The one big wish Will Stanton has for his 11th birthday is a snowstorm. And does he get it! And a lot more than this too. He and his older brother, James, note the strange behavior of frightened animals who seem to know something wicked this way comes. Will sees an old man from a distance. James thinks it's just a tramp, but a neighboring farmer knows otherwise, "So the Walker is abroad. Ah. He would be." Just as mysterious as these words is the curious birthday gift the farmer gives to Will: an iron circle quartered.
That night, Will is alone in his attic bedroom when a overwhelming fear grips him. He wakes the next morning to the sound of music and a landscape drenched in snow. But he does not wake in the same time period he feel asleep in. For whatever reason, he has entered a different one. He leaves home and walks along paths, familiar and strange at the same time. He encounters a blacksmith he knows and a mysterious horseman who waits while the smith shoes his animal. Twice the horseman tries to trap Will with words and once tries to grab him. Will's wits rescue him from the first two instances, and the smith comes to his aid in the third. To Will's own amazement, he says he is there to seek out the Walker, who he encounters shortly after leaving the smith.
The horseman finds him again, but this time a white horse rescues him. It leaps through a patch of blue sky to transport him to another land. There Will discovers two doors standing alone on a hill. He steps through them into a great hall and meet an old woman and a tall man, adversaries of the horseman. The tall man identifies himself as Merriman Lyon, the formal name of Great-Uncle Merry in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. He says he and the woman have awaited Will for a long time and reveal to him his special gift and destiny: he is an Old One, beings charged with finding six Signs of the Light to battle the Darkness as it again spreads through the world. Will has the first Sign already, which the horseman recognized, and which places the young boy in terrible peril.
Merriman returns Will to the present day without a moment lost. The dark forces arrayed against him have made their first assaults against him, and it only gets worse. This is much better than the first volume. Only Merriman repeats here, while all else is new and more exciting and dramatic. The vividness of the Dark and the battle against it are the best parts. Susan Cooper can write!