I have read THE DARK IS RISING many, many times in my life, far more than I can count (I mean, it’s probably a countable number, but it’s not like I have been counting!). It is, perhaps, not quite my favorite of the sequence (I have a soft spot for GREENWITCH, which was the first of them I read, and which features Jane quite heavily, which, I mean, like, y’know, female protagonist, so…), but I’m fairly willing to concede it’s the best of the series, arguably by a long shot.
The last time I wrote down that I’d read it was in 2006, although I’m quite sure I re-read it more recently when I got copies for my son, hoping he’d be interested. (I should try him on them again, really, just in case.) What I’d forgotten in the interim, or maybe never noticed as actively as I did this time, is how beautiful the actual writing is. I remembered how great the story is, of course, but the writing itself is lovely too. Powerful and detailed and uplifting and gorgeous.
It was the last book I read in 2023, partly because, well, jeez, what a great book to wrap up with, but also because I finally got around to listening to the greatly-renowned BBC audio adaptation, which…
…honestly, I bounced off it. I gave it a good try, I really did, particularly for somebody who really just doesn’t do audio dramas/adaptations. I listened to four of the twelve episodes, and quite enjoyed the first one but sort of didn’t care for the next couple quite as much, and then Merriman arrived on the scene and it all went to hell.
Part of the problem was that his voice just wasn’t deep enough, but the much, much larger problem for me personally was it turned out that on some level I apparently expected him to have a Northern Irish accent. Which, well. I grant you there is absolutely no in-book reason for this, but:
From the book: “[Merriman had] a strong, bony head, with deep-set eyes and an arched nose fierce as a hawk’s beak; a sweep of wiry white hair springing back from the high forehead; bristling brows and a jutting chin.”
And while the jutting chin is somewhat obscured by the beard, this was my Northern Irish grandfather…
I had absolutely never actively considered the idea that my idea of Merriman was absolutely based on my grandpa, at least not as far as I can remember, but when the actor spoke I just went “NOPE.”
So I stopped listening after that episode, and decided to re-read the book so that it was all resettled properly in my head, which it now is. :)
I’ll probably re-read the rest of the series this week, although I will, as ever, not read the final chapter of SILVER ON THE TREE. I read it once, hated it, and will never read it again.
(I also hate the ending of the Prydain Chronicles, and Narnia, and several other series written by authors who, in their post-war middle aged years, fashioned worlds in which, at the end of the story, The Magic Went Away. It is extremely arguable that my entire oeuvre is a response to that, an essential, “Screw all you guys, I’m bringing the magic back.” I have been aware of this for a long, long time, and am 100% okay with it.)
Perhaps this post is less about the book than it ought to be, but that’s what you get with my recent reads sometimes. :)