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Silver on the Tree
by Susan Cooper
The fifth and last book of The Dark Is Rising series brings back together “the six”: Great Uncle Merry and young Will Stanton, the first and last-born of the Old Ones; Bran Davies, the Welsh albino boy who is destined for great power; and the three Drew children, Simon, Jane, and Barney. With other characters old and new, the battle between the Dark and the Light rises to its final climax.
One way or another, the five children have been brought together to the Welsh seaside down of Aberdyfi, so that they can play their part in the final battle. With help from Merriman Lyon and “the Lady,” among others, and hindrance from the Black and White Riders of the Dark, the children go on a quest full of perils and tests, for the Crystal Sword which can cut the silver blossom off the Midsummer Tree. But the Dark wants to get there first, because which ever side does so claims the right to drive its enemy out of Time, forever and ever.
Complete with more magical riddles and poems, a gripping journey through a Lost Land, an encounter with something like the Loch Ness Monster, and another heartbreaking episode featuring the good man John Rowlands and his wife Blodwen, the story culminates in another spectacularly tear-jerking scene of partings as a ship sails to the “quiet silver-circled castle at the back of the North Wind, among the apple trees.” Oh yes, the ending also includes a rather preachy, secular sermon on the theme that mankind holds his destiny in his own hands.
All in all, it’s an exciting book, full of suspense and terror, charm and humor, and a view of the world that does justice to both the good and the bad side of human nature. You may wonder, at the end, what (if anything) the Light and the Dark are really about. In a way, Merriman’s sermon at the end of the story cancels out the whole concept of the series. But you could also look at it from the Lord of the Rings/Prydain Chronicles point of view, as the endings of these three sagas have a lot in common. And their essential message is that, the magic of fairy tales, legends, and myths is limited by the bounds of their own world, that the story creates. Sadly, perhaps, we have to carry on without that magic in our lives. But perhaps the memory of the world we have left behind–in the story, when everyone sails off into the sunset; in real life, when you close the book with a sigh–may help us to do what is given to us, and to be what we are called to be, in the here and now.