And thus begins the Great Childhood Novel Reread of 2011. Alas that Over Sea, Under Stone does not hold up as well as I'd like. It was never my favorite of the Dark is Rising sequence, but I did love me some Jane Drew back when I was her age.
Turns out, fifteen years down the line, that the Drews are just not particularly interesting on their own. Jane in particular does not wear as well as I'd hoped - in this novel in particular, her defining characteristic seems to be "the girl," and my identification with her as a child has not held up into adulthood.
The bad bits: the Drews just aren't as compelling as a) I remembered them or b) the other characters in the series; there's some "let's pretend we're about to be eaten by the natives in the jungle" stuff in the beginning that was atmospheric at age 12 but is pretty icky at 30; and the worst possible insult that anyone can hurl is "girl." Also, you know, just a titch boring.
The good bits: MERRIMAN. MERRIMAN. MERRIMAN. This book is amazing to go back and reread once you know all the backstory, just to appreciate the little snippets that are dropped oh-so-casually every time Gumerry appears. I started the series way back when with The Dark Is Rising, so the WHEE MERRIMAN! reaction has been a part of my Reading Experience for this book every single time. It's the thrill of knowing a character's secret identity that Cooper does so well throughout the whole series.
It's like, well, I get what Cooper is trying to do with this book - outsider POV! a gentle introduction to the mythology! relatable, human characters! - and it should be things that I love - outsider POV! mythology introduction! a slice of humanity in the grand scale of things - but I just! don't! care! I want more of the Old Ones! I want more of the actual battle, not just the side view that the Drews get. I think once I lost my identification with Jane Drew (which, honestly, was based primarily on the fact that she was The Girl), the other things that I love just didn't add up enough to overcome some of the dullness.
To use a more current reference, I feel like this book is sort of in the same place as Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief is, at least as for location in a series as relevant to overall mythology, but I - and this is heresy to 12-year-old me - liked The Thief better.
And, honestly? When I say "dull"? I really just mean "dull in comparison to my mad, unholy infatuation with at least three of the other four books." (Greenwitch drags juuuuuuust a tad as well.)