I remember clearly the day that the librarian in my local public library pressed OVER SEA, UNDER STONE into my ten-year-old hand. I loved its moody, sinister atmosphere, as well as its subtle non-Gandalfy magic. Its sequel, THE DARK IS RISING, threw me for a loop when it veered away from the protagonists in the first book, introducing a new one.
By the time I got to THE GREY KING, though, I was hooked, in that galloping, all-consuming reading mode I sometimes fall into. My memory of this book is that of anger, though, and though I may have liked it, I didn’t enjoy it. You see, somewhere in the middle of reading this book, I did something–I don’t recall what, although knowing me, it probably involved refusing to do something–that upset my mom so much that, in order to punish me, she took this book away for two or three weeks. Of any punishment I ever received from my parents, this one was the worst. At the time, I only read one book at a time, and read each one to completion. Not finishing a book felt like cheating somehow. Not only was a I deprived of the story I was immersed in, but I found it incredibly difficult to start a new book. I mean, now, it feels wildly overly dramatic to say that it felt like the emotional equivalent of losing a friend, but it did kind of feel that way.
Then, when I finally got my hands on THE GREY KING again, I felt like I had to start the book over from the beginning. I think I might have enjoyed the book more, but every moment reading it reminded me of what had happened, filling me with anger. How can emotion not affect one’s experience of reading a book? I’ve always meant to re-read Susan Cooper’s series, but never quite got around to it. I suspect it has something to do with the emotional associations I have with this book.
So, to parents of budding bibliophiles, please don’t ever take your kid’s book away. They’ll probably never forget it, long after they’ve forgotten just everything about the book itself.
As for the book, the cover’s no lie. The book features a giant silver wolf. This book was also my first encounter with Wales, which I don’t think I had ever heard of before.
In spite of rage-flecked memories of this book, I’m pretty sure I would recommend it, and the rest of the series, to just about anyone.