The three Drew children and their uncle Merry, an Old One from outside of Time; young Will Stanton who learned of his identity as an Old One in The Dark Is Rising; Will's albino friend Bran, really King Arthur's son Pendragon brought forward to be reared in our time; Arthur himself, at the climax; a benign, disappointingly spiritless Taliesen; and all the forces of the Light and the Dark converge in Wales for the final cosmic battle in Cooper's ambitious, five-volume, resolutely High fantasy. First the children and Merry become Six assembled, later to wield the protective Six Signs which Will had gathered in the earlier volume; next Will and Bran must journey to a Lost Land where Bran's crystal sword must be acquired from a world-weary craftsman/King in his remote glass tower; and at last (this final task is announced to cast and reader alike only as the company is madly racing the Riders of the Dark to its location), the forces of Light, with the Six at the center, must pluck a sprig of mistletoe at the moment of its blossoming--for whichever side accomplishes the plucking will thereby command all the powers of the previously uncommitted Old and Wild Magic. To the end Cooper wields her cryptic prophecies, obscure instructions, and arbitrary contingencies, rules, and conditions with the authority of a sleight-of-hand master; and to the end the discrepancy between her grand scheme and the particulars of the story is unbridged, giving a morally and intellectually hollow ring to the whole. Even at the end, when the much-respected Lady wearily pronounces, "It is done. Our task is accomplished," the actual nature and consequences of that accomplishment remain meaninglessly abstract. And though there is welcome relief in Merry's final charge--the battle from here on is up to humans, who will get no more magic help--it does make the purportedly final and crucial battle that has gone before that much harder to credit.