I have loved The Silmarillion for far too long to be able to write a candid review, so I’m not going to try. Reading it adds texture and delight to reading The Lord of the Rings. And while it can be both turgid and erratic, it still makes me cry. However, I couldn’t get through it this time without gritting my teeth in a few places. Today I’m going to indulge some of my pet peeves.

The Dark is Rising SequenceWill Stanton is sent to North Wales to recuperate from a serious illness.

Certain that he has forgotten something important, he finds himself in the thick of conflicts both ancient and modern as the power of the Grey King stirs against him. Can the Light steer its forgetful servant in the right direction, or will the Dark claim the Thing of Power buried under the mountain?

The Dark is Rising SequenceIt’s nearly Christmas, and Will Stanton is turning 11. As if puberty and buying presents for 9 siblings weren’t hazard enough, he awakens on his birthday to discover he is the last of the Old Ones, fated to seek the Signs of the Light and stop the Dark from rising.

It’s easy to be snarky, but this festive classic is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.

The Dark is Rising SequenceThe Drew family are delighted to spend the summer in Trewissick with Great-uncle Merry.

When the three children discover a crumbling manuscript in the attic, they think they’ve found an adventure to occupy their time.

But the ancient map holds the secret to a long-lost treasure that could tip the balance in the age-old battle with the Dark. Uncertain who to trust, the children find themselves in a race to the finish against forces more menacing than they had ever imagined.

It’s December, and the second worldwide The Dark is Rising Readathon has kicked off. I’m joyfully embracing this as an opportunity to re-visit a childhood favourite, although I shall be adopting an accelerated reading schedule (a book a week, finishing the sequence before New Year) rather than the gracefully staggered but protracted schedule that has you read each book at the time of year in which it is set.

For those who would like to jump on board, more information is available on the official website, and there’s already much discussion on the Facebook Group and Twitter feed. Many thanks to Danny Whittaker for organising us all.

Mistress Mary (quite contrary) is orphaned by a cholera outbreak in India, and shipped to Yorkshire to be the ward of her remote uncle. Left to her own devices with nobody but a well-meaning maid to keep an eye on her, she spends much time outdoors and quickly blossoms from a tiresome little tyrant to a curious, energetic girl. When she begins discovering the secrets of the forbidding house and its tragic gardens, she brings magic and hope that changes the fates of all its inhabitants.

This gave me goose bumps. It has been at least 20 years since I last read or listened to it, yet it remains so very familiar – not necessarily in plot details, but in the very phrases of the prose. As a result, I can’t be remotely objective about it. I loved it as a child, and it didn’t fall down as an adult – if anything, I was belatedly amazed at just how young I fell in love with it (6? 7?), given the reading age / vocabulary and challenging concepts.

Book cover: Green SmokeOkay, I admit it – there’s some long-term fuzzies for me in this reread, which may be skewing my star rating. You know what? I don’t care.

Young Sue stumbles across Mr R Dragon on her first day of a 2-week visit to Constantine Bay, and the two quickly forge a friendship based on a shared love of iced buns, stories, and genteel politeness (they meet when Sue buries a paper bag that the dragon has accidentally sneezed out of his cave).