Pros: fantasy that transcends time, space, or description
Cons: far more than a children's book
I think that some books in the world are waiting for us to discover them, perhaps for us to come to a time in our lives where were ready and receptive and can most enjoy them. Thats definitely what I think about this glorious series Ive discovered its been waiting a long time for me to find it!
A Wizard of Earthsea is Ursula Le Guins first novel in the Earthsea Cycle, a remarkable fantasy series made up of four books. In this story we meet Sparrowhawk, a talented, proud, and ignorant boy with extraordinary powers and not an ounce of wisdom to contain them. His faint knowledge and reckless bravery saves his village from an invading army, where his skill is recognized by a traveling wizard named Ogion, and he is given his real name, Ged. Restless under the slow, unsatisfying training of his new master, Ged chooses to attend the School for Wizards on Roke Island. Destiny awaits him there, not only in his magical education but in the taunts of a schoolmate who drives Ged to perform a spell that no prentice may call up. He must pay a heavy price for his rebellion and anger, yet ever is drawn towards his higher purpose even through failures.
Haunted by the evil shadow he has called into the world, Ged emerges from Roke a wizard with many scars and a small portion of wisdom. Through his wanderings, after defeating an ancient dragon and a powerful sorcerer by wits rather than strength, he once again meets Ogion, and there Ged realizes he must face the shadow and hunt the hunter that will destroy him if he doesnt destroy it. But the secret that will defeat his enemy is one that none can tell him: its name. And none can destroy his own inward enemy, pride and desire for power.
This is one of the most powerful and absorbing fantasy novels youll ever come across in any age range of fiction. Earthsea is a complex, richly devised world of fantasy with a majesty and magnificence of immense proportion, yet with a simplicity throughout that makes the story accessible to poor mortals like us. It gives us an electrifying glimpse into the world of magic not the cutesy poo or cliched circle of broomsticks and magic swords, but the deep magic, the terrifying realm of shadows, enchantments, and power. This is the stuff classics in the genre are made of, and Earthsea has gracefully taken its place beside Middle Earth, Narnia, Prydain, and Oz. Moreover, its a magical realm that adults and teens can enter easily, without either feeling dumb or over their heads in the least.
A Wizard of Earthseas secret, at least to this fantasy-crazed reader, is what makes it soar far above most in its genre: how wonderfully artistic and inspired it is. Layer upon layer of carefully devised magic and narrative descriptions come together in a mature, imaginative tale of epic proportion. While we stand right beside Ged in his intense struggles with himself and the darkness, we also get to fly out across a wide expanse of unearthly lands, backdrops, and forces at work in Earthsea, a very exhilarating experience for someone who cant get enough of the fantastic worlds in the older books.
Wonder of wonders, I found this book in the kids section of the library. Granted, it is a very refreshingly clean fantasy - it eschews the sex, profanity, and graphic violence that often characterizes the genre - but I think the label also keeps some readers from picking up this amazingly deep and rewarding fantasy. A Wizard of Earthsea is so far beyond the norm of its genre, it belongs on its own special shelf with all those other rock-your-world series like Lord of the Rings and The Dark is Rising. In fact, I think the library should make a shelf like this. It would do poor bibliophiles like me a favor. Yet this book is targeted to kids. Far be it from me to deny a child passage into the ancient land of Faerie, but I think this forceful story is a special corridor for young adults and yes grownups. The darkness and intensity of the tale give it character and a spiritual edge without venturing into horrific or graphic territory, making it entirely appropriate for readers in their early teens on up to adults.
A lot of fantasy novels you can just read and forget all about it several days later. A good one will stick with you forever. This one stays in your brain and soul long after youve finished, haunting you with a memory of beauty and lingering magic. Its a sweet sensation, finding a new treasure, and Im devouring the sequels as fast as I can! I can tell Ill be returning to Earthsea many times after the series is over.
Master, I go hunting a good book
Though its somewhat of a wandering story that is, a story whose plot takes its protagonist wandering A Wizard of Earthsea is nevertheless a very compelling novel with a strong, engaging plot. Its hard not to get hooked into Geds convincingly personal adventures and encounters with the spiritual and physical world. The nice thing about this books plot is that you feel a sense of direction and purpose in the midst of the main characters confusion and searching. So you get that tug of drama and despair as well as the benefit of a well-laid out and formidable story. But that doesnt begin to express the wonder of this book. Forgive me, my pen is mortal
The characters, while not abundant and not too prominent in the book, are nevertheless excellently drawn. Picture romantic storybook-type figures sprung to life with a realness youve never seen before and youll begin to see who Earthsea is populated by. Its quite impressive (to say the least) to watch Ged transform himself (literally and metaphorically) as he grows in both mage and human wisdom. I ached with him through the evil he brought upon himself and the perils he had to face; through the intimate third-person narrative (no thats not a contradiction!), I journeyed with Ged and took his joy and pain on me. The other characters were great, especially the Masters at the school, the friends and rivals Ged makes there, and the perilously wise dragons he faces later on; but the proud, determined protagonist leaves them all behind (once again, in two senses).
Very early on in the book I fell hopelessly in love with LeGuins riveting storytelling. How could I do otherwise? She tells her story with a grace and knowledge that makes amateur writers like me cry in despair and yet reach for that standard of mastery. I think that clear, knowing, and secretly intricate best describe the writing style of A Wizard of Earthsea, though a hundred other adjectives leap to mind like exquisite and intense. Its a beautiful narrative in the simple way it includes all its readers; youd have to really try hard to not slip into the vivid, hauntingly phrased world of life LeGuin creates here.
One of the things that I especially savored in this book was the concept of names and their power. Not the astrological stuff, but simply the power that one has by knowing a persons or objects true name; when you know the oceans true name, for instance, you can control it. This idea is explored quite thoroughly in A Wizard of Earthsea and is used to powerful effect. It was so interesting to see how Le Guin herself used this theme. She could have easily called Ged by his nickname used by the other characters Sparrowhawk. But by using his true name, Ged, in the narrative, shes in effect giving the readers power and influence over him, and trusting the readers to use the knowledge wisely. At least thats how Im seeing it. Kinda neat, isnt it?
There are a whole lot more philosophical thoughts contained in this slim volume, not as many as in the sequels, sort of just introducing the themes of evil and so forth elaborated on throughout the series. The best of the thematic stuff is yet to come; this book thrives on just the depths of its storytelling. Its quite enough to make it a wonderful story, and its quite enough for me.
Remember to pick up the three sequels The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu when you get A Wizard of Earthsea, so you arent left hanging. This fantastic piece of fiction will definitely leave you wanting to linger more in Earthsea and may quickly become one of your favorites. I cant wait to read the next installment, and you can be sure Ill be purchasing this series next time I go to the bookstore. Long live Ged!