The Grey King
"Fire on the Mountain Shall Find the Harp of Gold Played to Wake the Sleepers, Oldest of the Old..." With the final battle between the Light and the Dark soon approaching, Will sets out on a quest to call for aid. Hidden within the Welsh hills is a magical harp that he must use to wake the Sleepers - six noble riders who have slept for centuries. But an illness has robbed Will of nearly all his knowledge of the Old Ones, and he is left only with a broken riddle to guide him in his task. As Will travels blindly through the hills, his journey will bring him face-to-face with the most powerful Lord of the Dark - the Grey King. The King holds the harp and Sleepers within his lands, and there has yet to be a force strong enough to tear them from his grasp...

The Grey King Details

TitleThe Grey King
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 8th, 2007
PublisherMargaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN-139781416949671
Rating
GenreFantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Childrens

The Grey King Review

  • mark monday
    January 1, 1970
    boy meets boy; antics ensue.boy with Old soul meets boy with dog with old soul; old king wishes they never met.sick boy with too many siblings meets sickly boy with some serious father issues.little weirdo meets his match in another little weirdo; the latter teaches the former how to pronounce Welsh words.super-powered boy meets albino boy with golden eyes; the former teaches the latter the meaning of friendship, power, and why old kings are bad news for everyone.Ancient Immortal Being meets Boy boy meets boy; antics ensue.boy with Old soul meets boy with dog with old soul; old king wishes they never met.sick boy with too many siblings meets sickly boy with some serious father issues.little weirdo meets his match in another little weirdo; the latter teaches the former how to pronounce Welsh words.super-powered boy meets albino boy with golden eyes; the former teaches the latter the meaning of friendship, power, and why old kings are bad news for everyone.Ancient Immortal Being meets Boy Lost Out Of Time; together they play with dogs and avoid mean old kings.brave dog battles horrible grey foxes.grey foxes just trying to protect their boss battle uptight dog; sheep die during the rumpus.evil ginger says unkind things to two sweet boys and a noble dog; mean old king approves.two mean boys torment a mentally ill redhead who just wants to protect his sheep and maybe make friends with a sleepy old king.the white Light burns bright; the shadow of Dark shall rise.sleepy king just wants to keep things sleepy, for him, his 6 guests, and maybe the rest of the world; two busybody boys refuse to let anyone sleep in.two brave boys defeat one great evil; Light triumphs over Dark!lonely old man gets evicted from his last refuge by two young jerks. :(
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    Normally, The Grey King would be my favourite of the five books that make up this sequence. Something about the setting in Wales, and Bran's loneliness and arrogance, and of course the tie-in with Arthuriana, and the way that it begins to bring in some more moral ambiguity when John Rowlands questions the coldness at the heart of the Light. Somehow, I didn't love it as much as usual this time -- possibly because I'd just spent a lot of time debating the merits of Greenwitch with various people, Normally, The Grey King would be my favourite of the five books that make up this sequence. Something about the setting in Wales, and Bran's loneliness and arrogance, and of course the tie-in with Arthuriana, and the way that it begins to bring in some more moral ambiguity when John Rowlands questions the coldness at the heart of the Light. Somehow, I didn't love it as much as usual this time -- possibly because I'd just spent a lot of time debating the merits of Greenwitch with various people, and thus missed some of the stellar things about that book (more involvement of female characters, more mysteries like the various hauntings of Cornwall, contact with the Wild Magic) when reading this one, which is more straightforward in some ways. If you've read the series before, then there's little mystery about who Bran is and what role he has to play.Still, it's a lovely book, with Susan Cooper's usual understanding of people and lyrical way of describing things so that the sound of the words is an important part of the experience for me. The relationship between Owen and Bran, with that lovely section so near the end; the levels you can see, particularly depicting Owen and in the character of John; the touches of mystery there are like the issue of the Grey King himself -- all of it is as wonderful as ever on what must be at least my tenth reread, and probably more than that.And, of course, there's Cafall -- the courage and loyalty, and the heartbreak. That whole section brings a horrid lump to my throat every single time.
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  • Maggie Stiefvater
    January 1, 1970
    *Happy sigh* I just finished rereading this one again last night. With the exception of the first book in the Dark is Rising series, I love all of them -- atmospheric, dreamy, and creepy, the lot of them. And steeped in old folklore and told in lovely prose so that they feel like they grew out of the ground instead of being written by a modern author. I cannot recommend them highly enough . . . but do read them in order.
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  • J.M. Hushour
    January 1, 1970
    You know you love a book from your childhood a lot when you go out of your way on trips abroad to see the places where the action happened. Cooper's fourth novel in the DiR series is so steeped, no, drowned! in all things Welsh that you can't help but want to get the hell there and check it out. Which I did many years ago. Her works in this series especially are refulgent and replete with all kinds of British lore, especially Arthurian, and then some, but she reaches new heights of weaving them You know you love a book from your childhood a lot when you go out of your way on trips abroad to see the places where the action happened. Cooper's fourth novel in the DiR series is so steeped, no, drowned! in all things Welsh that you can't help but want to get the hell there and check it out. Which I did many years ago. Her works in this series especially are refulgent and replete with all kinds of British lore, especially Arthurian, and then some, but she reaches new heights of weaving them into this penultimate volume. Plus, we learn some Welsh to boot.Will Stanton, the kid/Old One, goes to Wales to convalesce, meets a weird albino kid and his dog and fights the dark forces of the Brenin Llywd, the Grey King. Now, if you aren't familiar with these and were born within the last, say, 20 years, the phrase "fights the dark forces" likely means something different to you, something loud and blaring and colorful. Here it means subtle things, changes in weather and shadow, strange stones of unbearable, crushing weight, local farmers driven mad by the Grey King, and ghost fox/wolves.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    I somewhat put off reviewing The Grey King after finishing reading it, because I’m not sure what there is to say about it anymore. I’ve rhapsodised about it at length: the use of mythology, the casual use of the Welsh language, the home-ness of the landscape and the people… The shades of grey and the adult touches when it comes to Owen Davies and John Rowlands, and Will Stanton’s interactions with them. There’s some beautiful passages, especially the section spent in Craig yr Aderyn, and some ge I somewhat put off reviewing The Grey King after finishing reading it, because I’m not sure what there is to say about it anymore. I’ve rhapsodised about it at length: the use of mythology, the casual use of the Welsh language, the home-ness of the landscape and the people… The shades of grey and the adult touches when it comes to Owen Davies and John Rowlands, and Will Stanton’s interactions with them. There’s some beautiful passages, especially the section spent in Craig yr Aderyn, and some genuine moments of horror, loss, anger, fear…And there’s Bran Davies. One of the first Welsh heroes I came across in fiction — at the age of sixteen or so. And he really is Welsh; Welsh-speaking, Welsh-thinking, a part of the Welsh landscape and mythology. But he’s also very human — vulnerable. Angry. Resentful, even. Strange and unhappy and alone. And then his friendship with Will is just lovely, the immediate rapport between them, the ways Will being an Old One damages it, the ways Bran adapts.And there’s Cafall. All too briefly, but so key to the plot, to Bran.There’s quite a lot of more adult themes here — quite far from the world of Over Sea, Under Stone, which is almost entirely concerned with Barney, Jane and Simon. There’s Owen’s grief for Gwen; Gwen’s grief at betraying her husband; the jealousy and rivalry between Owen Davies and Caradog Prichard; Arthur’s yearning for connection with his son… And of course, those shades of grey I mentioned. The conversation between John and Will about how the Light will ignore the good of a single person to pursue the greater good, and John’s reaction, really highlights to me that the humans are the real heroes of this series. And the villains, too, because Lords of the Dark choose to become what they are — they aren’t born, like Old Ones.Originally posted here.
