The Grey King (The Dark is Rising, Book 4) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-11-03 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 96 user ratings

" 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. " said.

" 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. " said.

"A brief jewel of a book. Here Cooper blends Arthurian legend with rural adventure, using young Will Stanton as a voice for the high level fight between Good and Evil. In this book, Will gets a deeper sense of the value of his fight, but also begins to understand how the battle removes him from the human world, which he discovers is full of petty viciousness--and wonderful goodness, all of it outside the concerns of legend and lore. There is wisdom a-plenty in this book, and the last paragraph so perfectly written it took my breath away." said.

"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; strange, arrogant and lonely, with a magical dog and a High Destiny - irresistible to bookish loners like my 8 year old self. In point of fact, Bran superseded the tent-living, harmonica-playing Snufkin of the moomin books (who set an early pattern for many subsequent heart-breaking involvements with foot-loose commitment-phobes) as the most important literary crush of my childhood.

I've never quite gotten over it.

" said.

"All my opinions about this book might not be helpful since I didn't read any of the other books in this series. I am one of those people trying to read all the Newbery medal winners, and The Grey King was on my list.

Fantasy novels are not an automatic win for me. But they aren't set up for failure either. But this book just didn't work for me. Mainly for the following two reasons:

1. They kill a dog. I really hate when dogs die in books. But I especially hate it when there really is no point. Characters didn't learn and grow from the experience. Sure, one of them was sad for awhile, but that then he was totally fine. And the person who killed the dog was a jackass before and continued being a jackass after. So no growth and insight there. One character can brag that "he totally called it" but that's it. Totally unacceptable.

2. It may have been explained in the books leading up to this one, but I don't get the powers that Will has. He is described to be crazy powerful and immortal and can control the wind? But yet is powerless against foggy clouds? Yeah, none of this really ends up helping him. All he really does is walk all over the Welsh countryside. Which actually sounds delightful.

Unless you have a dog. Odds are then that your dog is going to be shot for no reason at all.
" said.

"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 pages where it suddenly meant everything. And I find that so intriguing, the way my perception of a book can turn so wholly on a denouement, of the drawing of threads together to make a tightly woven masterpiece.

So Cooper is good, yes? If you have read
my previous reviews of this series, you'll know that. You'll know her soaring, graceful, double-edged prose and be familiar with it. I think, in a way, reading these books is teaching me more about writing and my attitude towards it. It is not a fantasy series for me at the moment, it is a series about that grey area between the worlds of reality and imagination, about those places where we fall through and touch the stories that have built us and brought us to where we are. And that's amazing and wondrous and something quite special, and something that will also keep me reading past pages where nothing very much happens because I know that, at some point, everything, but everything will happen.
" said.

"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 stands out but carries little weight or interest due to the lackluster plot.

Also there are a few plot elements that create tension but ultimately seem incredibly trivial and senseless: (Spoiler ahead!) For example, why on earth does it matter that the grey foxes are attacking sheep and making it seem like the work of a main character's sheep dog? Obviously this adds tension to the story for the main characters. But it a) seems pretty ridiculous on the part of the foxes--why do they have it in for this one sheep dog?--and b) is completely non-consequential compared to the bigger stakes of the dark rising and taking over the world. Just another example of Cooper's uneven plotting and inability to portray the nature of evil/darkness with any kind of depth. Compare it to other youth fantasy classics like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia and in every way (except for its interesting mythology) it comes up superficial and flat.

As an addendum, I tried reading the final book of the series, just to get the satisfaction of finishing it, and I gave up. I don't think I'll be back to this series.
" said.

"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 nature as well, that kind that will sacrifice individuals for the greater good.

But it’s his command of magic that truly bothers me. He gained knowledge of it all at once, by merely sitting down and reading a book, and now it seems that he can command it to suit almost any occasion. Time and again, he steps back and uses words in the Old Speech to battle his foes. He’s not entirely invincible; his enemies have powers of their own. But his abilities just leap forth with little or no reason at every occasion.

However, he’s not omnipotent. As if to compensate for his awesome gifts, the author hits him with an illness that lays him low, weakens his body and temporarily scatters his memory. He hasn’t entirely convalesced from this sickness and it drags him down at inconvenient moments throughout the book. As such, it seems like a mere contrivance, a neon sign the author has hung over his head that reads “See? He’s only human, after all.”

As a human foil, Will is saddled with Bran, an albino incongruously referred to as the “raven boy”, who also has a destiny to fulfill. While he’s initially hard to figure out, you sense that his distance is more mocking and deliberate, a veil to hide loneliness, than signs that he’s otherworldly. His personal drama becomes more compelling than Will’s quest, precisely because it is personal, rather than some high-minded goal. Even as he helps Will, his own desires and painful wants bring the much-needed touch of human warmth the book is lacking elsewhere.

The Grey King is building up to a powerful climax. But it must struggle to maintain humanity if readers are to remain interested in the outcome.
" said.

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