Greenwitch

by Susan Cooper

Cover image

Series: Dark is Rising #3
Publisher: Aladdin
Copyright: 1974
Printing: 1986
ISBN: 0-689-71088-7
Format: Mass market
Pages: 131

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the third book of the Dark is Rising sequence and takes both the children from the first book (Over Sea, Under Stone) and its grail quest, and the hero of the second book (The Dark is Rising). While it's possible to follow the story without reading the previous two books, you'd miss a lot and it's best to read in order.

Greenwitch is in many ways a step back towards the simpler childhood adventure of Over Sea, Under Stone and away from the sense of wonder and grand stage of The Dark is Rising. Will Stanton shows up here, and we therefore see more of the Old One side of the story and aren't kept in the dark about what Merriman is doing the way that we were in Over Sea, Under Stone, but the important events in the story follow the Drew children. The grail has been stolen and they have to find it again, as well as another symbol of power; for both, they return to the town of Trewissick for another vacation.

I missed the drama and wonder of The Dark is Rising, but that was a hard act to follow and I was okay with a return to a simpler sort of adventure. Unfortunately, though, there isn't much here. Over Sea, Under Stone was rather straightforward and uncomplicated, but the puzzle had some twists and danger and some slow revelations about the town. Greenwitch has a lot of fairly pointless childhood bickering between the three kids and Will amidst only three significant scenes. There's no lengthy setup, no mystery or adventure to savor, just a brief story of Jane having the right intuitive reaction and then succeeding because of her good character.

In short, this was a disappointment. It's not entirely without merit; Cooper has a gift for description of magic that makes it wonderous without reducing it to rules. The greenwitch itself felt a bit childish, but Jane's reactions were excellent, and the one other significant scene had a nice feeling of menace. But none of that helps the problem that there isn't enough story here to fill a book, and what there is revolves around keeping everyone nearby until the right interaction can happen and magically resolve everything. The tension between the kids and Will could have been interesting, but nothing much became of it and it never moved past the annoying point. I felt like, rather than a story, I got only half of an idea shown in a few short scenes.

The best part of this book is when Cooper writes a slowly-developing sense of wonder, or spends time describing the feel and appearance of a British setting that feels steeped in history and its own magic. She has a challenge now that Will has achieved his power; he's the most interesting character so far, but an active character with that much power is going to be able to resolve plots too easily. The childhood adventure formula of Over Sea, Under Stone doesn't still work, and Greenwitch didn't find something compelling to replace it. Hopefully she'll find a new approach in the next book.

Followed by The Grey King.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-12-07

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04