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Publisher's Summary

On the Midwinter Day that is his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift: he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from domination by the forces of evil, the Dark. At once, he is plunged into a quest for the six magical Signs that will one day aid the Old Ones in the final battle between the Dark and the Light. And for the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight.This book is a rare act of creative imagination in which the listener will be equally moved by the warm happy village life Will shares with his large family and the nearly overwhelming danger he encounters, often in other centuries and places, while he seeks the Signs and learns their power. Interweaving ancient Celtic and English traditions with the legends of the Buckinghamshire hills and valleys where she grew up, Susan Cooper has written a superlative dramatic fantasy of the eternal conflict between good and evil out of which all myth is made.
©1973 Susan Cooper; (P)2000 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group
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Critic Reviews

"As narrator, Alex Jennings superbly conveys Will's mixed emotions." (AudioFile)
"So perfect is the match between Alex Jennings' voice and this mysterious magical tale that it is difficult to imagine any other voice reading these words." (The Horn Book Magazine)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By W. S. on 04-26-04

5 for the series, 4 for the reader

Well, I have to say I never thought I'd hear Susan Cooper criticized for not creating a believable world, though everyone's tastes are different. I read these books frequently as a child and absolutely adored them. The whole series weaves together a large number of old British folk traditions and legends to form a tight plot fabric. I have no trouble deciphering British accents, so the reader isn't a problem for me either.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Rhett on 05-18-04

Dark Fanstasy for Exceptionally Gifted Children!

Will Stanton was the Harry Potter of MY childhood - a hermetic, pagan, and somewhat fatalistic Harry Potter - but a kid wizard nonetheless.

That being said, this is an extraordinary children's book. If it is unrealistic and predictable, then it is so only to the degree that all children's novels don't pay the same attention to place and plot-twist as some adult novels.

The appeal of this piece to a non-child "Audible" listener should be akin to that of well-done animation and fairy tales. Cooper interweaves somber Celtic myth with modern middle-class life. The effect is enchanting and - at times - unsettling. The accomplished narrator, too, I insist performs a conscientious and careful re-telling of what is, essentially, a dark and pre-adolescent Arthurian legend. Unlike the tales of the other kid sorcerer, Will's story wraps around archetypal imagery and highly abstract themes from the vantage of a sympathizable "everyboy" protagonist. Thus - it does not FEEL like a children's novel - nor at any point will a listener feel condescended to by the novel. It treats its child-audienced readers like adults and with dignity. It does not make itself easily accessible for them as some childrens' books do.

Freud could have a hey-day, carrying on about child-Narcissism and the damaging effects of fantasy writing on childhood development, so I won't recommend it for children anymore than I would Harry Potter. But if you must choose of the two - pick this piece for its 'humanist-responsibility' theme, impressive lexicon, and broad spectrum of emotional imagery. And for adults ... we all like cartoons and crayons - try out this title, which I highly recommend for that exceptionally gifted pre-adolescent in everyone.

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17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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