Review: Greenwitch

Written by Susan Cooper
Published by Aladdin Paperbacks, 1997, 147 pages

. . . As Jane looked at the huge image that they had made, out of leaves and branches . . . . she knew suddenly, out there in the cold dawn, that this silent image somehow held within it more power than she had ever sensed before in any creature or thing. Thunder and storms and earthquakes were there, and all the force of the earth and sea. It was outside Time, boundless, ageless, beyond any line drawn between good and evil. Jane stared at it, horrified, and from its sightless head the Greenwitch stared back. [p. 34]

Greenwitch is the third book in Susan Cooper’s mythic five-novel Dark Is Rising sequence. In it, the reader once again meets up with the Drew children, Simon, Jane and Barney, who were introduced in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone.

The tale begins with the Drews, along with their Great Uncle Merriman, returning to the Cornish seaside village of Trewissick, the setting of their earlier adventure. The ancient grail once discovered by the children has been stolen from its museum home by the forces of evil (the Dark), and a new search has to be mounted to find and recover it.

They’re joined in their quest by a mysterious stranger – a young boy who is the nephew of a friend of Merriman’s. The Drews are puzzled by the fact that while this newcomer is about the same age as young Barney, at times he acts much more like an adult. And their great uncle seems to treat him as an equal. The boy turns out to be Will Stanton, introduced in the sequence’s second book, The Dark Is Rising. Of course, Great Uncle Merriman knows what the children don’t: that Will is, in fact, the last of the Old Ones – immortal beings dedicated to keeping the world safe from the evil domination of The Dark.

The search for the missing grail once again involves the children in a series of exciting, and sometimes dangerous events. It also introduces them to the Greenwitch – a framework of leaves and branches made into the shape of a woman – that for centuries has been constructed by the women of the village and then thrown into the sea to bring good luck to the fishermen.

I really enjoyed Greenwitch. While it sometimes feels a bit like it was written solely as transition, it’s also interesting and entertaining on its own. It ties strands of the various books together quite nicely, and brings all the major characters together for the first time. And it’s also the shortest of the five books in the sequence – which helps make it a good, fast-paced read.

I also found it very appealing that the book gives Jane Drew a chance to take center stage away from all those males for a while. Only Jane is permitted to be present at the ceremony where the village women construct the Greenwitch, and she forms a kind of mystic bond with the creature – a bond that will become very important in the struggle to overcome the forces of darkness.

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