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  • Lightreads
    January 1, 1970
    The really upsetting one. I'd been calling it that in my head all along, but I didn't realize I didn't actually remember why. It turns out this upset me so much as a child that I literally blanked out the relevant details; I remembered about two pages before it happened, in the same horrible swooping lurch that Will experiences as he realizes something bad is about to happen. Animal harm, man, that shit fucks you up. /profound.Anyway. I found this intensely interesting. It follows on very well f The really upsetting one. I'd been calling it that in my head all along, but I didn't realize I didn't actually remember why. It turns out this upset me so much as a child that I literally blanked out the relevant details; I remembered about two pages before it happened, in the same horrible swooping lurch that Will experiences as he realizes something bad is about to happen. Animal harm, man, that shit fucks you up. /profound.Anyway. I found this intensely interesting. It follows on very well from Greenwitch, like the next sentence in an argument. Which is how a series ought to work, in an ideal world. My understanding of this book is filtered through two contrasting scenes. One is Will and Bran questing for the harp, coming before the three hooded powers and answering the riddles set them. There's something so constrained about that scene, so bloodless and controlled with the representatives of the polls of magic fulfilling their assigned roles. As a child, I found it hugely confusing that Merriman is one of the hooded figures; he's on their side, so why does he make them go through the song and dance? Because he has to, because the scripted magic prophecy says he must, and he is an Old One, so he does. (BTW, if anyone would care to educate me on what significance the three riddles have, I'd love to hear it. Their content, I mean -- they have always been entirely puzzling to me, and I did not stop to Google this time like I meant to). Contrast that with the other scene of riddles asked and answered: Bran screaming at his father in the hut on the hillside, demanding to know who he is and where he came from. The complete opposite of bloodless and constrained. This book is like that -- the magic has that stilted, staged feel of predestiny, while the parallel human story is messy and wildly alive. The Grey King might roll out his menacing fog, and I'll grant you he's creepy. But the most profound, awful evil in this book for my money is purely human. And for all Will is the questing hero, the greatest kindness and bravery aren't his. They're John Rowlands's, and Bran's, and most profoundly, Bran's father's.It all really works. See John Rowlands talking to Will about the coldness of the Light. This book really digs into what we've only seen in glimpses before about how the Light is fighting for mankind while being profoundly outside it. Try and picture Will screaming at anybody, demanding the secrets of his history. Doesn't work, does it?Humanity has a range, a resonance in the book that the people of power just don't. Will's most profound moments for me come early, when he is still amnesiac and in a fundamental way, not himself, just a boy. Will gets his memory back and instantly steps out of the center of the emotional arc, which belongs almost entirely to Bran and his connections.Which is another thing -- why the hell is Bran albino? I've always wondered, and I figured an answer would come to me on this reread, but nope. There's the obvious -- Cooper is using physical disability as a marker of strangeness. Bran's appearance works that way in the narrative -- it's code for a different level of strangeness, of out-of-placeness. But is that all? It's implied very very fleetingly in the next book that Herne the Hunter is actually an incarnation of Arthur, and that's where Bran gets his looks -- really not sure what to make of that.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    It's pretty much a tradition for me now to reread this series at this time of year, so I wanted to get it done before we move into 2013. The 2012 reread of The Dark is Rising sees me struggling with anxiety and depression issues, and I nearly didn't get round to reading this, this year. But it is my comfort reading, so it was a good idea that I just planted myself firmly down with the book in hand today -- the same old battered copy as always, of course.To my mind, this is the point in the seque It's pretty much a tradition for me now to reread this series at this time of year, so I wanted to get it done before we move into 2013. The 2012 reread of The Dark is Rising sees me struggling with anxiety and depression issues, and I nearly didn't get round to reading this, this year. But it is my comfort reading, so it was a good idea that I just planted myself firmly down with the book in hand today -- the same old battered copy as always, of course.To my mind, this is the point in the sequence where more subtlety begins to come in. Owen Davies' shame, Guinevere's betrayal, John Rowlands' speech about how the Light can be as cruel in its absolute cold justice as the Dark in its horrors, from the point of view of humanity... I still feel like I'm discovering this world, every little bit of it, noticing little things like where in Silver on the Tree Will still doesn't understand quite how it is that Old Ones do what they do, and Merriman says he's still too close to human... Obviously, I think these books reward rereading, or I wouldn't keep doing it, though, so I think I'm preaching to those who understand where I'm coming from, if not quite to the converted. I do think these books are beautiful and worthy, though. I do sometimes wonder what the story would be like, turned round the other way, like Jacqueline Carey does to Lord of the Rings in Banewreaker/Godslayer.Thinking about it right now, it reminds me of Assassin's Creed 3. Spoilers for that follow: (view spoiler)[you begin playing as a man called Haytham. He has Assassin skills and methods, so you assume he's an Assassin -- at least, I did, and most people I know did. You assume that the enemy you're fighting is the same enemy you've always been fighting, because it's only in subtle cues that things are different to the other games. And then one of the men is initiated into the Order... as a Templar. Imagine The Dark is Rising from that point of view -- a young man, say, struggling to complete quests set for him, to fight against a force that seeks to unbalance the world, to remove the necessary check that his side provides. The other side break the mind of a human who opposes them, punish people heinously for even thinking about betraying them... Now that could be interesting. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Lexish
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the most well-written young adult books I've ever read. They don't write 'em like this anymore! There's a reason Susan Cooper won the Newbery Medal for this. Her incredible, melodic descriptive language and her ability to interweave history, mythology, legend, and good old-fashioned fiction bring this book far beyond a traditional "boy with special powers" book. If you appreciate the English language and if you have an interest in history and legend, this one is for you. Susan Coo This is one of the most well-written young adult books I've ever read. They don't write 'em like this anymore! There's a reason Susan Cooper won the Newbery Medal for this. Her incredible, melodic descriptive language and her ability to interweave history, mythology, legend, and good old-fashioned fiction bring this book far beyond a traditional "boy with special powers" book. If you appreciate the English language and if you have an interest in history and legend, this one is for you. Susan Cooper did her research--one can look up the background of many of the people, places, and mythical figures and see how they relate to the history of what is now the United Kingdom. I realize that many are skeptical about this genre after the Harry Potter craze; however, this is one of the classics. It's next to The Chronicles of Narnia on my bookshelf. P.S. If you're looking to change formats, I would also recommend the audiobook of this (read by Richard Mitchley, who speaks Welsh and who thus makes this reading even more interesting).
