Customer Reviews

89
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Grey King (The Dark is Rising Sequence)
Format: Mass Market PaperbackChange
Price:$6.03 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Although it is not my personal favourite, "The Grey King," the fourth book in "the Dark is Rising" sequence is generally considered the best in the series, and is the winner of the Newbery Medal. Following on from the other books, Will Stanton (an Old One of the Light, who protects humanity from the forces of the Dark) travels to Wales, in order to fetch the golden harp, which in turn will wake the mysterious Sleepers, fulfilling the next part of the prophesy chronicling the battle between Light and Dark.

But the circumstances surrounding his visit are grim: after a serious illness he has been sent to relatives in order to convalesce, and soon finds that he cannot remember the vital phrases of the prophesy. Though he can only remember bits and pieces, he is aware that he is meant to seek help from "the raven boy" and "silver eyes that see the wind" - whatever that means. Amongst his cheery relatives things are well, but in the hidden farmlands he soon meets a young albino boy named Bran and his silver-eyed dog Cafall. Bran's mother disappeared when he was just a baby, leaving him in the care of Owen Davis, a devout and religious man who is kind, but strict with the lonely Bran. Though he is obviously unusual, only Will can see that there is something so much more to Bran than meets the eye.

He also meets John Rowlands, an aged and immensely wise farmer who is one of the few human beings who could possibly understand Will's task, and Caradog Pritchard, a hideously bad-tempered man who is out to make things difficult for everyone around him. But beyond all of this is the malevolence of one of the greatest powers of the Dark: the Grey King and his vicious grey foxes who are out to prevent the Light from gaining their advantage with the golden harp.

Merriman Lyon, the linking factor in all five books has only a minor role here, and the Drew children are not present at all - this is solely Will's quest that he must fulfil by himself, with Bran as the last major player in the series to be introduced. By its end we are all set to head into the final book "Silver on the Tree".

It will help if you know basic Arthurian lore (in particular the love-triangle), since Cooper is subtle in her meanings, and never spells it out entirely. Bran's mother's situation will only resonant if you are fully aware of who she is revealed to be and what she once did. And of course, it is necessary to have read the previous books in the series in order to grasp the full meaning of what's going on here.

A criticism levelled toward these books at one stage, were that they were too black-and-white: there was a Light side and a Dark side, the goodies and the baddies and that was all there was to it. But here for the first time, Cooper adds little touches of grey to the matter, or at least makes you look at the opposites in a different way. It is Rowlands that points out that the Light can be just as merciless and unforgiving as the Dark, that "at the centre of the Light is a cold, white flame, just as at the centre of the Dark there is a great black pit." The Light can often be merciless and cruel, manipulating things to reach its own ends - and Rowlands claims he would choose one human life over their cold principles. As well as this there is a sense of powers beyond good and evil, a "High Magic" that governs over both of them and refuses to take sides.

As well as this the book deals with darker and more human issues than previously, such as violence, adultery, piety, betrayal, loss, temper, attempted rape (though portrayed *extremely* carefully), and the capacity for humanity to destroy itself. Cooper's language is beautiful, her research thorough, her themes profound and her meanings deep and thoughtful. There is so much hidden depth (sometimes held within a single sentence that is easy to miss) that it's impossible to list them all, but here's one - Will assumes that it was the Dark's powers that made him so terribly ill. But toward the end he begins to think it may have come from a completely different source...

