Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, Book 1)

by Susan Cooper

Ebook, 2012



Local notes

PB Coo


Margaret K. McElderry Books (2012), 209 pages, $7.99


Three children on vacation in Cornwall find an ancient manuscript which sends them on a dangerous quest that entraps them in the eternal battle between the forces of the Light and the Dark.


Original publication date






Media reviews

The story, which starts slowly, becomes more compelling as the supernatural starts to take over, although the mystic powers never reach the terrifying proportions they should have, and the ending, necessarily ambiguous, seems uncomfortably contrived.

User reviews

LibraryThing member riverwillow
I'm not sure if I read all the books in The Dark is Rising Sequence as a child. I just don't remember, which is strange because I remember reading other books of this type, like The Owl Service. But now I've read Over Sea, Under Stone, I'm still not sure. There is something very familiar about the story, but then in many ways the story of siblings having an adventure during a summer holiday in Cornwall is quite generic. But I am sure that I would remember Cooper's superb writing, 'And against the sky they saw nothing but lonely trees, stunted and bowed by the wind that blew from the sea, and yellow-grey outcrops of rock'. A wonderful book and a brilliant opening to the sequence.… (more)
LibraryThing member PhoebeReading
My initial reaction was that this felt well-worn: a Lewisian family of British children, summering in Cornwall, find a mysterious passageway behind a wardrobe. However, my initial reaction was dead wrong. The characters here are exceedingly well-drawn. The Drew children are bratty, catty, prone to shortness of breath and leg cramps. They're incredibly real, something that's all-too-lacking in a lot of children's fantasy literature. Barney, the youngest, with an Arthurian obsession, is especially believable. The pacing of this novel is great to boot, suspenseful, scary, and includes an especially riveting chase scene. I can't wait to read the rest of this series.… (more)
LibraryThing member lycomayflower
In this young adult novel, three children staying in Cornwall for their summer holidays discover a manuscript which leads them to the Holy Grail. Their great uncle Merry helps and protects them in their quest, and they must avoid the dangerous "enemies" who seek the grail for their own evil purposes. Well-written and nicely atmospheric. A fun, sometimes cozy, sometimes creepy read with a fair amount of real adventure. Perhaps a bit anti-climactic with regards to the identity of the enemies and the importance of the grail. But I scampered to the library to snatch up the rest of the sequence before even finishing this one, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Cooper carries on with this story.… (more)
LibraryThing member the_hag
It’s summer, the Drew Family (Simon, Jane and Barney, along with their parents) take a vacation in a small fishing village in Cornwall, renting “The Grey House” (owned by an eccentric and absent sea captain) and meeting up with their Great Uncle Merriman (who is renting The Grey House). On a rainy day the children set out to explore the house (sheer boredom drives them to explore the house as if they were exploring a distant land…an adventure worthy of a rainy afternoon. Since the various chests and cupboards are off limits (if it’s locked, it’s out of bounds), the children find themselves a secret door to the attic and begin searching, hoping to discover treasure within. In a dark and forgotten corner, treasure is just what they find…and once they’ve found that, they are off on a madcap adventure which puts all of them endanger, but which promises a truly amazing prize! What follows is pretty much standard stock for this type of story…parents are called away (in this case meeting up with an old friend), taking off for an unexpected visit, effectively leaving the children sans guardians and free to ramble about in search of adventure. I actually (accidentally) read The Dark is Rising prior to reading this, the first book in The Dark is Rising Sequence, so I was surprised to find this particular volume of the sequence largely bereft of the magic and wonder present in the second volume. To my way of thinking, this is a much simpler, less complex book, more in the vein of Nancy Drew…there is danger aplenty and the children must save themselves and solve the mystery before the “bad guys” do. The only difference is the children have found a map and text accompanying it suggesting it’s of ancient origin and related to King Arthur…so it’s a slightly more mythic quest than the typical Nancy Drew mystery…but it has that same feel, nonetheless.

