Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow has already reviewed Over Sea, Under StoneThe Dark is Rising, and Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Today she reviews the fourth book in The Dark is Rising series: The Grey King.

Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoyed reading the previous books in The Dark Is Rising series, then this might be the book for you.

There is a Welsh legend about a harp of gold, hidden within a certain hill, that will be found by a boy and a white dog with silver eyes–a dog that can see the wind. Will Stanton knows nothing of this when he comes to Wales to recover from a severe illness.

from the back cover of The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Will Stanton, an Old One, has lost his memory. He is sent to Wales, to live with his mother’s cousin for a little bit, because he is supposed to be healed by the sea air. When he gets to Wales, he meets a lot of people. One of the people he meets is not a nice person. Caradog Prichard is a cruel man who dislikes everyone. But on the brighter side, Will also meets Bran. Bran is very pale as he is an albino. His skin and hair are white, but his eyes are gold. Caradog Prichard is blaming Bran’s dog, Cafall, constantly, because Caradog Prichard thinks that Cafall is killing his sheep. When Will meets Bran and starts to talk to him, Will starts to get his memory back. He remembers that he is an Old One, and he remembers his previous quests. And he realizes that Bran is “the raven boy” from this prophecy:

“On the day of the dead, when the year too dies, 
Must the youngest open the oldest hills 
Through the door of the birds, where the wind breaks.  
There fire shall fly from the raven boy, 
And the silver eyes that see the wind, 
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.”

The prophecy continues, but I won’t write all of it. But even when Will recognizes Bran in the prophecy, there is more about Bran than what he can know: Bran’s past is not what it seems. As Will discovers more about Bran, he uncovers a shocking truth. Do Bran’s roots come from the Light or from the Dark?

Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this was a very interesting book because the plot is very surprising. I wasn’t able to guess Bran’s background; it was so surprising.

I think that this would be a good book for 8 and up. This is not because it is scary, but because the plot might confuse younger readers.

I think that if you want to read this book alone, that’s fine, but I would suggest reading the previous books too. Also you might want to know a little bit about King Arthur, just a vague idea of his life. I should add that Sprinkles says The Grey King is her favorite from this series so far.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow recently read Over Sea, Under Stone written by Susan Cooper and first published in 1965. Today she is discussing it with Sprinkles.

Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, why don’t you start with a brief summary of what this book is about?

Marshmallow: Sure. Over Sea, Under Stone is about three kids, Barney, Simon and Jane. They are on vacation with their parents in Cornwall and are staying in an old house they rented together with an old family friend Great-Uncle Merry. Then they discover a mysterious map in a small room behind a wardrobe.

S: Oh, so like the kids in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first book written in the Chronicles of Narnia series, who find a new world within a wardrobe?

M: It is similar, but not quite the same. They do not go and find a new world inside the wardrobe. They find a map which allows them to see their own world through a new perspective.

S: How so?

M: When they show Great-Uncle Merry the map, he tells them of an ongoing war between good and evil, and that the warriors on both sides still are fighting it to this day.

S: Yes, this is a good summary I think. But this good versus evil fight is not as tied in with Christianity as it was in Narnia. Here, the good side is tied back to the King Arthur legends instead. It seems more directly connected to English lore. But the way you talked about the main characters, I also thought of a few other books you have reviewed for this blog. For example you reviewed Five Children and It by E. Nesbit and there too there were a few siblings that find something interesting during a family vacation. You also reviewed  Half Magic by Edward Eager which is similar.

M: Yes! And Half Magic by Edward Eager also involved the King Arthur legends in some ways.

S: So it seems like there is this genre of siblings, a handful of ordinary kids finding something extraordinary and then their lives change. Would you like that to happen to you and Caramel?

M: No!

S: Why not?

M: Possibly because they almost always get into real big trouble. Almost always there is a real big danger. And that’s not very appealing to me.

S: I see. But you seem to like reading about these kinds of things happening to other little bunnies. I guess you enjoy living vicariously through these characters’ adventures!

M: Yes! I will agree to that.

Marshmallow is reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow is reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

S: Apparently Susan Cooper, the author, wrote four more books about the same conflict between good and evil after this one, starting about ten years after having published this book. Together the five books make up the Dark is Rising sequence. Are you curious about those books?

M: Well, I am curious about what Cooper does with the world, but honestly I am not always too keen to read about female characters written in the time these books were written. They are almost always too stereotypical. I was disappointed with the female characters in Narnia, and here, too, I was disappointed that Jane always worried about cleanliness and her brothers always picked on her for being a girl.

S: I know what you mean. But I thought Jane was not too terrible. She did sense something was wrong with the Withers from the start. And the boys did eventually treat her a bit better. So maybe the other books will be a bit better?

M: I did read an excerpt of the second book at the end of this book and it seemed like there are a whole lot of new characters in there.

S: Yes, I think that is the case. I also heard that many people like that second book a lot. So we might just have to read it to see for ourselves, don’t you think?

M: Yes.

S: So let us wrap this up then. How would you rate this book?

M: Let me see. There was not much humor and the kids were a little too serious for me, I could not relate to any of them, but the story was quite intriguing and kept me wondering till the end.

S: Yes, it was quite stressful for me at times. I did think the author kept up the suspense well till the end.

M: I was not stressed myself but the story did work well. So I rate the book 95% and recommend it to other bunnies. Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!

Marshmallow rates Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager

This week Marshmallow reviews a 1954 classic, Half Magic by Edward Eager, the first book in his Tales of Magic series.

Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager.
Marshmallow reviews Half Magic by Edward Eager.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books about magical charms, and adventure stories about a handful of siblings, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): The four siblings Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha are expecting to have a very boring summer. That is until they find the charm. The charm that works by halves. If you made a wish while touching the charm, then half of your wish would come true. So in order to get your whole wish you would have to say it in this fashion. Let’s say you wish is to have a dog appear then you would say that you wanted two dogs to appear because if you wished that one dog would appear then one half of a dog would appear. (You probably wouldn’t want to have half of a dog.)

Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much that it has to be perfect?

The children decide that they will take turns to use the charm. It turns out that other people have knowledge of the charm that grants wishes and they happen to want the charm. In a desert, which they travel to on Mark’s wish — he wants a desert island but the charmed coin takes them to a desert –. a man tries to abduct Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha. When he realizes that they have the charm, he says that they stole it from his people. 

On Katharine’s turn to make a wish, they travel into the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. They help stop Morgan Le Fay, an evil sorceress in this retelling of the myth, from kidnapping and killing the Knights of the Round Table.

Marshmallow is pointing toward one of her favorite parts of the book, where Jane makes a foolish decision. Here Jane is wishing that she belonged to a different family.
Marshmallow is pointing toward one of her favorite parts of the book, where Jane makes a foolish decision. Here Jane is wishing that she belonged to a different family.

They have some problems though, before they figure out how to use the charm. For instance, Martha wishes that she was not at the place she was and since she didn’t say it the way you need to, she became half there and half not there. The children eventually learn how to use it, and in the end, they have a very exciting summer, not at all the one they thought lay ahead.

Marshmallow’s Review: Half Magic is a classic and I think a great read for all ages. Written in 1954, it successfully entertained children for many years and probably will do the same for many to come. I enjoyed Half Magic very much and look forward to reading more about these characters in Edward Eager’s other novels.

Marshmallow’s rating: 100% 

Marshmallow rates Half Magic by Edward Eager 100%. And she adds: "May the Fourth Be With You!"
Marshmallow rates Half Magic by Edward Eager 100%. And she adds: “May the Fourth Be With You!”