22 May 2014

The Grey King: 1976 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause

Will Stanton: The Youngest of the Old

"Yet singing the golden harp shall guide / To break their sleep and bid them ride."

Recovering from a hepatitis attack, young Englishman Will Staton is sent to the Welsh coast to recover at his mother's cousin's home.  He cannot recall at first that he the youngest immortal Old One, servants of the Light that protect the world from the Dark.  When he meets the albino boy, Bran Davies, and his white dog with silver eyes, Cafall, the quest comes back to memory.  Will must find the golden harp that will waken the six sleepers who will partake in the last battle against the Dark, but the Grey King, an agent of the Dark, is working hard to stop him, and the madman Caradog Pritchard, is making things difficult with his stories of sheep-killing dogs.  Can Will find the harp, and why can Bran see and understand the quest Will was given?

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence is my brother's absolute favorite series of fantasy novels.  But before I read this book for this project, I had not ever read any of the series, of which The Grey King is the fourth book.  While I devoured J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy, I never had a desire to read any of this series because it was something that belonged to my brother.

Like Tolkien and Lewis, Susan Cooper is a wonderful British author of fantasy, and this book is a wonderful example.  While I was a bit lost because I was reading the fourth book in her series, the tales soon captivated me and I was sucked into the land of Wales and an English newcomer to the land.  The story is a good rendition of the battle between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

Anyone who loves Arthurian legends of Briton will enjoy this book, and possibly this series, which I will have to read now.  The Grey King in particular draws from the legends of King Arthur and Guinevere, though I will not give away how that is possible in a book that takes place in 1970s Wales.  

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