This book was first published in 1965 and as such it does seem to hearken back to a simpler time and one wonders what sort of story this would be given all the modern technology available to us these days…still, Over Sea, Under Stone has a rather timeless quality to it and still appeals to a children (and adults) 30+ years later! I particularly like that the children are well drawn, independent and not at all interchangeable (as often happens in this type of story). Additionally, I found the villains here (and they are to be found everywhere, even in the most unexpected places) to be quite, well, villainous! They are cold, calculating and bent on getting their hands on the map and the treasure at any cost…they are charming on the surface, but there is clearly something dark and dangerous seething just under that cleverly polished façade! I found Over Sea, Under Stone to be entertaining, interesting, and quite an exciting little adventure, but also felt that it related very little to the second book and I am wondering how it will all tie together (or if it does at all) as the sequence continues. Overall, I give it 4 stars…at this point in my reading, I don’t see how it fist with the continuation of the story but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series to find out.
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LibraryThing member RebeccaAnn
Three siblings, Simon, Jane, and Barney, find an old map whilst visiting their Uncle Merry. Though at first there doesn't seem to be anything special about it. However, they soon realize there are many people out there willing to do just about anything to get that map. They have to find out what it means before it falls into the wrong hands...

I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining and I found the pace just about right. Lots of action with a perfect dispersal of resting points so you can take a break if need be. There was one particular chase scene between Simon and Bill that I just found absolutely breathtaking. For me, that was my favorite part of the entire book. I loved that this wasn't a conventional fantasy (though it did have a bit of a Narnia feel to it, what with the children finding the source of the adventure right within their own home and whatnot). There's no grand adventure, but rather everything just takes place within one town, which I also liked. And they had a dog. I'm very fond of dogs and Rufus was just adorable.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was the ending. It felt a bit rushed to me. It also gave the book too much of a prologue feel to it. I know this is just the first book in a series of five, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a self-contained story, and that's what I thought the entire story was missing: a proper ending. Although from what I've heard, it fits with the next four books so really, it's a small complaint. I'm eager to start in on book #2!
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LibraryThing member sirfurboy
I first read this book many years ago, and the follow up books that make up the "Dark is Rising Sequence". I think these books are perhaps the best series I ever read. Certainly they are the best young adult series. The series is a timeless wonderful masterpiece.

This book is - in my opinion - possibly the weakest of the series. But that is not really a criticism. This book is still wonderful, exciting, fast paced classic treasure hunting adventure. Three children on holiday in Cornwall with their parents and a mysterious uncle discover an ancient treasure map lost in a secret room in the house they are staying in. The very idea is wonderfully captivating. Throw in some Arthurian legend too and it is no wonder that children and adults alike can and do love this book. This is an absolute classic.

Re-reading it, I noticed a few things that irritate me as an adult reader (although I did not care when I was younger). One such thing is the slightly Enid Blyton feel, where the adults can miss the obvious and thus the kids solve all the mysteries. However, some of that is explained in later books - and where it is not explained, it does not really ruin the story.

I highly recommend this book and even more highly recommend the rest of the series. Well written, wonderfully imagined and perfectly set with good characterisations, an engaging plot. I have read all this series several times. Once again, part of the best series I ever read.
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LibraryThing member ferebend
Over Sea, Under Stone is the first of five books. It was written about a decade before the second and was aimed at a younger audience. It was very much a children’s story, being very light on the fantasy elements present in the rest of the series. That said, it made for quite a fun, little adventure story. The plot development was fast-paced (enough to hold a child’s shorter attention span, probably) and the foreshadowing was painfully obvious to an adult reader. But altogether enjoyable, nevertheless.… (more)
LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
This is a lovely beginning to a wonderful series. I was fortunate enough to have read these several times as a kid and now several times as an adult. They are always pleasing and are among the books I wish I could re-read for the very first time.

