Fantasy Adventure Award Winning Chapter Book Series
A reader commented earlier to check out The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper for my Reluctant Boy Reader list, and it’s taken me a while to track it down, but she was right! I just finished the second book, The Dark is Rising and think that this is a fantastic series, with two Newbury awards; The Dark is Rising is a Newbury Honor book and The Grey King is a Newbury Medal Winner.
I’d describe the series as a mix of Tolkein (Lord of the Rings series), Lloyd Alexander (The Black Caldron series), and King Arthur with a difficulty level between the two series. Also, I’d describe it as mix of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It’s an epic series pitting good versus evil and light against dark with the epicenter around an 11-year-old boy named Will Stanton who is the last of six “Old Ones” who are time-travelers and protectors of the world. The time traveling aspect is great because it introduces English history amidst a backdrop Celtic lore.
What is different about this series as compared to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, I realize, is that it’s a little darker (no pun on the dark versus light theme) because Will Stanton doesn’t have a posse of peers to take along during his adventures. He does have other Old Ones that periodically come to his aid and there are other children in some of the books, but there is pathos in that he is the only one his age with his type of powers. This loneliness aspect may make the series more difficult to relate to than Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but this is an exciting, beautifully written series that may also be the anecdote to Percy Jackson lovers who are tired of re-reading the series and need another epic series to end out their school year. [chapter book, grades 5-8]
Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1
This book is interesting because it’s different from the rest of the books. This book introduces the three Drew children — Barney, Jane and Simon — and their Great Uncle Merry as they end up on a treasure hunt for what may be the famous Holy Grail of King Arthur lore. At the end of the book in which Great Uncle Merry seems like a pretty typical elder scholar, the children are left wondering if Merriman Lyon is a name that can be shortened into … Merlin? And could he actually be Merlin?!
The Dark is Rising – Book 2
The first cast of characters does not show up except for Great Uncle Merry who is a intimidating, powerful, and dare we say magical “Old One” who leads young Will Stanton into the knowledge of his latent powers. The tone of this book is darker and a bit scarier than the first and we learn that Old Ones can travel through time and are fighting an epic war of Dark versus Light.
Greenwitch – Book 3
The Drew children, Gumerry (their Great Uncle Merriman Lyon — could he also be the mythical Merlin?), and Will Stanton meet back in Cornwall. The Golden Chalice (a.k.a. the Holy Grail) has been stolen by the Dark and the scroll is in possession of the Greenwitch, a being of the Wild Magic. Whoever is in possession of both will be able to unlock the secrets of the Chalice and break the code to reveal a message of the greatest importance in the battle of Dark versus Light.
The Grey King – Book 4
Will Stanton is back and has traveled to visit his relatives in order to recuperate after his adventures in Book 3. Here he meets Bran, a strange Albino boy, who holds the key to his next quest. We also learn Bran’s secret identity — he is the son of King Arthur put into another time. Bran is not an Old One but there is something special about him that suggests a great destiny awaits.
Silver on the Tree – Book 5
The final battle between the Dark which has been gathering strength for a final assault on the world as we know it and the Light who must use everything in their power to send them back forever. All the characters that we have met in the first four books gather force as all are needed to battle the Dark. Good versus Evil. Light versus Dark. And the final battle. Great stuff! I could not put this book down!
I just tried this series out with my 4th grader and she found the plot hard to follow so I’m bumping it up for 5th-7th graders. Any child who likes Harry Potter will enjoy this series. I’d try out Percy Jackson fans on this series as well.
There is a movie on this series called The Seeker: The Dark is Rising made in 2007.
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.