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The Grey King

(The Dark Is Rising #4)

by
4.18  ·  Rating details ·  34,723 ratings  ·  837 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
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Mass Market Paperback, 165 pages
Published February 17th 1990 by Scholastic (first published 1975)
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Heather It really does make more sense if you read the first three books - at least the previous two, since Vol2 introduces Will (who is a protagonist in this…moreIt really does make more sense if you read the first three books - at least the previous two, since Vol2 introduces Will (who is a protagonist in this book) and Vol3 leads into into this one (the thing Will "loses" at the beginning of this book is something that he learned in Vol3.(less)

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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mark monday
boy meets boy; antics ensue.

boy with Old soul meets boy with dog with old soul; old king wishes they never met.

sick boy with too many siblings meets sickly boy with some serious father issues.

little weirdo meets his match in another little weirdo; the latter teaches the former how to pronounce Welsh words.

super-powered boy meets albino boy with golden eyes; the former teaches the latter the meaning of friendship, power, and why old kings are bad news for everyone.

Ancient Immortal Being meets Boy
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Nikki
Dec 24, 2013 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
Maggie Stiefvater
Dec 15, 2009 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.
J.M. Hushour
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know you love a book from your childhood a lot when you go out of your way on trips abroad to see the places where the action happened. Cooper's fourth novel in the DiR series is so steeped, no, drowned! in all things Welsh that you can't help but want to get the hell there and check it out. Which I did many years ago. Her works in this series especially are refulgent and replete with all kinds of British lore, especially Arthurian, and then some, but she reaches new heights of weaving them ...more
Nikki
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 ...more
Tim
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
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Lightreads
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
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Nikki
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
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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
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Lexish
Jun 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: middle school onwards
Shelves: newbery-medal
This is one of the most well-written young adult books I've ever read. They don't write 'em like this anymore! There's a reason Susan Cooper won the Newbery Medal for this. Her incredible, melodic descriptive language and her ability to interweave history, mythology, legend, and good old-fashioned fiction bring this book far beyond a traditional "boy with special powers" book. If you appreciate the English language and if you have an interest in history and legend, this one is for you. Susan ...more
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 ...more
Nikki
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.

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Nikki
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
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Magill
Another slim book, at a YA length, which I think hurts the arc of this story to some extent, comprising the harp AND the sleepers. While the author's writing never feels hurried in description or tone, it seems that more time could have benefited the details and the character development of the story.

Things happen quickly, even if described leisurely-ly; whys or why-nots are left unanswered (why Will's memory loss, when it came back so easily; why Bran and Cafall's initial behavior, except for
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LPG
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay the series has turned enjoyable again!

It's funny, I think Cooper realised she'd made Will close to infallible in the previous book, so she's whacked him with a memory loss inducing illness at the start of this one. A bit ham handed but I'm just so thankful she realised the corner she'd written herself into!

The illness is also an excellent excuse to move the whole story to Wales (Cause dontcha know? When you're recovering from a life threatening fever, rainy Wales is the PERFECT place to do
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Pam Baddeley
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
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Joyce
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like The Dark is Rising, this is a darker series entry with the dangers greater and peril at every turn. It's Will Stanton's story again, and he is aided by an odd, albino boy Bran who has an intriguing past. A poem of sorts has run through the series, identifying what has been happening--the finding of the 6 who go against the Dark and the accoutrement that accompanies them from the grail in the first volume to the beginning of the search for the golden harp in this one, along with the ...more
James
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's so much fun to return to this series with a different level of accumulated age and wisdom and a deeper understanding of the Arthurian tales that run in an undercurrent through each book. While Dark is Rising is my favorite, this is a close second. After reading other series that have covered similar ground (The Raven Cycle and The Sarantine Mosaic in particular), these adventures feel like familiar territory.

In this reading, I found myself feeling like the first half was rushed.
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David
Apr 05, 2010 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
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Nikki
Mar 09, 2011 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
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Steven Bell
Dec 12, 2015 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
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Chris
Jan 29, 2013 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 ...more
Stephen Polidore
So far my least favorite of the series, it did have a good ending though. It was able to tug more at my emotions but lacked a certain amount of structure which left it less satisfying. Hopefully the final book picks back up.
Angela Johnson
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bran is a precious child
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
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Kristina
2018 Review
The Grey King by Susan Cooper is the third (or fourth) book in her Dark is Rising series. Will Stanton must continue his quest to find the Things of Power to help the Light in their power against the Dark. A serious illness sends him to an uncle's sheep farm in Wales to recuperate. There he meets Bran, a very strange boy, and his faithful canine companion Cafall. They both are important to Will’s quest.

Even though I like this book, I dread reading it because of the terrible thing
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Sylvie
Mar 04, 2016 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
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Marsha
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
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L.H. 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 ...more
Lynn
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
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Other books in the series

The Dark Is Rising (5 books)
  • Over Sea, Under Stone
  • The Dark Is Rising
  • Greenwitch
  • Silver on the Tree
“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.” 8 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.” 7 likes
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