Over Sea, Under Stone (1965) by Susan Cooper
The first book in Cooper's The Dark Is Rising fantasy series has a heavy dose of mystery in it. Barney, Simon, and Jane Drew are headed to Cornwall with their parents to spend a month with their Great Uncle Merry (Merriman Lyon). Uncle Merry is well known for disappearing on quests for treasures that wind up in museums and the children hope that they might find some treasure of their own. When a rainy day see them exploring all the nooks and crannies of the house the family has rented from an old sea captain, it looks like their hopes may be fulfilled. In a dusty corner of a hidden attic, Barney finds an old piece of manuscript with a rough drawn map and with words written in ancient script. The words they are able to decipher lead them to believe that there is a treasure hidden "over sea, under stone" and connected in some way to King Arthur.
As they begin their own quest, they find their journey dogged by a trio on a mysterious yacht as well as the local vicar. It seems that evil forces are gathering and they turn to their great uncle for help. But will he be able to protect them when their search leaves them trapped by the rising tide between the cliff and the sea....and the evil forces waiting on the yacht?
This is a delightful children's fantasy novel filled with mystery and adventure and a good old battle between the forces of good and evil. I cannot believe that I never discovered and read it when I was growing up. I would have loved and appreciated it so much more if I had. Reading it in my fifties was fun--but not nearly as much fun as it would have been if I had still been in my single digits.
I enjoyed the connections to Arthur and the way the children worked out the clues that led them to the grail--not the Holy Grail, but a cup that depicts several scenes from the life of Arthur. They work together (despite some mandatory sibling squabbling) and each play an important role in figuring out a step in the process. Great fun! ★★★★
First line: "Where is he?"
Last line: "I think we shall know," he said slowly, "one day."
Deaths = two natural
I loved this book when I was in middle school. I never read the rest of the series though.
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