We are taking it back, way back, to 1965. An era of peace, love, Woodstock and MYSTERY! Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone is the original mystery book, with a dash of the fantastic for fun. It follows the adventures of three siblings, Barney, Simon and Jane, as they spend the summer in Cornwall (That’s in England) with their Great-Uncle Merry. Instead of a peaceful summer in Cornwall, the children end up finding a piece of parchment, old and worn with age that shows them the way to a treasure linked to King Arthur. But of course finding a treasure linked to the great King Arthur will not be easy, not with the agents of the Dark in their way. Who are the agents of the Dark you ask? Why everyone knows that when you are on a quest for an Arthurian relic, it is probably the Grail, only one of the most powerful ancient relics in the world. Therefore, it makes complete sense that there would be an evil, sinister force trying to find the grail and use it for nefarious purposes. So three unsuspecting children searching for the Grail are now part of an even larger fight between the Light and the Dark, a fight that spans centuries. It is a risky adventure they embark upon, but one that sets into motion the actions on which a phenomenal series is based upon.
At first glance, this book does not have the most attractive cover. In fact, it is pretty cheesy, and a little ridiculous. But the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” rings true in this case, because it is what is inside that counts for this book. While Over Sea, Under Stone is downstairs in our J Fic collection, it is still a book that I, in my old age of twenty-something, go back to read time and time again. There is always a surprise for me when I read it, picking up on new points I had never noticed before, or starting to piece together clues that I missed previously. The language is also fantastically advanced, as well as thoroughly British. Thinking of going across the pond to visit foggy old London town? Consider this book your introduction to the use of such words as “Smashing” and “Jolly”. The pacing is wonderful, and while the book was originally written in 1965, there is not much in the book that makes it date itself. Give it a shiny new cover and take away the copyright date, and no one would even know that this book was not written in the past few years.
The rest of the series is equally fantastic and equally overlooked, Cooper basically was at the forefront of writing supernatural mysteries for young adults, well thought out and intelligently written. So wander down to the J Fic room, and take a look at Over Sea, Under Stone, it may just surprise you.