THE GREY KING
Will Stanton, youngest of the Old Ones, goes to visit his Welsh relatives to recover from a serious illness and complete the first quest he has undertaken on his own. Aided only by the mysterious albino boy, Bran, and his gray-eyed dog, Cafall, Will must find the magic golden harp and use it to defeat the Grey King of the mountain and awaken The Sleepers, who will be powerful allies of the Light in its final stand. Strangely enough it is the very real peril of two dogs--Cafall and Pen, who become pawns of the Grey King and are accused of sheep killing by the villainous farmer Caradog Prichard--which occasions most of the suspense. In the whole epic tug of war between Good and Evil, Cafall's death is the first loss worth tears and it makes us care deeply about his loyal, grieving owner, Bran. . . who turns out to be the son of Guinevere and King Arthur, but that's another matter. The Welsh-accented spells, the gray, spirit foxes who come out of the hills to prey, the climactic battle of enchantments between the swans and cormorants commanded by Will and the seething fish controlled by the Grey King must stir even the most sluggish imagination. Yet Will's special status as an Old One--his ability to summon a new, previously unheard of spell or power at each crisis--tends to lull the reader into passivity; there's something alienating about not knowing the rules ahead of time. Although the imagery here is somewhat more familiar and less eerie, this is every bit as grandly orchestrated as Green-witch (1974). Cooper is clearly building towards a thumping conclusion in the fifth and next volume and even those of us who have doubts about the significance of all this thunderous moral absolutism will want to get in on the action.