Andres's Reviews > The Grey King

The Grey King by Susan Cooper
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Sep 03, 11

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bookshelves: fiction
Read from September 02 to 03, 2011

Finally this series has a book that almost hits all the right notes, but it's a shame that it had to happen so late, in the second to last book.

Pro: Will is finally Seeking on his own! Merriman isn't there to help or lead or whatever.
Con: Instead of being led to the Thing of Power, he stumbles onto it. Not much of a challenge, but slightly more interesting.

Pro: New location, new characters, new "bad guy".
Con: At its heart, this is just another hunt for a Thing of Power.

Pro: The dangers to Will and company are more "real" here than in the previous 3 books. There's a guy with a gun who shoots a loved one dead, for goodness sake!
Con: Dangers yes, but still only a notch above harassment. If this is truly a battle between two forces heading toward the end game, they're not playing hard enough to convince us that it's for keeps. You know, it's for the world, forever and ever and ever. Try a little harder, the Dark!

A bit of my old complaints (capitalizing things, lack of explanations) still stand. Here we have capitalized the Spell of Helledd and the Spell of Caer Garadawg, Old Speech, and the Law is mentioned again somewhere. At this point they're mumbo jumbo words that I'm sure are referring to real myths or legends, but since they're just thrown out here without making it a part of larger cohesive whole, they come off as something used to spice up the story and not used in any special way to make it the author's own, to make it belong to the world of the story being written about here rather than just coming off as an un-footnoted reference.

And speaking of, a whole subplot is almost lost to too subtle of an allusion (if one is not familiar enough with Arthurian legend). This is very frustrating to run into because not everyone is going to know enough to get the hints, and may leave them wondering what the hell all of that was about. If you can spend many words lavishly describing the scenery, or reiterating the same gobbledegook about the Dark and the Light in each book, you can throw in a passage explaining who everybody is to avoid confusing a reader.

"But the next book will explain it all!" one might say in defense of hundreds of pages of lukewarm adventure and vague explanations. "Much too late to redeem everything that has passed" says I.

Really, I can see that this book was much better than the previous three (though I can't figure why it would have won the Newbury Medal) but it still carries the same flaws, though to a lesser extent. The quick resolution and ending leave much to be desired, so I can only hope that unanswered questions are tied up in the next one. But after 4 books of just okay adventures and magic, I can't imagine the last book making up for it all.
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