This first book in the series is a very British sort of story with a collection of children on holiday in Cornwall who have an adventure that involves finding the Holy Grail. Yes, that Holy Grail. It's wonderfully well written and intricately plotted and the characters are so very real that you can't help but fall in love with them. The Drew children are not your typical icons of perfection that you often find in this type of literature. They are cranky and fight amongst themselves and put things where they shouldn't and make each other laugh and do all the silly things that all children do. Combine that with their rather absent-minded parents, the mysterious and wonderful Great Uncle Merriman (sort of a Great Uncle, but sort of not - they call him Gumerry), and assorted evil doers and you've got a delightful and imminently readable story.… (more)
LibraryThing member SandDune
Simon, Jane and Barney Drew arrive in the Cornish village of Trewissick to stay in the Grey House with their Great Uncle Merry, a friend of their mother’s family. There was always something slightly mysterious about Uncle Merry:

Always, wherever he was, unusual things seemed to happen. He would often disappear for a long time, and then suddenly come through the Drews’ front door as if he had never been away, announcing that he had found a lost valley in South America, a Roman fortress in France, or a burned Viking ship buried on the English coast. The newspapers would publish enthusiastic stories of what he had done. But by the time the reporters came knocking at the door, Great-Uncle Merry would be gone, back to the dusty peace of the university where he taught. They would wake up one morning, go to call him for breakfast, and find that he was not there. And then they would hear no more of him until the next time, perhaps months later, that he appeared at the door.

While they are exploring the house on a rainy day the children discover a treasure map, one that’s hundreds of years’ old, that has been copied from a map that’s centuries older still. But once they start to follow the clues on the map they discover that darker forces are also looking for the Arthurian grail to which the map leads, and the children must stay one step ahead ...

A fairly straightforward adventure story, but a good one nonetheless. And one that involves the exploration of sea caves with the tide coming in, something which I’ve realised I find unduly frightening, and which definitely added to the sense of peril for me. (I was brought up by the sea in an area where people got cut off by the tide on a reasonably regular basis, and I think the maxim that you must be aware of the tide at all times was one which was clearly drilled into me at a very early age).

This is the first book in Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ series. This is definitely a children’s book (I think the others in the series are YA), and I so wish I’d read this as a child as I would have loved it.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
The three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of their holiday home, which when the mysterious writing is revealed seems to point to the hiding place of a grail. For some reason I was under the impression this was a fantasy tale and, although it has a tiny bit of magic in it, it's really mainly a mystery for the younger reader. It was a decent read, but a little too Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys for me to love it. I have been told the following installments are "proper" fantasy, so I'll continue the series for sure.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
I had forgotten how much I love older - British - fantasies until I started reading this. The mood set with the twisty, secretive Grey House is just right for a fantasy adventure, especially when you through in the enigma of a great-uncle and the mysterious strangers. An excellent read, but slower than more modern YA fantasies.
LibraryThing member EJAYS17
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is the 1st volume of her children's classic fantasy series The Dark Is Rising. It's also the 21st book in the challenge.

Although there are 5 books in the sequence Over Sea, Under Stone is a little different from the others. It's more of a prologue than anything and it's totally self contained. When they made an attempt to film some of the series they didn't include anything from Over Sea, Under Stone.

The book was written in 1965 and it is quite dated in many ways. The central characters; the Drew siblings: Simon, Barney and Jane, behave like children from a generation earlier and they hold many of the same views and prejudices from that era.

The children and their parents along with the mysterious Great Uncle Merry (full name Merriman Lyon), often referred to playfully by the kids as Gumerry, take a summer holiday to Cornwall.

Simon and Jane look at the trip as a holiday to the seaside, but for the dreamer Barney, fascinated by King Arthur, it's a journey to the land of his dreams. As Great Uncle Merry says Cornwall is Logres (the land of the West and King Arthur). The other two think this is all part of Barney's dreams and Gumerry;s wild stories until they explore the old house they're staying in and find an ancient piece of parchment written in old English with a map.

Once they have the manuscript and the map, which Gumerry translates as being written by an old Cornish knight called Bedwin and tells the story of where he hid the grail of King Arthur, a sinister interest is taken in the family, especially Simon, Barney and Jane, by the Withers, the brother and sister on the big yacht out on the harbour.

