.

from the back cover of The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Will Stanton, an Old One, has lost his memory. He is sent to Wales, to live with his mother’s cousin for a little bit, because he is supposed to be healed by the sea air. When he gets to Wales, he meets a lot of people. One of the people he meets is not a nice person. Caradog Prichard is a cruel man who dislikes everyone. But on the brighter side, Will also meets Bran. Bran is very pale as he is an albino. His skin and hair are white, but his eyes are gold. Caradog Prichard is blaming Bran’s dog, Cafall, constantly, because Caradog Prichard thinks that Cafall is killing his sheep. When Will meets Bran and starts to talk to him, Will starts to get his memory back. He remembers that he is an Old One, and he remembers his previous quests. And he realizes that Bran is “the raven boy” from this prophecy:

“On the day of the dead, when the year too dies, 
Must the youngest open the oldest hills 
Through the door of the birds, where the wind breaks.  
There fire shall fly from the raven boy, 
And the silver eyes that see the wind, 
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.”

The prophecy continues, but I won’t write all of it. But even when Will recognizes Bran in the prophecy, there is more about Bran than what he can know: Bran’s past is not what it seems. As Will discovers more about Bran, he uncovers a shocking truth. Do Bran’s roots come from the Light or from the Dark?

Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this was a very interesting book because the plot is very surprising. I wasn’t able to guess Bran’s background; it was so surprising.

I think that this would be a good book for 8 and up. This is not because it is scary, but because the plot might confuse younger readers.

I think that if you want to read this book alone, that’s fine, but I would suggest reading the previous books too. Also you might want to know a little bit about King Arthur, just a vague idea of his life. I should add that Sprinkles says The Grey King is her favorite from this series so far.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow recently read Over Sea, Under Stone written by Susan Cooper and first published in 1965. Today she is discussing it with Sprinkles.

Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, why don’t you start with a brief summary of what this book is about?

Marshmallow: Sure. Over Sea, Under Stone is about three kids, Barney, Simon and Jane. They are on vacation with their parents in Cornwall and are staying in an old house they rented together with an old family friend Great-Uncle Merry. Then they discover a mysterious map in a small room behind a wardrobe.

S: Oh, so like the kids in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first book written in the Chronicles of Narnia series, who find a new world within a wardrobe?

M: It is similar, but not quite the same. They do not go and find a new world inside the wardrobe. They find a map which allows them to see their own world through a new perspective.

S: How so?

M: When they show Great-Uncle Merry the map, he tells them of an ongoing war between good and evil, and that the warriors on both sides still are fighting it to this day.

S: Yes, this is a good summary I think. But this good versus evil fight is not as tied in with Christianity as it was in Narnia. Here, the good side is tied back to the King Arthur legends instead. It seems more directly connected to English lore. But the way you talked about the main characters, I also thought of a few other books you have reviewed for this blog. For example you reviewed Five Children and It by E. Nesbit and there too there were a few siblings that find something interesting during a family vacation. You also reviewed  Half Magic by Edward Eager which is similar.

M: Yes! And Half Magic by Edward Eager also involved the King Arthur legends in some ways.

S: So it seems like there is this genre of siblings, a handful of ordinary kids finding something extraordinary and then their lives change. Would you like that to happen to you and Caramel?

M: No!

S: Why not?

M: Possibly because they almost always get into real big trouble. Almost always there is a real big danger. And that’s not very appealing to me.

S: I see. But you seem to like reading about these kinds of things happening to other little bunnies. I guess you enjoy living vicariously through these characters’ adventures!

M: Yes! I will agree to that.

Marshmallow is reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow is reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

S: Apparently Susan Cooper, the author, wrote four more books about the same conflict between good and evil after this one, starting about ten years after having published this book. Together the five books make up the Dark is Rising sequence. Are you curious about those books?

M: Well, I am curious about what Cooper does with the world, but honestly I am not always too keen to read about female characters written in the time these books were written. They are almost always too stereotypical. I was disappointed with the female characters in Narnia, and here, too, I was disappointed that Jane always worried about cleanliness and her brothers always picked on her for being a girl.

S: I know what you mean. But I thought Jane was not too terrible. She did sense something was wrong with the Withers from the start. And the boys did eventually treat her a bit better. So maybe the other books will be a bit better?

M: I did read an excerpt of the second book at the end of this book and it seemed like there are a whole lot of new characters in there.

S: Yes, I think that is the case. I also heard that many people like that second book a lot. So we might just have to read it to see for ourselves, don’t you think?

M: Yes.

S: So let us wrap this up then. How would you rate this book?

M: Let me see. There was not much humor and the kids were a little too serious for me, I could not relate to any of them, but the story was quite intriguing and kept me wondering till the end.

S: Yes, it was quite stressful for me at times. I did think the author kept up the suspense well till the end.

M: I was not stressed myself but the story did work well. So I rate the book 95% and recommend it to other bunnies. Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!

Marshmallow rates Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager

This week Marshmallow reviews a 1954 classic, Half Magic by Edward Eager, the first book in his Tales of Magic series.

Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager.
Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books about magical charms, and adventure stories about a handful of siblings, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): The four siblings Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha are expecting to have a very boring summer. That is until they find the charm. The charm that works by halves. If you made a wish while touching the charm, then half of your wish would come true. So in order to get your whole wish you would have to say it in this fashion. Let’s say you wish is to have a dog appear then you would say that you wanted two dogs to appear because if you wished that one dog would appear then one half of a dog would appear. (You probably wouldn’t want to have half of a dog.)

Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much that it has to be perfect?

The children decide that they will take turns to use the charm. It turns out that other people have knowledge of the charm that grants wishes and they happen to want the charm. In a desert, which they travel to on Mark’s wish — he wants a desert island but the charmed coin takes them to a desert –. a man tries to abduct Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha. When he realizes that they have the charm, he says that they stole it from his people. 

On Katharine’s turn to make a wish, they travel into the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. They help stop Morgan Le Fay, an evil sorceress in this retelling of the myth, from kidnapping and killing the Knights of the Round Table.

Marshmallow is pointing toward one of her favorite parts of the book, where Jane makes a foolish decision. Here Jane is wishing that she belonged to a different family.
Marshmallow is pointing toward one of her favorite parts of the book, where Jane makes a foolish decision. Here Jane is wishing that she belonged to a different family.

They have some problems though, before they figure out how to use the charm. For instance, Martha wishes that she was not at the place she was and since she didn’t say it the way you need to, she became half there and half not there. The children eventually learn how to use it, and in the end, they have a very exciting summer, not at all the one they thought lay ahead.

Marshmallow’s Review: Half Magic is a classic and I think a great read for all ages. Written in 1954, it successfully entertained children for many years and probably will do the same for many to come. I enjoyed Half Magic very much and look forward to reading more about these characters in Edward Eager’s other novels.

Marshmallow’s rating: 100% 

Marshmallow rates Half Magic by Edward Eager 100%. And she adds: "May the Fourth Be With You!"
Marshmallow rates Half Magic by Edward Eager 100%. And she adds: “May the Fourth Be With You!”