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  • Ben Babcock
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve been making a slow tour through Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence for a few months now. It’s undeniably an important series in the fantasy canon, but my personal reaction to it has been more ambivalent. I have been rather disappointed with the novels as stories. They’re brilliant examples of methodical mythological remixing. Yet in adjusting the tone of the books to aim them to her younger audience, Cooper also seems to feel it’s necessary to remove a great deal of the complexity a I’ve been making a slow tour through Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence for a few months now. It’s undeniably an important series in the fantasy canon, but my personal reaction to it has been more ambivalent. I have been rather disappointed with the novels as stories. They’re brilliant examples of methodical mythological remixing. Yet in adjusting the tone of the books to aim them to her younger audience, Cooper also seems to feel it’s necessary to remove a great deal of the complexity and subtlety that makes novels such an interesting literary form. Novels, to me, are interesting beasts. Their ability to ensnare and divert readers through twisting passages of description and narration make them far craftier and less trustworthy than their dramatic and poetic cousins; novels aim to make a meal out of the reader. The best writers are those who can harness this predatory nature to craft stories that absorb the reader by tickling us with the hints and harsh edges of the darkness at the edge of the light.The previous volumes of this series lack that complexity and that depth of conflict required to sustain that interest. I haven’t read these as a child, so I can’t speak to how I might like or dislike them. But children understand darkness a lot more than many people give them credit for doing. Their lives are not the perfect, innocent world we often want them to be. So I think we do them a disservice when we insist that the fiction we give them ignores real-and-present darkness in favour of more abstract, "kid-safe" versions. Ironically, given that most of its conflict concerns the battle between the Light and the Dark, The Dark is Rising sequence is mostly the latter. With few exceptions, these are books where the main characters fight the powers of darkness on their holidays, on the side, and danger never seems to be more serious than having to run away from a bad man.So, prior to reading it, I admit to being rather baffled by the fact that The Grey King won the Newberry. This just goes to show that prior performance can’t always predict future success: this book is a long sight better than the previous ones in the series. For Cooper deigns to put Will and his sidekick in far deeper waters than she has ever dared previously, and the payoff is immediate and gratifying. The Grey King edges ever closer to being the tricksy type of creature a novel should be.Will visits some relatives in Wales as he recovers from an illness. (I don’t think this kid ever actually goes to school.) It’s implied the illness might be an attempt by the Dark to derail him, since for a little while he seems to have forgotten the rhyme he learned at the end of Greenwitch. If so, the attempt backfired in a big way, since Will ends up visiting the exact place he needs to be to find the Golden Harp and wake the Sleepers. Destiny for the win!Cooper experiments with structure as well, dividing the book into two parts that concern the two quests Will undertakes while in Wales. The previous stories were all quests of some sort, but this one has much more focus. Merriman continues to pop in and out in that annoying Gandalfian way of his, but it’s much less frequent and intrusive than it has been in the past. The Grey King feels like Will’s story, more so even than The Dark is Rising.Except it’s also kind of Bran’s story.A new character, Bran is special in terms of his heritage. However, Cooper manages to strike a balance between building Bran up and giving Will enough to do to justify his presence as an Old One. The two work as a complementary duo: Bran has a certain amount of fortitude and, of course, local knowledge, while Will has his own specialized knowledge as an Old One and the sense of indomitable spirit that has allowed him to succeed in the past. Neither could stand against the Grey King by himself; together, they make a compelling team.This is the first of the Dark is Rising books that feels like it gives the protagonists enough to do and provides a meaningful threat. The previous books had intriguing puzzles and interesting main characters. But the stakes, despite ostensibly involving the fate of the world, never quite seemed high enough. In contrast, Cooper puts her protagonists in more danger here, with stakes that include their own lives and lives of trusted companions. Never has the Dark seemed like a more dangerous enemy than in this book.One more to go. Silver on the Tree has a lot it must deliver, as the last novel in this sequence, and the surprising quality of The Grey King compared to its predecessors only enhances my expectations for the last book. Though I continue to enjoy Cooper’s writing and her use of British mythology in her stories, I hope the trend towards complexity seen here continues.My reviews of the Dark is Rising sequence:←Greenwitch | Silver on the Tree →
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    The Grey King is possibly my favourite book of this sequence -- and I swear that's not only because it's set in my home country. It's a lovely, lovely book. This is the most layered of the books, I think -- by which I mean this is the book that has the most to offer for people of all ages. There are the more open and obvious emotions of Bran -- grief, pride, arrogance -- and the more complex grief and guilt of Owen Davies, which I'm not sure a younger reader would be able to fully understand. Th The Grey King is possibly my favourite book of this sequence -- and I swear that's not only because it's set in my home country. It's a lovely, lovely book. This is the most layered of the books, I think -- by which I mean this is the book that has the most to offer for people of all ages. There are the more open and obvious emotions of Bran -- grief, pride, arrogance -- and the more complex grief and guilt of Owen Davies, which I'm not sure a younger reader would be able to fully understand. The characters in this book are all excellent. We have one new main character, completing our six, and that is, of course, Bran. He's a very interesting character, I find. His aloofness and exclusion is well done without being over done, I think, and the moments when he acts just like a normal boy with Will are beautiful. He's incredibly human, and yet he's also princely/kingly at times... the juxtaposition of the two is as interesting with him as it is with Will. It's not just Bran who proves an interesting character, though: I'm also drawn to Owen Davies and John Rowlands. Both of them are so human. Owen is so unfair to Bran, in some ways, and yet it's clear he loves him and wants to do well by him. John is one of those people who is truly good and unwittingly (most of the time) serves the Light: it's interesting to see a character like that, beyond the fact that he's purely likeable.This is also the book in which the hints at an Arthurian background blossom a little. Still not as much as in the last book, but we've gone from realising Merriman is Merlin at the end of the first book to seeing the real King Arthur and his son.My true favourite scene in the whole sequence comes in the very last page of this book: "Bran went to Davies and put his arm round his waist, and stood close. It was the first gesture of affection between the two that Will had ever seen. And wondering, loving surprise woke in Owen Davies's worn face as he looked down at the boy's white head, and the two stood there, waiting."Reread again in December 2009. Beautiful. Made me cry. Swept me off into its little world as always.
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  • Ben De Bono
    January 1, 1970
    I'm beginning to think that this series would be better titled The Dark is Stumbling Around Awkwardly Without Ever Accomplishing Much. In this volume our heroes take on the Grey King, a villain who we're reminded every other paragraph is more powerful and evil than any other encountered so far.Despite this impressive reputation, the most evil things he manages to accomplish are (a) killing a few sheep and (b) making one small patch of ground briefly change shape. He also seems to have it out for I'm beginning to think that this series would be better titled The Dark is Stumbling Around Awkwardly Without Ever Accomplishing Much. In this volume our heroes take on the Grey King, a villain who we're reminded every other paragraph is more powerful and evil than any other encountered so far.Despite this impressive reputation, the most evil things he manages to accomplish are (a) killing a few sheep and (b) making one small patch of ground briefly change shape. He also seems to have it out for sheepdogs for reasons that remain murky throughout the entire book. In the end he is valiantly defeated by our brave hero gives up, shrugs his shoulders, and wanders away. Again, the reasons for the most powerful and evilest bad guy ever electing this strategy remain unclear. We also spend an enormously long time learning how to pronounce Welsh words. Which I suppose is helpful if you're planning on learning Welsh immediately after finishing the book. Normally when I hate a series this much, quitting it is a no brainer. Sadly, I'm reading it out loud to my daughter, which means I must soldier on. Susan Cooper is a truly dreadful author, but at least there's only one book left!