Do yourself a favour and read these books!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
"The Dark Is Rising" is a hard book to top, but Susan Cooper nearly matches it in "Grey King." A stunning, atmospheric Welsh fantasy tinged with Arthurian legend, it also introduces one of the most important and unusual characters in the classic series.
In the aftermath of a nasty case of hepatitis, Will Stanton has temporarily forgotten his mission from the Light: to recover a golden harp, with the help of the "raven boy" and "silver eyes that see the wind." When his family sends him to Wales to recover from the illness, he regains his memory when he meets an albino boy his own age named Bran -- which means "raven." Bran's mother "Gwenny" vanished many years before, and his stepfather has devoted himself to religion and penitance. Bran's only friend is the silver-eyed dog Cafall.
Will acquaints his new friend with more information about the battle with the Dark, while Bran acquaints him with information about Wales that can help Will find the golden harp, and wake the Sleepers under the hill. But the malevolent Grey King is spying on them with magical warestones and trying to wrest the harp from Will. To stop the Grey King, Will must learn the secret of Bran's past and evade the dangerous farmer Caradog Pritchard...
Atmosphere is thick and enticing in "Grey King" -- Cooper has clearly come a long way from the fluffier "Over Sea Under Stone." This book, unlike "Greenwitch," does not handle the Drew family, or even much about Merriman: it's all about Bran and Will, who are given equal parts of the plotline. Though there are many other characters, these two are the core of the story.
Here the Arthurian theme, which has been present in a smaller way throughout the series, becomes more pronounced and integral. Cooper continues interweaving mythic elements into it, such as the Sleepers, Cafall the dog, and the Brenin Llwyd. Fans of mythology and other mythic-themed stories such as the Prydain Chronicles will have a heyday.
Will is very much like he is in "Greenwitch" -- sometimes he's an ordinary preteen boy who starts yelling "Achtung!" at the top of his lungs, and sometimes he is the wise and ancient Old One, with knowledge he learned from the book of Gramarye. Bran is an instantly sympathetic character, a very ordinary boy with an extraordinay past; he, like Will in the second book, gradually grows into a unique and more powerful person. Caradog Pritchard will inspire disgust from his first appearance onward, while the tragic Owen Davies will gain the sympathy of the readers despite his insulated life.
Perhaps the worst thing about reading "Grey King" is the knowledge that there is only one more book in this series. But if that book is half as good as "Grey King," then it will be quite a ride before the end.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
The book opens with a Welsh poem: "On the day of the dead,when the year too dies/Must the youngest open the oldest hills/Throughthe door of the birds, where the breeeze breaks..." A beatiful, mystical and magical beginning to a beatiful, mystical and magical book.
We see Will Stanton, a seemingly normal English boy struck terribly ill, go to Wales to visit his aunt and uncle to recuperate, where he will have the adventure of perhaps a lifetime, sweeping everybody around him, including the reader into it. As we read of his quest to awaken the Sleepers, we learn a little Welsh culture, history, and language. We feel the emotions of the characters involved; experience their sorrow, bewilderment, hatred and joy. We dabble in a little High Magic, and realize the presence of the Dark, and the Light's endless struggle against it.
One of the great things about this book is that you don't have to read the other parts of the series to understand, and become swept up in the magic of it. Even though it's the second to last book, it was the first I read of the series. It speaks for itself.
If you liked C. S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia", you'll probably enjoy these books. It's the same struggle between good and evil told in a new way, and though I think this series is the easier read, it loses nothing off it's competion.
Diolch yn fawr!
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully written and dramatically narrated, The Grey King is yet another of this fine author's fantasy series about a young boy unwittingly destined to fight the final battle between the light and the dark on planet earth. Will Stanton is portrayed realistically as an untested, frequently confused adolescent Old One who must summon up the courage to persist in this conflict no matter what terrifying threats the Dark conjures up to destroy him and all things good. The Grey King takes place in Wales, one of the most mythic places on earth. Cooper skillfully weaves folklore into this compelling adventure story, full of characters that come alive as loveable, hateful, and most of all, fully human. The narrator's mastery of drama and British accents is a delight. Highly recommended - if you enjoy Harry Potter, try the Dark is Rising series, no matter what your age.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2006
"...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...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."
- a mortal speaking as a free agent to an Old One of the Light, herein

And of all the books in the series, THE GREY KING perhaps illustrates that detatchment of the Light from mortal charity more clearly than any book before it since THE DARK IS RISING, with the hard choices it presented to the Old Ones between their duty to the Light and their private obligations to those they loved. Here, however, the choices made are by mortals, from a man who traded away his allegiance in the hope of becoming a great poet to a woman who left her only child among strangers, one of them a man forever marked in turn by her choices.

