I've got the whole The Dark is Rising sequence because I'm on a mission to find a series of books I read at junior school that I really enjoyed. I remember very little about them other than we first read one of the books in class, which wasn't the first in the series and then I went on to read the others. I'm thinking The Dark is Rising (the second in the series) is a strong contender.
The book follows the adventures of three young children on holiday with their parents and mysterious Great Uncle Merry. They find a treasure map and set out to discover what the treasure might be, but find themselves mixed up in something much more dangerous. Caught in a battle between good and evil, they don't know who to trust or where to turn. But they do know they have to find the treasure before their enemies do.
This book was written some time before the others and is more of an introduction to certain themes and characters than the first of the series. I believe was only published after a friend of the writer encouraged her to do so. And it's easy to see why. Much of the dialogue is clunky and stilted. There's something Blytonesque to the upper middle classness of it. There is something so unselfconscious about class that it's almost naive, especially when one remembers that JK Rowling was criticised as a snob for setting the Potter books in a boarding school.
There is nothing here to challenge the adult or even advanced child reader. However, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. It riffs on the Arthurian legends and the endless battle between good and evil. Pretty hefty subjects for a children's book! It's a good, fun and easy read, while not as polished as might be expected.
How the book stands up as an introduction will have to wait until after I've read the next volume.