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    This one is probably my favourite book of the series. It always makes me feel hiraeth. One day, I need to visit the parts of Wales these books are set in, really. And get someone to coach me on how to pronounce them: the section where Bran teaches Will is quite helpful, but not as good as hearing someone say the place names. Alas, I speak very little Welsh.I think Bran is my favourite character of the series. Barney's cute, but Bran has more depth, with his troubled past and how much he has to d This one is probably my favourite book of the series. It always makes me feel hiraeth. One day, I need to visit the parts of Wales these books are set in, really. And get someone to coach me on how to pronounce them: the section where Bran teaches Will is quite helpful, but not as good as hearing someone say the place names. Alas, I speak very little Welsh.I think Bran is my favourite character of the series. Barney's cute, but Bran has more depth, with his troubled past and how much he has to deal with. There's subtlety, too, in the emotions of all the characters -- there's a level on which it works best for adults, even, like understanding Owen Davies' feelings. But it works for everyone, on all levels, I think, too.This is also more subtle in terms of seeing the Light and the Dark as extremes, which can each be bad in their own way. John Rowlands talks about the Light as being cold absolute good, without mercy or love, and that's an interesting way of looking at it.
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  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    So, I've been reading Cooper's Dark is Rising series, which I somehow never got to as a kid despite hearing so much about it, and knowing it won a ton of awards. This one, for instance, won the Newbery, one of the biggest American awards for young adult fiction. And the overwhelming sense I've come away with so far is: why?Don't get me wrong, there are moments of good description, and good story-telling. But it is hung on a framework that doesn't really work. Sure, in theory we have an epic batt So, I've been reading Cooper's Dark is Rising series, which I somehow never got to as a kid despite hearing so much about it, and knowing it won a ton of awards. This one, for instance, won the Newbery, one of the biggest American awards for young adult fiction. And the overwhelming sense I've come away with so far is: why?Don't get me wrong, there are moments of good description, and good story-telling. But it is hung on a framework that doesn't really work. Sure, in theory we have an epic battle going on between Light and Dark (don't get me started) but despite being frequently reminded of this fact by the narrator, we never actually have any sense of the stakes or any concrete reasons to care. In this book, the only thing we care about is the crazy dude going around on a sheepdog-shooting rampage, but that's not even treated as a proxy for the larger, magical struggle -- just sort of an inconsequential spinoff from it. Look, if you're anything like me, you care a lot more that an innocent non-magical dog is kept safe from the lunatic neighbor with a shotgun than you do that a magical harp is retrieved via riddle game from a cave so it can be played by a lake to awaken six ghostly Arthurian knights who show up, literally do nothing except nod at the protagonist, and then vanish.The incoherence of the narrative structure aside, we also need to talk about Will Stanton. The ostensible protagonist of the series, Will is an 11yo with the powers of a mighty wizard that he "inherited" (I'm no fan of the hero-by-blood trope), were unearned (injected into him Matrix-style with a book), and which, maybe worst of all, cost him nothing to use. You know what this adds up to? The central character is nothing but a mobile plot advancement device. Four books in, and I couldn't tell you the first thing about Will as a person -- is he curious? generous? bold? shy? No idea. But he will suddenly know how to magically solve whatever problem presents itself, because.Except when he doesn't, of course, because he needs not to solve it yet. For instance, much is made in the second book (The Dark is Rising) when Will is introduced and being shown how powerful he is, that the first thing he can do is start and extinguish fires at will. He does it several times in that book; it's fairly reasonably developed and used as a plot point. So imagine my surprise when a major development early in this book is a wildfire that it never occurs to Will to even try to put out:"But Will, beating hopelessly with his long flat-tipped broom, felt that nothing could halt or check the inferno before them." Boy, it sure would be a great time for someone with supernatural powers to, say, extinguish fire. Yep, sure could use someone like that right about now. Look, maybe you're saying, the whole mountainside is on fire, that's a bit much to ask of even an immortal wizard who's had his entire personality replaced with pure power! Yet even when it's just a single burning branch tumbling over a ledge toward a dry and unburnt area, no mention is made of Will trying to put it out; they just watch it go, helpless to stop it... because they need to flee the fire to a specific location, you see (that magic cave the harp is in).I don't lay this all at Cooper's feet; obviously a decent editor should have called her on this massive inconsistency. Heck, later in the book Will's powers are constantly being negated by the Grey King (the regional Lord of the Dark, Local 211) when they would too easily defuse the dramatic climax; why not just start that earlier, and have the Grey King make Will's level 1 Fire Extinguisher spell fail? Or why not at least carry the amnesia (specific to his powers, natch) that Will inexplicably starts this book with just partially persist a bit longer as a lazy excuse for his not knowing what he did two books ago, instead of just as inexplicably removing the amnesia and saying specifically that everything had come back to him?Okay, I'm just beating a dead horse now. Look, I'll say again, certain storytelling passages worked well; I liked the boy Bran's origin story (mainly the non-magical parts, but even the magical part too). I loved the Welsh setting, and wasn't even put off by Cooper's extended lessons on Welsh pronunciation embedded in the dialogue -- I liked it as a reader, and it wasn't implausible for a Welsh boy teaching his new English friend what was what.But seriously people, a Newbery? Were we that hard up for kid's books in 1975? At this point I'd say the only book in the series really worth reading is the first one (Over Sea, Under Stone), which is a pretty great puzzle-solving treasure hunt starring three completely ordinary kids (before Will showed up!) set in Cornwall. (Greenwitch is ok, mainly due to bringing back those kids; but the magic is also a bit more luminously original, and human emotions are actually central to the magical outcomes.)I am going to go on and read the last one -- not because I care whether the Dark that has supposedly been Rising all this time will finally stop hitting the snooze button, but because the ordinary kids will be back, it is also set in Wales, and if Cooper could get back to the trippier magic of Greenwitch it won't be a total waste of time. And at least then I can say I gave the series a fair shake.If you're still not sure... I do not recommend it.
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  • Magill
    January 1, 1970
    Another slim book, at a YA length, which I think hurts the arc of this story to some extent, comprising the harp AND the sleepers. While the author's writing never feels hurried in description or tone, it seems that more time could have benefited the details and the character development of the story.Things happen quickly, even if described leisurely-ly; whys or why-nots are left unanswered (why Will's memory loss, when it came back so easily; why Bran and Cafall's initial behavior, except for i Another slim book, at a YA length, which I think hurts the arc of this story to some extent, comprising the harp AND the sleepers. While the author's writing never feels hurried in description or tone, it seems that more time could have benefited the details and the character development of the story.Things happen quickly, even if described leisurely-ly; whys or why-nots are left unanswered (why Will's memory loss, when it came back so easily; why Bran and Cafall's initial behavior, except for irrelevant conflict; why the fire, except for the poem; why the foxes, except for Cafall; why Caradog, period; why the riddles, no really, why the riddles; why the pebble, except for the threats of the Grey King (which didn't come to much); why the bicycle, when you are an Old One; etc.). The Grey King and the release of the 6 sleepers seemed almost anti-climactic after what happened with Cafall, and looming threats come to naught. Even the pebble battle seemed to have more magic in it than releasing the sleepers; and Caradog as a minion seemed rather ineffectual but still posed more threat than the Grey King. The story still hangs together but is rather poorly stitched in places, although the fabric is quite well made. Will seems to have the chance to be a boy again, at times, rather than the cipher he was in the previous book. There are some great passages, like under the stars; and John Rowland had some great observations. And the story does seem to have a bit of theme, loss. Bran has a dual loss, Owen has a loss, even Caradog has a loss, and Gwen had a loss. And the human choice of response to hurt or loss, plays out in a couple of ways. It was a quick and easy read and I enjoyed the atmosphere, but the depth and complexity of the story is just too pared down for me.