In each book of this series, either a previously unknown quantity among the major protagonists of the overall story is introduced to the reader, or familiar protagonists from different volumes work together for the first time. In each case, this serves not only to help join together the mundane waking world with the deeper reality of the battleground between the Light and the Dark, but to re-ground readers in the story so far, thus allowing each volume to function as an independent story as well as part of the greater whole.

In THE GREY KING, the Drews do not appear, and an even greater absence casts a shadow on the story - only the youngest of the Old Ones is an active participant, facing the Brenin Llwyd, the Grey King, the greatest Lord of the Dark whose reasons for binding himself to one small part of Wales are beginning to become horribly apparent. And Will Stanton must achieve this quest independently, having only the clues provided by the outcome of an earlier quest and such mortals as he can trust, who live on or near the farm in Wales where Will has been sent to recover from a serious illness. Several of these mortals are unusually perceptive and have their own roles to play in the quest, which this time is not to gain a tool of power for its own sake as a weapon or a defence, but as a stepping stone to more mysterious ends.

At first I was disappointed to find that Alex Jennings (who narrates the other four volumes' unabridged audio editions) wasn't the reader for THE GREY KING, but I decided to take a chance and get Richard Mitchley's recording of this book, trusting that there was a reason for the change, especially when Jennings was tapped for the next (and final) book in sequence.

I now understand the publishers' decision; THE GREY KING needed a narrator who could speak Welsh (not one of Jennings' strengths). I like Mitchley (particularly as Bran Davies) while still enjoying Jennings on the pre-existing characters. Sigh - if only they'd jointly narrated the last two books so I could've had it both ways...
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2000
_The Grey King_ is arguably the strongest book in Susan Cooper's _Dark is Rising_ sequence. A winner of the Newbery Medal, it is the story of Will Stanton and his new friend, Bran Davies. Will, a character who appeared in _The Dark is Rising_ and _Greenwitch_, is the youngest of the Old Ones, a group of magical beings fighting to protect the world from the Dark. In this book, he is sent to relatives in Wales to convalesce from typhoid. He learns he is in Wales to win a quest for the Old Ones--and for the first time, he must do it without the direct guidance of his friend and mentor, Merriman. During the course of the book, his new friend Bran becomes deeply involved in Will's quest and both boys learn a lot about themselves. The title character, the Grey King, is a member of the Dark who is bent upon preventing their success.
On one level, this book is an all-out fantasy adventure. There is a cryptic poem, magic, good and evil lords, and fascinating uses of classic Arthurian legend. On a deeper level,however, this is a story about coming-of-age and family. Will learns how to be an independent Old One rather than an apprentice. Bran struggles to understand his mysterious past and his place in the world. This book is more than just a thrilling adventure--it is the story of people's choices and what "family" really means. In other word's, _The Grey King_ is deep *and* fun.
I highly recommend this book to all readers. It may be a little hard for very young readers--but middle readers and older will enjoy it. I reread this book (and the rest of the series) at least twice a year. It should be read after the three previous books in _The Dark is Rising_ sequence (_Over Sea, Under Stone_; _The Dark is Rising_; _Greenwitch_). Lovers of Arthurian legend will particularly appreciate it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 1999
By far the best book in the series, The Grey King has it all, humor, trajedy, love, hope, adventure, and of course MAGIC!!!!! It was a fantastic book, but what I liked best was how it really took you into the places so that you cry with Bran at the loss of his dog, or are white with terror of Caradog Prichard. It was the perfect painting of a great fantasy! Susan Cooper has an uncanny talent for making simple print into whole worlds of wizardry. You must read it!!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Dark Is Rising" is a hard book to top, but Susan Cooper nearly matches it in "Grey King," the fourth book of her Dark is Rising Sequence, A stunning, atmospheric Welsh fantasy tinged with Arthurian legend, it also introduces one of the most important and unusual characters in this classic series.

In the aftermath of a nasty case of hepatitis, Will Stanton has temporarily forgotten his mission from the Light: to recover a golden harp, with the help of the "raven boy" and "silver eyes that see the wind." When his family sends him to Wales to recover from the illness, he regains his memory when he meets an albino boy his own age named Bran -- which means "raven." Bran's mother "Gwenny" vanished many years before, and his stepfather has devoted himself to religion and penitance. Bran's only friend is the silver-eyed dog Cafall.

