In 2020, I started an occasional readathon I participate in – The Dark is Rising readathon, which is a seasonal reread of my favorite book series! Basically, we read the series on its own timeline, taking on each book in the season it’s set. And so I reread the first book in 2020 summer (Over Sea and Under Stone) and reviewed it here, and then I am pretty sure I reread the second book at Christmas (The Dark is Rising) but forgot to review it. And then the pandemic happened and I just plain forgot how to read!
So I do not have a review published for book 2, but I’ll just say this: it’s an incredible fantasy for children evocative of The Sword and the Stone and is 900 times better than Harry Potter but no current kid will ever know that, the end.
Last week I decided to read the springtime volume, book 3: Greenwich!
This is the cover of the book I enjoyed as a child and reread today (though it’s one of those tiny mass market paperbacks and I think my older tired eyes might need to size up). Let’s look at some cool covers! I think this is the original cover, which is pretty great – a classic look for Coopers original editions, she’s green, she’s a witch, it’s the 70s, we get it! I love this one because it depicts the inciting scene of the book but I don’t think anyone would pick it up, cuz wtf is happening. THIS ONE IS CRAZY, like I-Am-Groot crazy, but it’s not inaccurate. (Though I think the witch has a more male-look to it which I am not wild about. For the same reasons do not like this version.) THIS IS THE LADIES’ STORY, PEOPLE. Lastly, this is the current edition in print, which is fine – very pretty, puts the main character at the center instead of the witch, again, that’s fine.
In Greenwich, Drew siblings Simon, Jane, and Barnabas find themselves back in Cornwall when the Arthurian Grail they discovered last summer (in Over Sea Under Stone) is stolen from its museum hold. Local authorities are bummed, but the Drews and their great uncle Merriman know the truth: it was stolen by the Dark, who hope to use it in their uprising. Merriman rallies them together for a return, knowing in his all-knowing way that their talents will be useful. But this time, he also brings along another tween named Will Stanton – a stranger to the Drews, but strangely familiar to Merriman (we meet Will in The Dark is Rising). The group quickly identifies a suspicious figure in town, a painter with a vile temper. But it is Jane who hooks into the center of the mystery when she is invited to an annual gathering of local women known as the making of The Greenwich. It is a highly secretive event and Jane’s invitation is significant. She helps the women construct the greenwich, a vaguely human figure of leaves and branches, during the overnight hours. At the top of the morning, single gals get to hold the greenwitch and make a wish. Most wish for romantic or financial success, but Jane looks at the sad face of the figure and wishes for the greenwitch to be happy. Her empathy forges a connection with the otherworldly Greenwich of the Wild Magic, and it is this relationship that will not only aid Will and the Drews in reclaiming the grail, but in securing the next item of magic they need to protect from the Dark.
Despite my long-winded summary, this is a very quick, brief book, the slimmest volume in the series, and in some ways it’s a fairly routine “middle book.” But it was one of my favorites in the series as a child because it’s the GIRL BOOK! And I still love it for that reason. While the boys have plenty to do in this volume, it is Jane who gets to shine, and the powerful magical characters are ladies too. The magic is VERY atmospheric in this book as it is in all of Cooper’s work.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the joining of the Drew siblings and Will Stanton. The initial feelings of rivalry from the Drews is so natural, and even though we the reader know that Will is on their side, we get it. They had just tromped around all summer with their favorite uncle and literally saved the world, and now this uncle is bringing a new kid into things? And worse, uncle and Will seem to have an otherworldly connection they can’t understand? The worst! The middle school feelings are very real.
I’m not sure this book is really that necessary in the series, but I’m glad it exists.
Anyway, hopefully I’ll remember to read and review book 4 this fall – THE GREY KING.