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  • Pam Baddeley
    January 1, 1970
    This is book 4 of the sequence and we are back with Will and with out and out fantasy after the previous blend of adventure story with fantasy and the Drew children's return.Will is sent to Wales to recuperate after a serious illness which not only weakens him physically, but makes him forget that he is an Old One, last of that mysterious group who serve the Light and oppose the rising of the Dark. At first he is unaware that he has to perform a quest to regain another object of power to help th This is book 4 of the sequence and we are back with Will and with out and out fantasy after the previous blend of adventure story with fantasy and the Drew children's return.Will is sent to Wales to recuperate after a serious illness which not only weakens him physically, but makes him forget that he is an Old One, last of that mysterious group who serve the Light and oppose the rising of the Dark. At first he is unaware that he has to perform a quest to regain another object of power to help the Light prevail, and must do so without the help of his mentor, Merriman Lyon, although a boy with whom he strikes up a precarious friendship is instrumental in helping him succeed.Bran, who it transpires is the Raven Boy from the poem Will memorised at the end of book 3, is an albino and a loner, his only close friend his father's sheepdog, Caffal. Will meets them when he starts to explore the hills, having had a small stirring of memory about what he is meant to be doing there, and the dog restores his lost sense of self. But they are opposed not only by the supernatural forces of the Grey King, a major force among the Dark, but by human stupidity and vengefulness.In some ways this is far more of an adult book than the rest of the series because of the thread concerning the relationship between Bran's mother, his father, and the local villain. Will has to grapple with issues far in advance of his eleven and a half years, though not of his greater Old One self, yet he has sympathy for Bran's difficulties. There is tragedy for Bran, though probably not as affecting as it could have been as it was telegraphed long before the event. But in some ways it is the human story concerning Bran which is the most affecting part of the book. The fantasy elements are in some ways a bit grafted on and artificial - the sequence when the boys have to answer the riddles posed by the three "kings" and who their real identities are is a case in point. It is also rather odd that a major plot device concerns a wildfire - the eponymous book that introduced Will shows us that he can start and put out fires, but here he never even thinks to try extinguishing this one, and yet he is supposed to be a powerful wizard. I liked the book, but I didn't love it, so a 3 rating from me.
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  • Joyce
    January 1, 1970
    Like The Dark is Rising, this is a darker series entry with the dangers greater and peril at every turn. It's Will Stanton's story again, and he is aided by an odd, albino boy Bran who has an intriguing past. A poem of sorts has run through the series, identifying what has been happening--the finding of the 6 who go against the Dark and the accoutrement that accompanies them from the grail in the first volume to the beginning of the search for the golden harp in this one, along with the awakenin Like The Dark is Rising, this is a darker series entry with the dangers greater and peril at every turn. It's Will Stanton's story again, and he is aided by an odd, albino boy Bran who has an intriguing past. A poem of sorts has run through the series, identifying what has been happening--the finding of the 6 who go against the Dark and the accoutrement that accompanies them from the grail in the first volume to the beginning of the search for the golden harp in this one, along with the awakening of the sleepers in the Welsh hills. Spells, spirit wolves, betrayals, and help when it's needed most figure in here, as Will, aided by an often reluctant Bran, continue to play out their roles in the great battle against the dark. Stirring stuff.
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  • LPG☽
    January 1, 1970
    Okay the series has turned enjoyable again! It's funny, I think Cooper realised she'd made Will close to infallible in the previous book, so she's whacked him with a memory loss inducing illness at the start of this one. A bit ham handed but I'm just so thankful she realised the corner she'd written herself into!The illness is also an excellent excuse to move the whole story to Wales (Cause dontcha know? When you're recovering from a life threatening fever, rainy Wales is the PERFECT place to do Okay the series has turned enjoyable again! It's funny, I think Cooper realised she'd made Will close to infallible in the previous book, so she's whacked him with a memory loss inducing illness at the start of this one. A bit ham handed but I'm just so thankful she realised the corner she'd written herself into!The illness is also an excellent excuse to move the whole story to Wales (Cause dontcha know? When you're recovering from a life threatening fever, rainy Wales is the PERFECT place to do it). But sarcasm aside I enjoyed the scenery change, and found the language and the local myths pretty cool.I am realising more and more that these are written consistently for children aged 10. If I may make a teeny tiny Potter comparison here, that's one thing I realised Rowling did really cleverly, ageing the kids up a year each book. You got a realistic sense of their growth as humans, something that cannot be said for Will.The oh-so-wise passive voiced Will returns about half way through this one, and I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'd choose tween angst over his somber calculations any day. But aside from these (grown up reading a children's novel) complaints, I really did enjoy this one. Cooper has a real gift for mood and ritual, and Wales is a wonderfully interesting canvas.I think my main feeling on these books is: should have read these as a kid.
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  • James
    January 1, 1970
    It's so much fun to return to this series with a different level of accumulated age and wisdom and a deeper understanding of the Arthurian tales that run in an undercurrent through each book. While Dark is Rising is my favorite, this is a close second. After reading other series that have covered similar ground (The Raven Cycle and The Sarantine Mosaic in particular), these adventures feel like familiar territory. In this reading, I found myself feeling like the first half was rushed. Understand It's so much fun to return to this series with a different level of accumulated age and wisdom and a deeper understanding of the Arthurian tales that run in an undercurrent through each book. While Dark is Rising is my favorite, this is a close second. After reading other series that have covered similar ground (The Raven Cycle and The Sarantine Mosaic in particular), these adventures feel like familiar territory. In this reading, I found myself feeling like the first half was rushed. Understandable, as this is a middle grade novel after all. But the imagery, emotion, and description employed in the second half would be just as well at home in a 600 page novel. I'll be finishing up with Silver on the Tree very soon.