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The Grey King (1975)

by Susan Cooper

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Dark is Rising Sequence (4)

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5,721851,682 (4.13)208
In this fourth book of The Dark Is Rising sequence, Will Stanton, visiting in Wales, is swept into a desperate quest to find the golden harp and to awaken the ancient Sleepers.
  1. 41
    The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander (infiniteletters)
    infiniteletters: The Grey King is technically Book 4 of a series, but it could be read alone. Silver on the Tree also has Welsh mythology.
  2. 00
    The Eye of the Storm by Nicholas Wilde (bookel)

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» See also 208 mentions

English (83)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (85)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Not a fan but the audio reader is excellent ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
Not a fan but the audio reader is excellent ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
For me, each book in the series isn’t as good as the previous one. “The Grey King” has its good moments, but in general I found it a bit slow. At one point, the narrative is put on hold for a Welsh language lesson, where the main character learns how to improve his pronunciation.

Although I like Will Stanton, he isn’t as endearing as the three Drew siblings from Books 1 and 3. If they’d been part of the story, it would’ve added some brightness and variety.

The author’s good at bringing the landscape to life but is too fond of adverbs. Adverbs ‘tell’, not ‘show’.

So, worth a read, but it’s not something I’d return to for a second time. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Nov 5, 2021 |
Susan Cooper writes a wonderful story and The Dark is Rising series is among her best work. I find the characters relatable and engaging but she truly shines in her storytelling which draws you into both the current story and all the back story too. ( )
  KateKat11 | Sep 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Cooperprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dillon, JulieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heslop, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchley, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekkanen, PanuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through 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 guide
To 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 tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.
Although all the characters in this book are fictitious, the places are real. I have however taken certain liberties with the geography of the Dysynni Vallen and Tal y Llyn, and there are no real farms where I have made Clwd, Prichard's and Ty-Bont stand.

The Brenin Llwyd I did not invent.

I am grateful to the Rev. Kenneth Francis, Mr J.L. Jones and Mrs. Eira Crook for kindly checking my Welsh.
First words
"Are you awake, Will?"
When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This LT work, The Grey King, is Book 4 (of 5 Books) in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence. Please distinguish it from other single titles in the series, and from any combination(s) of part or all of the series. Thank you.
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In this fourth book of The Dark Is Rising sequence, Will Stanton, visiting in Wales, is swept into a desperate quest to find the golden harp and to awaken the ancient Sleepers.

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Average: (4.13)
0.5 1
1 11
1.5 1
2 17
2.5 11
3 154
3.5 62
4 411
4.5 65
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