Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year? I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book. Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.
The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
It may have been The Grey King that won the Newbery, but my favorite book in Susan Cooper’s classic fantasy series is the one the series takes its name from: The Dark is Rising. It was the first book I read in the series, and I have re-read it many a December. When I was studying in Spain, I even found a version in the local public library (I think it was called Los Seis Signos de La Luz) to help me practice my reading skills in between the García Márquez.
The story begins on this date, Midwinter’s Eve, the day before Will Stanton’s 11th birthday. He wakes on Midwinter Day to a different existence, because he has come into his power as an Old One, and his quest for the six Signs of the Light has begun.
Rather than the traditional Christmas cheer, this book gives the season a more ominous feel. All Will wants for his birthday is snow, and snow he gets. So much snow that the village is stranded, the phones out, and even fireplaces are getting doused by snow coming down the chimney. Over the twelve days of Christmas, the Dark is rising in power, using the cold and snow to stop him from completing his quest. The book culminates with the ride of Herne the Hunter on the eve of Twelfth Night. (If you have read the Dresden Files, you know Herne as the Erlking–pretty scary guy.)
But parts of the book do convey that Christmas warmth. Will is one of nine children, and while I’m sure this sucks at times, at Christmas it seems idyllic. On Christmas Eve they have a Yule log and decorate the Christmas tree, then they all go caroling and come home to cocoa and mince pies. The caroling is another reason I love this book: it actually has the words to the second, third, and fourth verses of “Good King Wenceslas” (yes! there are more verses–five total in fact).
If you haven’t read the series, this is a great place to start, and it’s a perfect book to curl up with under blanket with some hot chocolate and watch the snow come down outside.