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    July 2013 rereadThis fourth book is where the Dark is Rising sequence begins to pick up its pace and become more epic, weaving the final battle of the Dark vs. the Light into a retold Arthurian mythos. Rereading it as an adult, I began to feel again a little bit of the magic that so entranced me as a child when this was my favorite series ever.In The Grey King, Will Stanton, last of the Old Ones, has been sent to stay with an uncle in Wales to recover from an illness, thus continuing to contrast July 2013 rereadThis fourth book is where the Dark is Rising sequence begins to pick up its pace and become more epic, weaving the final battle of the Dark vs. the Light into a retold Arthurian mythos. Rereading it as an adult, I began to feel again a little bit of the magic that so entranced me as a child when this was my favorite series ever.In The Grey King, Will Stanton, last of the Old Ones, has been sent to stay with an uncle in Wales to recover from an illness, thus continuing to contrast his humanity (physically he is still an eleven-year-old boy) with his immortal nature as an Old One. He is coming into his power and is now able to work magic and know things without everything being fed to him by his mentor Merriman, who makes only a token appearance in this book. Indeed, this is Will's first true solo quest. Notably, the Drew children, who starred in book one and shared the story with Will in book three, are completely absent and unmentioned here.On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,Must the youngest open the oldest hillsThrough the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.There fire shall fly from the raven boy,And the silver eyes that see the wind,And the light shall have the harp of gold.By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,Yet singing the golden harp shall guideTo break their sleep and bid them ride.When light from the lost land shall return,Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,And where the midsummer tree grows tallBy Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.Susan Cooper definitely has a more poetic pen than Rowling, and in The Grey King you get a lot of Welsh — Welsh landscapes, Welsh mythology, even a little bit of Welsh language lessons. The Grey King is the Brenin Llwyd, a great Lord of the Dark who dwells in Cader Idris, a misty mountain over a pleasant farm valley, where six sleepers lie sleeping, to be awoken by a harp of gold — if Will can find it and play it and prevent the Grey King from preventing him.Also to play a role in this story is Bran, the Raven Boy, an albino the same age as Will, whose true nature is revealed in dramatic and powerful fashion.Highlights of this book, besides the magnificent Welsh scenery, were the bits of magic, much more forceful and powerful this time. Will isn't playing around any more, but he's no god or even a full-fledged wizard, and the Light and the Dark both have hard limits on what they can do, bound by universal rules. Susan Cooper gives the magic powers a sense of mystery and epic scope even while applying appropriate narrative constraints and without trying to enumerate them in the style of a modern fantasy novel.There is also much more powerful human drama this time around. Caradog Prichard, the human "villain" of the piece, is a nasty piece of work, yet ultimately just a man, and so Will's inevitably doomed efforts to save him from his own folly read as real and yet foreordained. There is an eternal human tragedy replayed as Will proceeds toward the final stage of his quest.Although it's been too long and I'm now too much of a grown-up to feel the same wonder and thrill I did reading this in elementary school, the first three books were pleasant but not really that much fun and kind of left me wondering why I loved them so much as a child, while this book shows Susan Cooper's talents as a dramatist and storyteller more.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    The Grey King is possibly my favourite book of the sequence, and definitely one of my favourite books of all time. The things I noticed in this read through -- my full review, more of an overview of all the times I've read it, is here -- were mostly about the Welshness of it, and about the complexities of Will's relationship with the Light and humanity, and how exactly Bran is related to the Light.John Rowlands' little speech about the coldness at the heart of the Light always strikes me -- it's The Grey King is possibly my favourite book of the sequence, and definitely one of my favourite books of all time. The things I noticed in this read through -- my full review, more of an overview of all the times I've read it, is here -- were mostly about the Welshness of it, and about the complexities of Will's relationship with the Light and humanity, and how exactly Bran is related to the Light.John Rowlands' little speech about the coldness at the heart of the Light always strikes me -- it's a moral ambiguity that isn't always present (e.g. in Harry Potter). Several times we see that Will isn't really human, and we have to question how justified his goals are. Is the Light any better placed to dictate what humanity will do than the Dark? Although, thinking about it, what the Dark will do to humanity is rarely really articulated: it remains a formless fear, and the more potent for that, I think, as the reader brings their own understanding to that. Once you've read the whole sequence, you do know that the Light is right, I think, because of how they handle their victory -- though at the same time, that coldness at the heart never goes away -- but you never see anything from the point of view of the Dark... I've read rewrites of The Lord of the Rings where Sauron was not evil. It'd be interesting to read a rewrite of The Dark is Rising, in that sense! How could one talk up the Dark and make it sound like the better choice... Clearly some people choose to be of the Dark: Merriman tells Will that the Lords of the Dark choose it, they aren't born into it as those of the Light are. That would be very interesting to know: what makes people choose to become Lords of the Dark? There is the painter, in Greenwitch, who is very lonely, very unhappy, an outcast... I think perhaps he's the clearest elaboration on this, though there is something about it in Silver on the Tree, too -- people so blinded by ideas that they lose all sense of right and wrong.In any case, the other thing that really gets me about these books is they make my heart ache for Wales. Now I'm home in Wales, that's a slightly different experience, but I really don't know of any other book that invokes the feeling of Wales for me so strongly. Or I didn't, before, anyway: now I've read more Welsh writing, I'm starting to see that in other books. But The Dark is Rising is still the strongest.
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  • Steven Bell
    January 1, 1970
    This book wasn't quite as good as "Greenwitch" but on the whole it was still a huge step up over "The Dark is Rising". For the first time Will actually feels a bit like a proper character. We get a sense that he actually has personal interests and we get to see him make actual choices that have consequences.This also benefits from the decision to keep Merry/Merriman on the sidelines so that Will can't just be walked through everything. That was something that made "The Dark is Rising" eternally This book wasn't quite as good as "Greenwitch" but on the whole it was still a huge step up over "The Dark is Rising". For the first time Will actually feels a bit like a proper character. We get a sense that he actually has personal interests and we get to see him make actual choices that have consequences.This also benefits from the decision to keep Merry/Merriman on the sidelines so that Will can't just be walked through everything. That was something that made "The Dark is Rising" eternally unbearable so it was good not to deal with it here.But Will is still overshadowed by another character (much as was the case in "Greenwitch" with Jane), in this case Bran. Bran is immediately an interesting and sympathetic character and frankly one who feels like he should've been the main character of this story in the first place.I also admired the decision to introduce characters who aren't Light or Dark who are simply humans with their own morality and choices who can still have an impact on the story. John Rowlands and Caradog Prichard are both a big part of this story... the opposing sides use them in their own ways but on the whole they have their own choices. I've been bothered by the degree to which this series has relied on "all these things happen because they were always going to happen and no one really has a choice." I feel like this book pulled away from that especially and it raised the tension.I do wish the book hadn't ended up abruptly because I'm the sort of person who likes to read the fallout and see how the events have affected everyone.I also don't at all understand the decision to start the book off with Will suffering from amnesia which seems to serve little purpose and was so poorly explained I didn't realise at first that it had happened. And then it was quickly over and done with. Just a really unusual decision that had no long term impact.
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  • Stephen Polidore
    January 1, 1970
    So far my least favorite of the series, it did have a good ending though. It was able to tug more at my emotions but lacked a certain amount of structure which left it less satisfying. Hopefully the final book picks back up.
