Although, Will Stanton was in the previous two books, The Dark is Rising and Greenwitch, in this book he loses part of his mind to illness for awhile and travels to family in Wales to recover. So here, Welsh is the language for the landscape and native language of the other characters. Having never heard Welsh, I have to assume that Richard was doing a good job with the difficult pronunciations and accents of Welsh people speaking English. Richard gave it a different feel that complemented the new setting.
At first it is a bit of a disappointment, that Will is on his own. The Drew children are not in this book at all and Merriman only appears in a minor role. But we are introduced to interesting new characters, mainly another boy Will's age, Bran Davis. Bran is an albino with a strict father and a somewhat magical dog, Cafall. Dogs and dog-like creatures have major roles in this book, for both the Light and the Dark. But, sadly, still no significant female characters.
The Grey King is a Dark lord whose power is in the mountain and fogs in the area. Will and Bran must overcome his attempts to stop their quest to find a harp of gold and "wake the sleepers", as told in rhymes of prophesy found in the previous book.
I felt more deeply for the characters in this story. Will and Bran are old beyond their years, so more mature than the Drew children. There is more danger, and less innocence. I also enjoyed the mixing of Arthurian and Welsh legends. This book had me looking up a lot of interesting things I hadn't heard about before. Since The Grey King also won the Newbery Medal in 1976, I assume some others felt that way too.
Like Greenwitch, I listened to The Grey King three times this past year and enjoyed it as much, or more each time. I just wish it didn't end so abruptly. It is hard to choose, but I think this is my favourite in the series.
Something to think about in the current political climate. It is a theme continued in the next and last book, Silver on the Tree. Will is having a serious talk with a fully-human, adult friend, John Rowlands.
“Will picked a single blossom from a gorse bush beside him; it shone bright yellow on his grubby hand. "People are very complicated," he said sadly.
"So they are," John Rowlands said. His voice deepened a little, louder and clearer than it had been. "But when the battles between you and your adversaries are done, Will Stanton, in the end the fate of all the world will depend on just those people, and on how many of them are good or bad, stupid or wise. And indeed it is all so complicated that I would not dare foretell what they will do with their world. Our world.”
Title: The Grey King (The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book 4)
Author: Susan Cooper
Audible Audio Edition
Narrator: Richard Mitchley
Duration: 5 hours and 40 minutes
Publisher: Listening Library (April 12, 2007)
Other Formats: paperback/Kindle ebook
Print length: 224 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, (October 1, 1999)
(First Edition: Chatto & Windus, 1975)
Kindle ASIN: B000FC0PEE
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