Silver on the Tree

by Susan Cooper
ages: 10+
First sentence: “Will said, turning a page, ‘He liked woad.'”
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This is one of those high fantasy novels, replete with adventure and magic and time travel. It’s got every single person (practically) that we’ve met over the course of the sequence, playing various roles towards a ultimate end. It’s got a Tolkienesque feel — what with swords glowing blue and a Grey Havens bit at the end, not to mention a Quest to end all quests and a Battle to end all battles (though Cooper’s not as bloody as Tolkien). It’s a perfect ending to the series.

But — and maybe this is time and exhaustion talking here — it’s really not as good as some of the other books in the sequence. There were some bits that I liked, sure: particularly Will and Bran’s quest into the Lost Land to get the crystal sword of the Pendragon (if you had any questions about how this fits into the Arthurian legend, Cooper answers them). That was a nice section, replete with high magic, and where Will was mostly operating on his own wits rather than relying on the power of the Old Ones. But, I felt like there was almost too much. Most of the characters were underdeveloped; it seemed that Cooper was relying on what we had learned of the characters rather than giving us anything new about them. It was also disconcerting when some of the minor characters up and changed on us; not drastically, but enough to make me scratch my head. This was more plot-driven, and yet the plot seemed disjointed. It was episodic, and yes it was leading up to a great whole, but the ending seemed rushed and unfulfilling. If you blinked, you would miss it; it was an excuse to get to the denouement, which Cooper seemed much more interested in.

That said, it’s a good series, a grand bit of myth and folklore and magic. If you haven’t read it, you should.

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4 thoughts on “Silver on the Tree

  1. I don't think it's the exhaustion talking. I remember reading this one mostly as a way to finish up the series, and I certainly have very few spots that I like to go back and read over and over again, as I do with the middle three in the series. (Although I will confess to my little fifth-grade heart beating faster at the hint of luuuuurve between Bran and Jane. Ahem. I make no excuses for my fifth-grade self; if we went around doing that, we'd be at it all day.)

    I think the big story overwhelmed the character development in this one, the need to Pull It All Together. Also, Will has lost much of the uncertainty that made him so interesting and compelling in The Dark is Rising and The Grey King. (He's a little annoying in Greenwitch, isn't he?)

    That being said, mediocre Susan Cooper is still better than a lot of what stocks the shelves.

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  2. Funny: I always read it as a hint of love between Will and Jane. 🙂 And I agree: Will is a bit annoying in Greenwitch, but I've always seen that as primarily Jane's story. And yes, this series is still better than a lot of what is on the shelves. It's held up quite well over the years.

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