  • Angela Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    Bran is a precious child
  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    January 1, 1970
    I remember devouring this book when it first came out and loving it. It was my favourite of the series, partly because of the Welsh setting, partly because I was King Arthur-mad, and partly because, hey--I was fifteen or so. I've remembered it fondly all these years, and after the disappointment of Greenwitch, I told myself "Never mind, The Grey King is next, you love that one!"Well, I did--forty years ago. Now, not so much. I can't condemn the book (much)--it's me that has changed; and when I s I remember devouring this book when it first came out and loving it. It was my favourite of the series, partly because of the Welsh setting, partly because I was King Arthur-mad, and partly because, hey--I was fifteen or so. I've remembered it fondly all these years, and after the disappointment of Greenwitch, I told myself "Never mind, The Grey King is next, you love that one!"Well, I did--forty years ago. Now, not so much. I can't condemn the book (much)--it's me that has changed; and when I say "changed", I mean "become a completely different person." Which is hardly startling, given the 4 decades that have passed, but other YA and children's books have stood the test much better with me than this one. Even in the action sequences, I found myself skimming a lot. A LOT. OK, granted, Will the Youngest Old One has been deathly ill with hepatitis--though how he got it is never discussed. But he seems much less mature, a much younger 12 than he was in The Dark Is Rising. I was a bit surprised to find that when he's given an aspirin after hurting his arm, he floats for most of the afternoon in a "dreamy, suspended state of mind". Where can I get aspirins like that? And for all his experience, Will is still wandering and wondering and doing the wrong thing even though he knows better. This place is dangerous, I know I shouldn't go there, but hey! Straight in, with no backup, why not! At least Cooper doesn't go into detail about those "words in the Old Speech", or try to invent them. We have enough, this time around, with her Welsh lessons (gotta use that research somehow!). Somebody's just had a near-death fall--but that's okay, we can revive him with a good discussion of the origins of the name of the place he nearly fell to!I guess I'm just not very good at fantasy anymore. We had the Old Magic as the "oldest" and "strongest", right? Then no, we found out the Wild Magic is much more potent and uncontrollable. And now, yes, aha! we have the High Magic, "a power beyond Light or Dark or any allegiance--the strongest and most remote force in the universe." Well, sweetie, looks like the Force wasn't with you. Later she speaks of "the merciless starlight of infinity" that "observes and judges"(now, wait, didn't we just say there was no allegiance involved here?) from an energy "as unthinkable as the holocaust of the sun." Uh-huh. I have had Christian friends try to treat this as an allegory; well, I guess we see what we're conditioned to see. Mind, many people see the real Arthurian cycle as an allegory, with Arthur as a Christ-figure, instead of what it was--your basic oral-tradition telenovela for entertainment. Once again, Owen's Christianity is all basically a sham, going through motions to atone for his past contact with "paganism" (or whatever); it has no strength in Cooper's world. All of this quest/harp/sword stuff must have been predetermined, to have all these magic rooms etc set up since time immemorial, but that would imply also a predetermined outcome--so what is the point of all this? Yes, I know what the point is--adventure fiction. But still. It's also the classic coming of age yarn, as Will and Bran are pretty much left to get on with it with little to no help from other Old Ones--crap, it's almost like they don't much care how it works out, isn't it?And the ending was just silly. I know, I know--I'm too old for fantasy fiction of this type. Once you learn to analyse a text, gaps and holes and nonsense become too apparent.I'll read the last book because I've got it, and because I suddenly remembered a piece of dialogue between Will and one of his many brothers that hasn't ocurred in any of the foregoing books, which means I must have read Silver on the Tree at some point, but again, I have no memory of it. Coming from me, that is pretty damning; I'm the sort of person who catches the phrases that have been cut from "unabridged" audiobooks of books I haven't read on paper for decades. But what a disappointment this re-visit to old friends has been.
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  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    2018 ReviewThe Grey King by Susan Cooper is the third (or fourth) book in her Dark is Rising series. Will Stanton must continue his quest to find the Things of Power to help the Light in their power against the Dark. A serious illness sends him to an uncle's sheep farm in Wales to recuperate. There he meets Bran, a very strange boy, and his faithful canine companion Cafall. They both are important to Will’s quest. Even though I like this book, I dread reading it because of the terrible thing tha 2018 ReviewThe Grey King by Susan Cooper is the third (or fourth) book in her Dark is Rising series. Will Stanton must continue his quest to find the Things of Power to help the Light in their power against the Dark. A serious illness sends him to an uncle's sheep farm in Wales to recuperate. There he meets Bran, a very strange boy, and his faithful canine companion Cafall. They both are important to Will’s quest. Even though I like this book, I dread reading it because of the terrible thing that happens in the book. I know it’s going to happen, but even so I read with a sense of hopefulness that maybe this time events will happen differently and spare the characters their grief. Nope. But again, that’s what I like about Susan Cooper—she doesn’t pull her punches. While the battle between Light and Dark is the big story, the theme is consistently about human choices and our responsibilities to each other and the world we live in. This book introduces new characters and Merriman Lyon, Will’s Master, does not play a large part. This is Will’s first quest alone, although he is helped by Bran and Cafall. My favorite character is probably John Rowlands, a nearby sheep farmer. He knows about the Light and the Dark but does not want to be involved in their struggle, although in the final book, Silver on the Tree, he does unwillingly play a pivotal role. John Rowlands is wise and kind and a very humane man—he will be sympathetic, but he is also brutally honest. This is John Rowland telling Will why he wary of involving himself in the business of the light: I am not at all sure what it is that is going on all around us, Will bach, or where it is leading. But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun. At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else. You are like fanatics. Your masters, at any rate. Like the old Crusaders—oh, like certain groups in any belief, though this is not a matter of religion, of course. At the centre of the Light there is a cold white flame, just as at the centre of the Dark there is a great black pit bottomless as the Universe (115). Will, as a member of the Light, takes a different view, but does not dispute John Rowland’s assessment. There are many small encounters with the Dark and the creatures of the Dark that Will must overcome, but the most difficult challenge is with the High Magic, which is neutral. It guards the gold harp that Will needs and in order to win it he, along with Bran and Cafall, must enter the realm of High Magic and be tested. Cooper writes beautifully. This is her description of some of what they boys see: The long flaring tail of the comet moved gradually out of sight, down over the horizon of their nameless world and time. Still in the black hemisphere the stars blazed and slowly wheeled; beneath them, Will felt so infinitesimally small that it seemed impossible he should even exist. Immensity pressed in on him, terrifying, threatening—and then, in a swift flash of movement like a dance, like the glint of a leaping fish, came a flick of brightness in the sky from a shooting star. Then another, and another, here, there, all around. He heard Bran give a small chirrup of delight, a spark struck from the same bright sudden joy that filled his own being. Wish on a star, said a tiny voice in his head from some long-departed day of early childhood: Wish on a star—the cry of a pleasure and faith as ancient as the eyes of a man (68).The Grey King is another wonderful book in this series. I highly recommend it. Older ReviewI love this one because it takes place in Wales--in fact I can trace my fascination with Wales back to this exact book. This book is particularly intriguing to me, but it is sad, so I don't read it as much as I read the others.
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  • Sylvie
    January 1, 1970
    Meh. It gets 3 rather than 2 stars mostly because I finished it, and it wasn't a terrrible read. Good parts: I liked the Welsh setting and the bits and pieces of Will being taught Welsh, or at least how not to totally mangle the pronunciation. I liked the sheepdogs. I liked that it's perfectly readable without having read the rest of the books in the series. I liked that it was an easy read - I got through it easily in a couple of hours. (Which makes sense since it's a kid's book.) I also mostly Meh. It gets 3 rather than 2 stars mostly because I finished it, and it wasn't a terrrible read. Good parts: I liked the Welsh setting and the bits and pieces of Will being taught Welsh, or at least how not to totally mangle the pronunciation. I liked the sheepdogs. I liked that it's perfectly readable without having read the rest of the books in the series. I liked that it was an easy read - I got through it easily in a couple of hours. (Which makes sense since it's a kid's book.) I also mostly liked that Will was recovering from an illness, and that this had actual real consequences for him - not being able to run like he was used to, having to take frequent breaks while climbing up a mountain. Parts I didn't enjoy: Will as a character fell flat for me. I was vaguely fond of him while he still didn't remember anything and was for all intents a regular boy recovering from illness, but as soon as he remembered his ~destiny his personality did a complete 180 and I grew completely bored of him. In fact, in general the book did a bad job of making me care about either the characters or the central conflict. I was also very bored by the born-to-be-special thing going on, for instance (view spoiler)[when Bran and Will go to meet the Council, it mentions that only those with the right blood can enter, everyone else would be incinerated. (hide spoiler)] That's just not a trope that interests me at all anymore. It was also rather painfully obvious to me just how male-focused the book was. The only female characters were 1) Will's aunt, who existed solely to be Motherly, and Bran's mother, who (view spoiler)[existed solely as a device to motivate the male character's actions, and was otherwise immediately fridged. Oh, and of course she was Guinevere from the Arthurian past, because why not. (hide spoiler)] Turns out I have a very hard time caring about books where women are relegated to a side mention and serve only as backdrop to the far more interesting male lives. I also - though this was a relatively minor thing for me - (view spoiler)[didn't like that of course the loyal sheepdog had to die. (hide spoiler)]Weird thing: The mention at the beginning that Will's sister had also gone to Wales to recuperate after she had Mumps. That led to me wondering for at least 10 minutes what era this book was set in. It was otherwise completely generic pre-internet 20th century.
