One of the greatest joys of reading is that everyone has read a book and has a favourite. From comic books, to the classics to everything in between, everyone has a favourite. And sometimes when someone’s love for that novel is strong, they are willing to share that enjoyment with others and that is what happened here.
‘Over Sea Under Stone’ was recommended to me by a very close friend who told me this was their childhood favourite. Now I’m being completely honest when I say I had never heard of this book before. I was also sceptical…was it going to be like the famous five or the magic key? (I apologise to my non-English readers who may not know either of those children’s books)!
“When you start reading these books it ought to give a warm feeling that you are now reading the classics of twentieth-century fantasy. But then, better still, you will discover that they are too exciting to put down, the kind of books you find yourself being forced to finish by torchlight under the bedclothes” – Diana Wynne Jones
Let me introduce you to the book before going into full on review mode!
“The map must show where the grail is…”
Over Sea Under Stone follows the Drew children; Simon, Jane and Barney who go on a family holiday to Cornwall to visit their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry. During their stay, they discover an ancient map leading to a treasure…but not just any treasure; an Arthurian treasure. Yes you read that right, an Arthurian treasure dating back to the days of King Arthur. But soon enough, the kids discover that dark forces are against them. Enemies who aren’t afraid to make their identities known, the danger the children face becomes increasingly more frightening.
Now for those of you who don’t know about Cornwall then let me first introduce you. Cornwall (highlighted in red) is situated in the south west region of the United Kingdom.
In the book, the place they visit is called Trewissick and whilst this is a purely fictional place in the book, it’s directly based on the actual village of Mevagissey which is indicated by the big red arrow in the picture below.
Other places of interest such as the vicarage Jane visits is based on the vicarage of Mevagissey House.
Anyway…it’s review time!
Coming back to my earlier concerns about it being very much a children’s book, I was proved wrong. It’s a wonderful young adult book. Children can read it and enjoy it as much as adult can. Great Uncle Merry reminds me very much of a Bilbo Baggins figure (only taller).
“Nobody knew very much about Great-Uncle Merry, and nobody ever quite dared to ask…How old he was, nobody knew. ‘Old as the hills,’ Father said, and they felt, deep down, that this was probably right. There was something about Great-Uncle Merry that was like the hills, or the sea, or the sky; something ancient but without age or end.
Always, wherever he was, unusual things seemed to happen. He would often disappear, for a long time, and then suddenly come through the Drews’ front door as if he had never been away…”
Whilst exploring the Grey House, where they were staying, the children find a map in the darkest corner of the attic. Whilst investigating the map and figuring out more about what it shows, they discover not everyone is as they seem. The lovely Withers family, the vicar then a burglary at the house…the discovery of the map has created an almighty disturbance in Trewissick.
When Great-Uncle Merry discovers they have found the map, the mysterious old man reveals his knowledge, like Bilbo Baggins, he tells a story.
“Once upon a time…a long time ago…things that happened once, perhaps, but have been talked about for so long that nobody really knows. And underneath all the bits that people have added, the magic swords and lamps, they’re all about one thing – the good hero fighting the giant, or the witch, or the wicked uncle. Good against bad. Good against evil.”
Barney is in his element. He loves the tale of King Arthur and is fascinated by it. Little does he know, his love of a tale could prove to be more important than he first realised. And with this, Great-Uncle Merry’s story continues…
“Sometimes, over the centuries, this ancient battle comes to a peak. The evil grows very strong and nearly wins. But always at the same time there is some leader in the world, a great man who sometimes seems to be more than a man, who leads the forces of good to win back the ground and the men they seemed to have lost.”
“King Arthur,” Barney said.
“King Arthur was one of these…”
Now this story time from Merry continues on for at least 6 pages which is a long old story and yes it could be shortened but it clears up what the map is about…it shows how to find the Grail.
Throughout the rest of the book, the kids are chased, are split up, threatened yet still manage to have a good time exploring.
Do they find the Grail? Who will win: good or evil? Well I’ll let you read the book and find out for yourselves! But the tale of King Arthur features heavily. And maybe even Great-Uncle Merry is hiding something too…
“‘Great-Uncle Merry – is he really called Merriman?’
…Barney stayed where he was. ‘ Merriman Lyon,’ he said softly to himself. ‘Merry Lyon…Merlion…Merlin.”
This children’s book is a fast paced, action-packed adventure novel, with every page providing more excitement. And to think…this is only the first book in the series! I’m intrigued to see how the books are and if they are linked.
Have any of you read it either as a child or as you’ve grown up? What were your thoughts?
Let me know in the comments section below.
If you fancy giving this book a read, then follow the link below.
Until next time,
This is such a great series, but it had some serious continuity problems, and Susan Cooper never seemed to stick with one protagonist! It should’ve been Will Stanton, but he’s absent in Over Sea Under Stone, and plays a supporting role in Greenwitch and Silver on the Tree.