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The Grey King (The Dark Is Rising #4)

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  28,258 Ratings  ·  627 Reviews
"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 Wi
Mass Market Paperback, 165 pages
Published February 17th 1990 by Scholastic (first published 1975)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) You really need Vol2, at least, where Will Stanton is introduced as the sign-seeker. I find the "Drew family" stories unnecessary and not as…moreYou really need Vol2, at least, where Will Stanton is introduced as the sign-seeker. I find the "Drew family" stories unnecessary and not as well-written.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 28, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readin2006
I know it's not a commonly held opinion among fans of The Dark is Rising sequence, but I actually have preferred the books with the Drews, rather than just Will Stanton, but this was still a great read. I'm grateful for the little Welsh pronunciation lesson Bran gave Will, otherwise I would have been way off the mark with the names. My only complaint is not enough Merriman, but overall it was really exciting and I'm anxious to start the final volume of the series.
Jan 27, 2016 Rowan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fantasy, fiction
This is certainly the most grown up book of the series so far. There is more real-world violence and adult themes, including violent animal death and mention of an attempted rape.

Will is back again, and almost has a personality this time. We also get to meet Bran, whom I like almost as much as Jane. The Drew siblings do not appear in this book. There were parts that got bogged down with exposition, and I didn't think it was clear at the beginning that Will had forgotten he was an Old One, until
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 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
Maggie Stiefvater
Dec 15, 2009 Maggie Stiefvater rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
*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.
Inspired Kathy
Mar 18, 2010 Inspired Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Book 4 in the Dark is Rising Series is probably my favorite of the series so far.
Jul 23, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Old Ones, raven boys, Welsh sheepdogs
July 2013 reread

This 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
Mar 09, 2011 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Sarll
Straddling Hallowe'en (of which surprisingly little is made) in an unnaturally hot autumn, this was the book I remembered least from The Dark is Rising, but the prizewinner. Both those things could be explained by dullness, but no, this is maybe the best yet - surprisingly small scale in terms of what mortal eyes could see happening, but (like Machen's 'White People', set in the same Welsh hills) rich in the strange significance thereof. And even at the mundane level, it's a quietly heartbreakin ...more
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 might be the best book of the series so far. It's at least equally well written but I think the prose seemed even better with this one. Perhaps I'm just getting much more into the style but I don't think that's it. The story has definitely become more intense and suspenseful in this book and I can feel it building and building toward the main conflict of the series.
Maria Elmvang
A 3.5 star review.

I was glad to see that I finally warmed to Will in this one, and I really liked Bran. His heritage was perhaps slightly contrived, but I thought it worked well enough. I'm not really sure I get what the Grey King was trying to do though... perhaps just work chaos, because he also knew who Bram was?

I'm still not blown away by this series, but it is turning out to be better than I'd originally thought, and now it would just be silly not to finish it ;-)
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
Jan 29, 2013 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 05, 2013 Neula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my favourite of The Dark is Rising series as a child and some of the images and characters within the book have stayed with me over the years. Re-visiting this book as an adult I can see why. Cooper's prose is beautifully crafted, the Welsh countryside is a place of latent magic where everyday things - a pebble, a sheepdog, an overgrown pathway - are transformed into powerful symbols, weapons in the fight between the Light and the Dark.

And in the centre of it all the character of Bran;
Ben Babcock
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 ...more
LH Johnson
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 ...more
Dec 24, 2013 Nikki rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
"The Grey King" is the fourth volume in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence, and in the opinion of many, the best of that series. (The fact that it won the Newbery Medal doesn't hurt the claim.)

In this book, Will Stanton is on his own, recovering from a severe illness that has suppressed the knowledge of his powers and duties as an Old One. Sent to a relative's farm in Wales to recuperate, it is not long, however, before he is set upon the path of another quest - and meets a strange, whit
Steven Bell
Feb 18, 2016 Steven Bell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Moraes the Bookworm
The Grey King is possibly my favourite book of this sequence. It's a lovely, lovely book. This is the most layered of the books, I think: 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 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 co
Ben De Bono
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
Mar 04, 2016 Sylvie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is my favorite book so far of the series! Magical and mysterious and with a lovely tie-in to one of my favorite legends. Will is again our main protagonist, and travels to North Wales after being very ill. While there he meets a strange, pale boy and his equally unusual dog - together they confront the dark yet again. This is also the most intense book of the series so far, and a bit more violent than the previous entries, but still appropriate for most readers. I'm excited to start the las ...more
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
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
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
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
Rachel Joy
This was really a 3.5 for me.

This is the continuing story of Will Stanton in his quests to acquire the Things of Power in order to defeat the Dark, and save the world.
It's well written but I found myself wishing that the lengthy descriptions of the scenery and the various magical happenings weren't quite so . . . well . . . long.
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Goodreads Librari...: alternate cover, please! 2 18 Mar 12, 2016 12:02AM  
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Susan Cooper's latest book is the YA novel "Ghost Hawk" (2013)

Susan Cooper was born in 1935, and grew up in England's Buckinghamshire, an area that was green countryside then but has since become part of Greater London. As a child, she loved to read, as did her younger brother, who also became a writer. After attending Oxford, where she became the first woman to ever edit that university's newspap
More about Susan Cooper...

Other Books in the Series

The Dark Is Rising (5 books)
  • Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, #1)
  • The Dark Is Rising (The Dark is Rising #2)
  • Greenwitch (The Dark Is Rising, #3)
  • Silver on the Tree

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“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... He heard Bran give a small chirrup of delight, a spark struck from the same bright sudden joy that filled his own being.” 7 likes
“He leaned forward suddenly, so that for an instant the strong, bearded face was clear; the voice softened, and there was an aching sadness in it. "Only the creatures of the earth take from one another, boy. All creatures, but men more than any. Life they take, and liberty and all that another man may have - sometimes through greed, sometimes through stupidity, but never by any volition but their own. Beware your own race, Bran Davies - they are the only ones who will ever harm you, in the end.” 6 likes
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