As the 1974 Newbery honor book, The Dark is Rising is the second book in a series of five that chronicles The Light’s battle against The Dark; a classic case of good versus evil. In this second novel, Will Stanton is getting ready to celebrate his eleventh birthday and the upcoming Christmas season. On the eve of his eleventh birthday strange things start to happen and he learns that he is the last of the Old Ones. As an Old One, Will learns he has many powers and uses them to help The Light. But as he is the last of the Old Ones, his main job is to search and unite six medallions or Signs to effectively help The Light fight back The Dark. However, as Will gathers more Signs, he realizes that he is also losing part of his innocence and it is his family’s Christmas festivities that revitalize him on his quest.
Each glimpse into Will’s family as they celebrate Christmas is a glimpse into ancient traditions of the holiday. The author, Susan Cooper, has worked hard to capture the joy of the celebrations, as well as, the Christmas festivities as it was celebrated in the time of King Arthur. Where many parallels of King Arthur can also be found in The Dark is Rising, and the other books in the series. For example, Will and his family burns a Yule root at the family hearth with the chard remains of last year’s Yule root serving as kindling. Will also hung holly with red berries at every window and door in the house to keep The Dark from entering the home. This book is fascinating look at the ancient traditions of Christmas.