It was with great shock the other evening that I discovered that my professor has never read Harry Potter. I looked at her and said, "Really?" in an accustatory manner, because honestly, who hasn't read Harry Potter? Well, she hasn't. But I believe it is probably for one of two reasons (or perhaps both): too many other books to read and intentional avoidance. She does have a Ph.D. after all and is reading massive Victorian tomes while I'm sneaking in Donna Parker Goes to Hollywood in between writing a paper on Albert Camus.
What can I say - I love young adult literature. Especially those that are set pre-women's lib; it's like reading stepping into a time warp. So as I continued to deal with my shock that there is someone out there, not from a Third World Country, who has not read Harry Potter (I suggest listening to it on tape/CD - very entertaining), I recalled a series that I have read twice in the past three years. There isn't much to recall really because I look fondly at these books on my shelf since they are located just below the two shelves of books I read for my other Master's program. Place of honor indeed. This series of books is far better than Harry Potter. Yes, I've just blasphemed but I can't help it because it is true!
If you're really interested in magic, especially old magic, then Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series is just for you.
The first book introduces us to Will Stanton whose world turns upside down on his 11th birthday. In it he finds out he is not who he, or his family, believes him to be.
The second book, Over Sea, Under Stone, introduces three different characters, two brothers and a sister, who have an adventure in Cornwall helping to defeat the dark.
Greenwitch is the third book which brings all four children together in Cornwall in order to defeat the dark. After two other books the dark is only being held at bay.
The Grey King takes place in Wales and is really a transitional book leading up to the final book in the series. Bran, a Welsh boy, is introduced as a primary character.
The final book which culminates the series is Silver on the Tree. In it the people who represent the light, the five children and Merriman, an old one, band together in a final attempt to vanquish the dark. After reading this book I had to visit Wales. Well, I wanted to but I haven't been there yet. It is comforting to know that I have ancestors who emigrated from this part of the United Kingdom along with my Scottish and English ancestors. Perhaps there is a biological reason for the connection.
I cannot say enough about these books and my short annotations do not even do justice to the depth of Susan Cooper's story telling. She combines mythology, legend, old magic and fantasy, and the books are really just so enjoyable and believable. I love them so much that I am ready to read them again even though I just read them last fall.
So if you want an alternative to Harry Potter, try Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. And I'm sure if my professor reads this she might consider these books - and I hope you do too!