Will acquaints his new friend with more information about the battle with the Dark, while Bran acquaints him with information about Wales that can help Will find the golden harp, and wake the Sleepers under the hill. But the malevolent Grey King is spying on them with magical warestones and trying to wrest the harp from Will. To stop the Grey King, Will must learn the secret of Bran's past and evade the dangerous farmer Caradog Pritchard...

Atmosphere is thick and enticing in "Grey King" -- Cooper has clearly come a long way from the fluffier "Over Sea Under Stone." This book, unlike "Greenwitch," does not handle the Drew family, or even much about Merriman: it's all about Bran and Will, who are given equal parts of the plotline. Though there are many other characters, these two are the core of the story.

Here the Arthurian theme, which has been present in a smaller way throughout the series, becomes more pronounced and integral. Cooper continues interweaving mythic elements into it, such as the Sleepers, Cafall the dog, and the Brenin Llwyd. Fans of mythology and other mythic-themed stories such as the Prydain Chronicles will have a heyday.

Will is very much like he is in "Greenwitch" -- sometimes he's an ordinary preteen boy who starts yelling "Achtung!" at the top of his lungs, and sometimes he is the wise and ancient Old One, with knowledge he learned from the book of Gramarye. Bran is an instantly sympathetic character, a very ordinary boy with an extraordinay past; he, like Will in the second book, gradually grows into a unique and more powerful person. Caradog Pritchard will inspire disgust from his first appearance onward, while the tragic Owen Davies will gain the sympathy of the readers despite his insulated life.

Perhaps the worst thing about reading "Grey King" is the knowledge that there is only one more book in this series. But if that book is half as good as "Grey King," then it will be quite a ride before the end.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The boy Will recovering from a nearly fatal hepatitis
is sent to his aunt's in Wales to recover, but also
on a mission to retrieve the golden harp and awake the six sleepers.
In his way is Brenin LLwyd, the Grey King, who is one of the
ancient dark powers. His unlikely new friend turns out to
be a son of power out of time.
What I liked about this book is the explanation pronunciation of Welsh
names. Where many place Arthur in the midlands or lakes area,
it seem that Susan Cooper is for the hills of Wales.
This book is the third of these serial tales that I have read,
and I think Greenwitch (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) may be slightly better in characterization and plot.
Others have done this kind of writing better that I have read.The Owl Service is a good example.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I've posted this review, in basically this form, for all five of the "Dark is Rising" CD audiobook sets, because there aren't many other reviews of the CD sets. I have all five sets and have been uniformly pleased with the audio quality.

I'll skip any summary of this book or of the series; dozens of reviewers have done that quite well. I assume that you are familiar with these books, probably have read this volume, (likely more than once), but now wish to have the book available as an audio CD. Perhaps a long car trip is in the offing? Good for you.

I am happy to report that, at least for me, this audio version gets high marks across the board.

First, I can hear it and understand it. No mushy sound recording. No odd imbalance in volume that requires you to keep turning the volume up and then down. All of the spoken words are crisp and clear.

Second, there are no sound effects or such folderol.

Third, there is a single reader. This is not a play for voices and is not read by a number of different character actors.

Fourth, Richard Mitchley is an effective reader. There are a lot of Welsh characters in this book and Mitchley gets that across without being so authentic in his accents that he becomes hard to understand. His approach is flavorful but not overly dramatic. Much like Alex Jennings, who read the other four books, he is not coy or arch, and does not ham up any of the big scenes. He succeeds in establishing a distinct and recognizable identity for each character.

Finally, the reading is very respectful. By that I mean the book is not read as though it were just some silly children's book. It is treated as the triumphant work that it is and this adds greatly to its weight and impact.

Please note that like all of the CD books this reading is unabridged. There are 5 compact discs. Runtime is a bit over five and a half hours.
Enjoy.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising Sequence)
The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising Sequence) by Susan Cooper (Paperback - October 1, 1999)
$7.99

Silver on the Tree (The Dark Is Rising Sequence)
Silver on the Tree (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) by Susan Cooper (Paperback - May 8, 2007)
$8.99
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.