With the help of their great uncle the 3 kids find the location of the grail using the map. They do recover it, but not before being nearly caught by the Withers and their menacing master; Mr Hastings.

There's very little magic or fantasy in this opening volume, although the mystery of exactly who or what Great Uncle Merry is, is solved by Barney at the end and there's an indication that Mr Hastings is much more than he seems.

At times I wondered if I was reading an installment of Enid Blyton's Famous Five, the Drew kids even had a dog the same as Blyton's juvenile crime busters. I wouldn't recommend it to any kid looking for an age appropriate fantasy unless they intended to read the following books. There are a number of King Arthur themed books for juveniles and any of these would do just as well. My recommendation would be to go right to the orginal legend and try T.H White's The Once and Future King.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
I found out about Susan Cooper through my obsession with the Revels, and decided any novel that brings Arthurian legend into contemporary times is worth a read. I would have loved this book as a child, and found it intelligently written with just enough suspense. On the down side the characters are wooden and the good characters are too good and the evil characters are too evil and even the children don’t seem to have any healthy amount of rivalry, and there’s way too much dialogue that explains the plot. A little more uncertainty would help the aura of mystery in the story. I’m proud to say that I figured out that Great Uncle Merry was Merlin in the first chapter. Then again, that may be a sign I’m too old to be reading children’s books. I look forward to reading the rest of the “Dark is Rising” series to see what happens next and to see if Cooper’s writing improves.


“. . . the struggle between good and evil was more bitter and open that it is now. That struggle goes on all around us all the time, like two armies fighting. And sometimes one of them seems to be winning and sometimes the other, but neither has ever triumphed altogether. Nor ever will . . . for there is something of each in every man.
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LibraryThing member readafew
This is the first book in the Dark is Rising series. In this book we are introduced to the Drew children, Simon, Jane and Barney. Their family goes to vacation at a sea side resort and while exploring the old house they are staying in discover a treasure map. Little do they know that the map leads to an ancient treasure that is being looked for by the forces of Evil. Can the Drew children save the day?

This is a neat set of books for young adults/Middle school kids. I read them when I was in Middle school and found them a little spooky, having reread them as an adult I found them an easy read and definitely written for younger readers. Great books to get younger readers interested in reading.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
Chronologically the first of the series, I think it should be read second after you are introduced to the story in The Dark Is Rising. This doesn't cause a problem as this volume has a slightly different set of characters as its focus. It's the weakest of the five books...merely a very good book.
LibraryThing member babydraco

I'd heard many times that I needed to read these books, because they were influential classics in a genre I tend to adore. So I finally broke down and got the first three books in cheap paperback. And...there's a problem.

Every time I go to read them, my eyes just slide off the page. Reading these books is difficult and painful on some weird level and it's a level that has nothing to do with length or vocabulary because these are children's books. I am simply having difficultly focusing on them. The minute I pick them up to resume reading, like I said, my eyes slide off the page. My mind wanders. I had almost reached the end of this first book, after struggling to read it all day, and when I realized I'd have to put the book down I was *relieved*. The weirdest part is that I was just talking to someone else who said this kept happening to them too, they've tried about three or four times to finish this series and never have.

Well, I guess I'll attempt the second book now.
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LibraryThing member AmandaHuffleduck
Not as compelling as later books in the series but a great, scary introduction. Sets up teh gud an teh ebil very nicely. A definite contender for my library studies 'good vs evil in children's fiction' bibliography.
LibraryThing member mariacle
I picked up this book for two reasons: (1) the book was written by a Newbery Medal winner, and, while I am an adult, my experience is that the Newbery is a pretty reliable barometer; and (2) the blurb on the back says the author is "known for her spellbinding series of books dealing with the ancient magic of England." I'll admit, it was the second reason more so than the first, as I am all for reading about the ancient magic of England.

