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Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

>>Saturday, June 5, 2010

Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Pages: 183
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: A

I read this novel as part of a challenge held at Jawas Read, Too! called Summer of Series. For June we are reading the first three books of Le Guin's Earthsea books. This is the first book in the series and be warned my review contains some spoilers.

This is a novel about a boy named Ged, or “sparrowhawk” as he is nicknamed, who is found and trained as a wizard. He trains at a school where, due to his clashing with another student Jasper, he unleashes a shadow that will follow him for quite a long time. It becomes his quest to fix this mistake and restore balance.

This book is quite short but I thought it was the right length due to the very oral quality of the narrative. I found I was reading it in short bursts because my reading became slower, as if I was reading it aloud. You could very well read it aloud to yourself or to your kids and I think they’d really enjoy it.

I really liked the main character, Ged. When he is young he is powerful yet he doesn’t know it, suffers from typical flaws of children such as pride and the need to prove oneself to his friends. Good thing he has his friend Vetch around to keep him on the straight and narrow, but Ged still makes a pretty terrible mistake.

One part I loved was the time when Ged gets his first assignment on Pendor. He is to protect the people if and when the dragons from the west decide to attack their islands. What I loved is how, due to his want to go back to Roke because of the shadow following him, he decides to just go to the dragon nest and do away with them so he could leave his position. I thought how nonchalant this decision was to be really amusing because Ged defeats a handful of dragons and outwits another one just because he wants to go back to Roke. He doesn’t even know how powerful he is. I also thought the implication of him doing such epic things only because of the pressure of the shadow. What if he had no shadow to worry about? Would he still have done away with the dragons? Perhaps the shadow has helped him get even further than he would ever go.

Also, a lot of people have compared Harry Potter to this book. I agree with the similarities. There’s a wizard school with a bunch of wizardy subjects, odd teachers, and magic. I also have to say this novel had to have been a huge inspiration for the Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon. The areas that are similar are the power of names and language, particularly the existence of a “true” language where only the truth can be spoken with it. I always like this type of play with names and words and is a reason I love both books.

I really wished we got to see more of Ged in school since Le Guin did gloss over a lot of his tests and things like that. Even though it’s now a common subject to watch a kid learn magic at a wizard school, I still would have liked to see what Le Guin would have come up with in more detail. Overall, I have to recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, and I especially to encourage kids to read this book as well. A

4 comments:

  1. Admittedly, I have never quite warmed to LeGuin, but maybe I'll give her another try this summer. :)

    And -- left you an award on my own blog -- here :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved Ged's friendship with Vetch! Vetch is such a good friend to Ged…

    I really like the point you make about Ged perhaps needing the shadow to reach his true potential. It's an interesting point to make. If the shadow is all about finding the balance between one's inner self (the good and the bad) then truly one must be able to overcome the bad, to overwhelm it with good in order to be the best possible wizard (since wizards seem to be good folk).

    I recognized the similarities between what Rowling did and what Le Guin originally did about 30 years before, too. I can't say exactly if Rowling was influenced by A Wizard of Earthsea, but I would like to think so! :)

    Thank you for participating with me and writing a lovely review. I hope you'll keep participating for the rest of June? :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, I am participating for the rest of June! I'm read the Tombs of Atuan now. I hope I'll be done by Saturday or Sunday! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I found his defeat of the dragons interesting as well, but for another reason.

    It continued to show the impatience Ged has for things to come to him. He gambles at several points in the story and tries to speed things up to help himself out. Here is pays off for him in finding the name of the dragon. Earlier he's not quite as successful and is forced to go on the run for much of the story, even losing his cute little critter friend along the way. (I will admit I was sad when the critter passed away after saving Ged).

    I'll admit I didn't love this one as much as other participants do. But I'm glad I read it and can see some of the roots of fantasy in it.

    ReplyDelete

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