★ ★ ★ ★
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin | 1968 (Bantam edition 1980) | Bantam Books (an imprint of Random House) | This edition out of print
Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth. Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.
I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about this story, which is too bad because I think that it really does deserve all the praise it has garnered over the years. This brief review is due to a lack of extreme feeling and ineloquence on my part rather than to a lack of merit on the part of the book.
This is a tight little character/lesson-focused fantasy in what I think of as the “old style” — this is a little difficult for me to define in my current state of mind, but I’m reading a recently published fantasy book with a very similar setting right now, so I hope to write a little more about what I think of as “old” and “new” SFF when I get around to reviewing this more recent title.
I was reminded of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, both series that I loved as a kid (and still do). This book, like those, seems to written primarily for older children with the intention of delivering difficult life lessons disguised — successfully, actually — as fantastic adventures. It isn’t that children are too stupid to know how to figure out the moral of a story. No, it’s just that if the plot is paced well and the characters are sympathetic and the prose is nearly perfectly sculpted, it doesn’t feel so much likethe kind of “morality bludgeoning” that can ruin an otherwise lovely tale.
I do wish I’d read this book as a young teen. It’s exactly the sort of thing that I’d have devoured over and over again. After all, the whole point of the story is self-discovery and defeating one’s own demons (um, spoiler alert?), which are exactly the sorts of books that I couldn’t get enough of at that age. Alas! I’m putting off reading the rest of the Earthsea books indefinitely. I do think I want to try some more Le Guin books in the future, though. Can you believe I hadn’t tried any before now? How could I call myself a true SFF fan?!?!
- Official website of Ursula K. Le Guin
- Le Guin’s interview with Wired
- Excerpts from Le Guin’s The Paris Review interview at Tor
Publication information: Le Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea. New York: Bantam, 1980. Print.
Source: Galveston Bookshop
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.