I was not disappointed. It was a little simplistic, and I think the children's discovery at the end of the book about their uncle was long overdue, but the story was reasonably well told, most of the characters were believable, and the one character whose behavior I had the occasional problem with is the one who you maybe could not expect to behave as most adults would in their dealings with children.

I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
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LibraryThing member rocalisa
I actually reread this only a year ago, and I was planning to move on to the next book in the series, The Dark is Rising, when my library got both books on CD. The temptation was too great and I went back to the beginning again to listen to Over Sea, Under Stone before moving on to the second book.

I admit that I don't think this is the strongest book in the series. It's a good place to start - more of a children's adventure/treasure hunt than the detailed exploration of good vs. evil and deeper powers that the later books become. But it's a great story all the same as Simon, Jane and Barney spend their summer holiday searching for the Holy Grail in Cornwall. It's a well-written, well-told story that stands the test of time nicely. Yes, you can tell it isn't written about modern children, but that just helps set it into its own place in history rather than making it either old-fashioned or unreadable.

By listening to the audiobook (very nicely narrated by Alex Jennings), it took me a lot longer to get through than it would have done if I was reading the book. That made the story a little disjointed for me and I lowered the grade for that, but the story itself remains excellent and I highly recommend both Over Sea, Under Stone (I just love that title) and the entrie Dark is Rising sequence to any reader.

Over Sea, Under Stone
Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising, Book 1
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LibraryThing member MusicMom41
This first book in "The Dark Is Rising" series was mildly interesting—my son assures me they get better. This book was written in 1965. Back then a smart 5th to 7th grader could have read and enjoyed it. Today many students I know of that age might have trouble reading something with so much description and a large vocabulary with references to the Arthurian legends. An older reader would find the story a little childish. This may be why this series, which promises to be very interesting, is not wildly popular. It could make a good series for a Harry Potter fan.

The first story tells of three siblings, Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, who spend a vacation in a rather strange house on the Cornish coast. Their Great Uncle Merry, who arranged for this vacation, pops in and out of the area helping and guiding them to find a missing grail. Other, darker forces, are working against them to find the grail first. The story is mildly interesting, but the children often seem to be pretty foolish and somewhat annoying. It is also difficult to believe that the parents could be so oblivious to what is going on—even in England there must be some sort of parental supervision when you are in unfamiliar places.

In spite of these reservations I enjoyed the story enough to want to continue the series.
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LibraryThing member Yoshikawa
This book seems just like a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book.
LibraryThing member Steph78
Having re read this for the first time in very many years, I was pleasantly surprised by how well IT stood up to my memory of it. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the sequence, as this was one of those books that gave me nightmares in childhood, partly because of the scary cover on my sister's copy!
LibraryThing member dk_phoenix
I read this for a group read, as it was a great excuse to finally get around to picking it up. It sat on my shelf for years, forlorn and neglected... along with the rest of the books that come afterward. Without giving too much away, I have to say that if this is the weakest book in the series, as others here have suggested, I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of them.

I am intrigued, of course, by the author's writing gap between this book and the next, but I assume it all works together somehow in the end.

On the whole, I thought the book moved slowly at first - we didn't really get into the meat of the story until a little beyond halfway through - but it was still interesting enough to keep me reading. Enough questions are raised that you simply can't stop... mind you, at the end of the book, there are still enough questions left open that you may sigh in frustration, but the good news is that Cooper came back to the series and wrote 4 (5?) more books.

Pick this one up! It's quick, entertaining, and there are even better installments when you've finished this one.
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LibraryThing member seph
I read "The Dark Is Rising" when I heard the movie was coming out, not realizing that it wasn't the first book in this series. I was a little nervous that after reading the second book, the first would seem a little lacking, but I was wrong. This book had me on the edge of my seat and nervously chewing my fingernails. It was a very enjoyable read, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member reannon
First in a fantasy series centered on King Arthur, although the first one takes place in Cornwall in the 1960s (It was writtent then) about 3 children searching for Arthur's grail. Rather slow-moving by today's standards, but good.




(1299 ratings; 3.8)
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