October’s book in the “Dark is Rising” sequence sees the series reaching its midpoint, with a slim but powerful read which focuses on the feminine. Susan Cooper had, by this time, an established plan for the five books of the series, and book three was “Greenwitch”. Set once again in Trewissick, the story brings the Drews back to Cornwall for a short visit, after the Grail they found has been stolen from the British Museum. However, this time Great Uncle Merry has contrived to bring along Will Stanton, his fellow Old One who was the focus of the second book “The Dark is Rising”. Can this group work together to fight another attack from the Dark?

Not quite sure who the old lady on the cover is mean to represent… ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

“Greenwitch” looks to be the shortest of the books, but it doesn’t lack in impact. The focus is squarely on Jane Drew, as this is the time of year of the building of the Greenwitch; an ancient custom carried out by the women of Trewissick to bring good luck for the fishing and harvesting. Jane, as the closest female to Merry, is allowed to attend the ceremony where the Greenwitch is constructed from leaves and branches, then cast into the sea. She’s allowed a wish, and it’s one which may have unexpected consequences…

Fighting against the forces of good this time is a man of the Dark who appears as an artist, producing brilliant, violent and threatening paintings. He’s a malevolent presence throughout the book, threatening the Greenwitch, the children and the Light. Yet it is Jane and her link with the Greenwitch itself who will prove crucial to the battle.

So this the book where Cooper weaves together the strands established in the first two works, bringing together the Drews and Will Stanton (which was, of course, necessary for the progression of the sequence); and once the initial (and inevitable) resentment of the Drews is overcome, the two sides work together to fight the Dark. Interestingly, we now see, too, the differences between those involved; there is a line drawn between the Drews and the Old Ones, with the former only knowing as much as they need to help in the battle. You suspect that this is as much for their own protection as anything else…

As well as the characters we know, Captain Toms (owner of the Grey House from the first book) makes his entrance, with Rufus the dog reappearing. I thought I remembered little of the book, but as I read much came back to me – the construction of the Greenwitch, the artist from the Dark with his wild paintings and of course the landscape around Trewissick. And once again, this is a book with many, many layers.

Interestingly, I felt that art was actually at the heart of the story; whether the skill of the women in creating their totem, or that of those involved in the more traditional arts, there was a strong contrast between the art of Light and Dark; with, perhaps, the folk art of the women standing apart from that of the male characters. Barney is developing strong skills as an artist; he can appreciate the expertise of the Dark’s artist while hating what it produces and stands for. However, while those two male artists are opposed, the women just get on with what they’ve always done.

Once again, this is a marvellous piece of storytelling, brilliantly capturing a looming sense of danger; Cooper’s skill at superimposing the supernatural world over the everyday one, and allowing them to co-exist, blurring the lines between the real and the magic, is unsurpassed. There are sequences which occur out of normal time which are stunningly written and hypnotic. The sense of traditions, the oldness of the land and things outside the realms of Light and Dark, is quite fascinating, and again Cooper creates a world in which old legends are still alive, paganism is a vital force and both still have relevance today.

Under the sunset sky the sea was glass-smooth. Long slow rollers from the Atlantic, rippling like muscles beneath the skin, made the only sign of the great invisible strength of the ocean in all the tranquil evening. Quietly the fishing-boats moved out, a broad fishtail wake spreading behind each one; the engines chugged softly through the still air. Jane stood at the end of Kemare Head, on the crest of a granite outfall that tumbled its rocks two hundred feet to the sea, and she watched them go. Toy boats, they seemed from there: the scatter of a fishing fleet that every week, every month, every year for endless years had been going out after the pilchard or the mackerel before dusk, and staying at the chase until dawn. Every year there were fewer of them, but still every year they went.

Running through the book, too, is the importance of empathy and compassion – traditionally considered feminine values but I think essential in all human beings. It is Jane’s compassion which brings about the result of the quest and without that I don’t think the Light would have done so well…

I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I started “Greenwitch” but it was actually a much more powerful read than I anticipated; perhaps, after “The Dark is Rising”, I thought that all the other books might be less impactful. But this is an immersive, engrossing read, beautifully written and with so many interesting threads; another triumph from Susan Cooper, and I frankly can’t wait to see where things go next!!