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  • Marsha
    January 1, 1970
    In this installment of The Dark is Rising series, young Will is given his most formidable test yet. Bereft of the ever-present Merriman Lyon, he’s forced to battle an ancient, formless evil. There are no other Old Ones to help him, which emphasizes the peril he faces.Will becomes less and less like a child or human being with every passing book. An unnatural maturity shines out of his eyes, so much so that other normal people are beginning to pick up on it. A certain coldness is growing in his n In this installment of The Dark is Rising series, young Will is given his most formidable test yet. Bereft of the ever-present Merriman Lyon, he’s forced to battle an ancient, formless evil. There are no other Old Ones to help him, which emphasizes the peril he faces.Will becomes less and less like a child or human being with every passing book. An unnatural maturity shines out of his eyes, so much so that other normal people are beginning to pick up on it. A certain coldness is growing in his nature as well, that kind that will sacrifice individuals for the greater good. But it’s his command of magic that truly bothers me. He gained knowledge of it all at once, by merely sitting down and reading a book, and now it seems that he can command it to suit almost any occasion. Time and again, he steps back and uses words in the Old Speech to battle his foes. He’s not entirely invincible; his enemies have powers of their own. But his abilities just leap forth with little or no reason at every occasion.However, he’s not omnipotent. As if to compensate for his awesome gifts, the author hits him with an illness that lays him low, weakens his body and temporarily scatters his memory. He hasn’t entirely convalesced from this sickness and it drags him down at inconvenient moments throughout the book. As such, it seems like a mere contrivance, a neon sign the author has hung over his head that reads “See? He’s only human, after all.”As a human foil, Will is saddled with Bran, an albino incongruously referred to as the “raven boy”, who also has a destiny to fulfill. While he’s initially hard to figure out, you sense that his distance is more mocking and deliberate, a veil to hide loneliness, than signs that he’s otherworldly. His personal drama becomes more compelling than Will’s quest, precisely because it is personal, rather than some high-minded goal. Even as he helps Will, his own desires and painful wants bring the much-needed touch of human warmth the book is lacking elsewhere.The Grey King is building up to a powerful climax. But it must struggle to maintain humanity if readers are to remain interested in the outcome.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Cooper ditches her winning formula from Greenwitch, letting go of the three children from the first and third books of the series, and settling in with Will Stanton. Unfortunately this means we're back to the magical Will, the last of the Old Ones, essentially watching as various mystical events happen around him. He's a bit more active in this book than in The Dark Is Rising (the last book that focused solely on him), but the result is almost as boring. Again the colorful British mythology stan Cooper ditches her winning formula from Greenwitch, letting go of the three children from the first and third books of the series, and settling in with Will Stanton. Unfortunately this means we're back to the magical Will, the last of the Old Ones, essentially watching as various mystical events happen around him. He's a bit more active in this book than in The Dark Is Rising (the last book that focused solely on him), but the result is almost as boring. Again the colorful British mythology stands out but carries little weight or interest due to the lackluster plot. Also there are a few plot elements that create tension but ultimately seem incredibly trivial and senseless: (Spoiler ahead!) For example, why on earth does it matter that the grey foxes are attacking sheep and making it seem like the work of a main character's sheep dog? Obviously this adds tension to the story for the main characters. But it a) seems pretty ridiculous on the part of the foxes--why do they have it in for this one sheep dog?--and b) is completely non-consequential compared to the bigger stakes of the dark rising and taking over the world. Just another example of Cooper's uneven plotting and inability to portray the nature of evil/darkness with any kind of depth. Compare it to other youth fantasy classics like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia and in every way (except for its interesting mythology) it comes up superficial and flat.As an addendum, I tried reading the final book of the series, just to get the satisfaction of finishing it, and I gave up. I don't think I'll be back to this series.
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  • L.H. Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    It is interesting to me that the first book to halt me in my headlong and gleeful devouring of the series was this book set in Wales, the fourth book in the series, set in the thin grey rain of Snowdonia. It is not the Wales-ness of this book that stopped me (though partially, yes, it is, the dense nature of those mythological references that when they meant nothing to me, they very much meant nothing), but rather the way that this book did not seem to mean anything to me until those last few pa It is interesting to me that the first book to halt me in my headlong and gleeful devouring of the series was this book set in Wales, the fourth book in the series, set in the thin grey rain of Snowdonia. It is not the Wales-ness of this book that stopped me (though partially, yes, it is, the dense nature of those mythological references that when they meant nothing to me, they very much meant nothing), but rather the way that this book did not seem to mean anything to me until those last few pages where it suddenly meant everything. And I find that so intriguing, the way my perception of a book can turn so wholly on a denouement, of the drawing of threads together to make a tightly woven masterpiece.So Cooper is good, yes? If you have read my previous reviews of this series, you'll know that. You'll know her soaring, graceful, double-edged prose and be familiar with it. I think, in a way, reading these books is teaching me more about writing and my attitude towards it. It is not a fantasy series for me at the moment, it is a series about that grey area between the worlds of reality and imagination, about those places where we fall through and touch the stories that have built us and brought us to where we are. And that's amazing and wondrous and something quite special, and something that will also keep me reading past pages where nothing very much happens because I know that, at some point, everything, but everything will happen.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    All my opinions about this book might not be helpful since I didn't read any of the other books in this series. I am one of those people trying to read all the Newbery medal winners, and The Grey King was on my list. Fantasy novels are not an automatic win for me. But they aren't set up for failure either. But this book just didn't work for me. Mainly for the following two reasons: 1. They kill a dog. I really hate when dogs die in books. But I especially hate it when there really is no point. C All my opinions about this book might not be helpful since I didn't read any of the other books in this series. I am one of those people trying to read all the Newbery medal winners, and The Grey King was on my list. Fantasy novels are not an automatic win for me. But they aren't set up for failure either. But this book just didn't work for me. Mainly for the following two reasons: 1. They kill a dog. I really hate when dogs die in books. But I especially hate it when there really is no point. Characters didn't learn and grow from the experience. Sure, one of them was sad for awhile, but that then he was totally fine. And the person who killed the dog was a jackass before and continued being a jackass after. So no growth and insight there. One character can brag that "he totally called it" but that's it. Totally unacceptable. 2. It may have been explained in the books leading up to this one, but I don't get the powers that Will has. He is described to be crazy powerful and immortal and can control the wind? But yet is powerless against foggy clouds? Yeah, none of this really ends up helping him. All he really does is walk all over the Welsh countryside. Which actually sounds delightful.Unless you have a dog. Odds are then that your dog is going to be shot for no reason at all.
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