Review of Greenwitch by

Book cover for Greenwitch

Greenwitch is the third in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. It unites the protagonists of the previous two books. Will Stanton meets Barney, Simon, and Jane. Together, they foil the latest plot of the Dark, which involves stealing a secret artifact from the Greenwitch. This entity is a construct of twigs and leaves built by the women of Trewissick in an elaborate, night-long ceremony. They assemble the Greenwitch, then the men of the village cast it over the cliff and into the sea below. This is supposed to bring renewal for the fisherman. But the Greenwitch has the secret that will decipher the Grail, and things are more complicated.

My critiques of this book are quite similar to how I felt about the previous books. Cooper writes well considering her audience; I can understand how children would be captivated by the types of danger that Simon, Barney, and Jane face. (Will still kind of bores me.) Nevertheless, the level of conflict and sense of peril remains steady for most of the book. We never learn what the terrible consequences might be if the Dark retrieves the secret. As with previous books, the Gandalf-like figure of Merriman haunts the outskirts of the pages, dispensing vague advice, like “Beware the Greenwitch”. It’s up to the children to muddle through as best they can, skirmishing here and there with an ancient of the Dark.

I’m confused by Will’s presence. It seems like he’s only there to receive the message deciphered from the Grail at the end of the book—I can’t think of anything else he does that is instrumental or that any of the Drews could not do themselves. If that’s his only reason for being there, it’s not a very good one. This character was good enough to shoulder the burden of sole protagonist during the previous book in the series, but here he fades into the background, because Cooper doesn’t give him that much to do.

The Drews aren’t that much better off, mind you. Though they have a little more in the way of an "adventure", there is less time dedicated towards showcasing their prodigious problem-solving skills. In general, Greenwitch seems rushed. It’s a short book, so if Cooper had paced it more slowly and given the plot more bulk, I don’t think it would have suffered for length.

Nothing about Greenwitch grabs me and makes me want to think about it in more depth or ruminate on the adventures these children have. Though technically well-crafted, it just lacks that spark that makes it noteworthy compared to all the other novels of its ilk out there. It’s a good example that it’s not enough to be able to write a good story; there need to be elements that stand out.

Engagement

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