Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence continues (after Greenwitch) with The Grey King, possibly the most confusing but also inexplicably well-constructed book in the series so far. While this book has had less to explain than any of the other books (since I’ve been reading this series for about four books now), it still manages to have bafflingly new elements to it.
Welsh, for example. I don’t know who invented this language, but I’m really glad Cooper decided to sneak in a pronunciation guide of sorts within the first few chapters.
Memory loss – Will Stanton spends the first few chapters unaware that he’s an Old One, due to a rather nasty bout of hepatitis that left him with some amnesia. So for a bit, he’s just wandering around Wales, wondering why he has these silly rhymes beating about in his head.
An albino boy with a mysterious past, a mystical dog, and an arch-nemesis.
Oh, and a cameo from King Arthur. Also, hints that Merlin and Merriman Lyon might just be the same person. (But can we be sure?)
As Will goes traipsing around Wales with his new friend Bran, he has to find a magical golden harp that will help the Light in the final battle against the Dark. And he has to find it in a specific place that he hasn’t figured out, and it has to be on Halloween. Also, the Grey King, an ancient spirit who lives in the hills of Wales, is pretty determined that Will not get said harp. Apparently, the Grey King is a lord of the Dark. Who knew?
Most of these books, you spend some time wondering what’s going on, guess fairly well who the bad guy is, and get a few surprises. This one, you can guess fairly well who the bad guy is, and spend most of the book trying to figure out who exactly the good guys are. And by that, I mean you know who the good guys are, you’re just trying to figure out who they are, really. And sometimes even they don’t know. So it’s the most confusing so far to read, but the most impressive when it all somehow makes some sense and all the loose ends are tied up in the last few chapters.
Overall, I was impressed with the writing and story. I was even more impressed with the characters and their complexity, and now I just keep thinking how much I need to learn about British mythology and folklore. Apparently, I don’t know diddly-squat. ♦