The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Grey KingInformation

Goodreads: The Grey King
Series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence #4
Source: Purchased
Published: 1975


Will Stanton travels to Wales in order to retrieve the golden harp of prophecy and waken the Six Sleepers in order to prepare for the final battle.  Winner of a Newbery Medal.


This book won a Newbery Medal and thus I feel that I ought to appreciate it more.  By this point in the series, however, both plot and characters seem, if not a little formulaic, at least a little old.  Again Will goes on a quest to retrieve an artifact.  Again he meets unexpected allies.  Again he meets little men who, though not of the Dark, become useful conduits for the Dark through their petty jealousies and meanness.  With the final battle approaching, readers might have expected more.

Perhaps the mistake was in choosing Will as the main character again.  The Drew children provide interest and variety both through their sibling dynamics and through their limited understanding of events (and limited power to control it).  As one of the Old Ones, however, Will has a constant voice in his head telling him what to do and when; readers never even got to see him grow into this power because all he had to do to achieve it was read an ancient book (in The Dark Is Rising).  Will worries a lot about not knowing what to do and about failing the Light, but readers know that will never happen (if it was ever in doubt, they even have a prophecy to reassure them).

A new character named Bran is the new sidekick for Will in this story, but though he proves likable enough, he lacks the charisma of the Drew children.  He possesses an arrogance that makes him seem just as powerful as Will even if he is not, and that lessens the suspense.  The only real danger hovers around Bran’s beloved dog Cafall–the real star of this book with his doggy smarts and loyalty.

After finishing this book, I had no real desire to pick up the final book in the series.  I will read it eventually just to complete the sequence, but I feel no thrill of excitement, no worry for any of the characters.

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