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am 17. März 2000
This is a different fantasy story than what I am used to. Fantasy often involves page after page of trolls, dwarfs, elves and wizards with strange names locked in epic wars and quests. While that formula is all fine and good, by keeping action to a minimum and philosophy to a maximum, Ursula K. le Guin departs from it somewhat in the story "A Wizard of Earthsea."
The story involves the early exploits of the powerful archmage Ged, when he was a young man named Sparrowhawk. At a young age he is living with an abusive guardian, when he discovers he has magical powers. He then leaves this abusive person and goes off to wizard school to be learned in the arts of magery (sound familiar Potter fans?). There he befriends a fellow prentice named Vetch, and enters into a rivalry with another wizard prentice by the name of Jasper. This rivalry results in the release of a dark, evil shadow from the realm of "unlife" during a "wizard duel," when Ged casts a spell beyond his control. Ged then spends the length of the book first running from the shadow, which seeks to posses him, and then pursuing the shadow, seeking to destroy it, trying to undo the evil he had begun in a moment of stupid pride.
I have often felt that a good fantasy formula is pitting a fallible character(s) against the deeds of his errant actions. This formula is used in the Narnia books and also in Tolkien's stories. It is repeated in this book and works very well. While the obvious lack of action (although when there is action it happens with some amount of violence) may alienate traditional fantasy readers, the philosophy of the book and the examination of the balances between good and evil should appeal to adults and older children alike. The inclusion of maps and the well developed magic system, and the unique emphasis on names, also contributes to the plausibility of the book and gives it the characteristic feel of a good fantasy story. An excellent, highly-recommended book.
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am 19. Oktober 1999
Until now, I haven't read a fantasy or SF book by LeGuin that I didn't like. And this one, I love too. I've got the sequels next to my bed, ready to be devoured at night.
I love the epical language (some people seem to have problems with that and the 'hard' words, but what are dictionaries for, and I am even Dutch, so English is my second language), the character development, the heroic view on how life should be.
I love the idea of the powers of magic as depicted in this book. So much more realistic and modest than Tolkien. It makes it much more powerful to me.
What strikes me in this book, as well in the books of Exile and Illusion of LeGuin, is her love for travel stories. The main character always goes on a big quest to find something, to accomplish a goal. And each time it is different, it is written so well that you feel that this next long journey is necessary for character and story development. It deepens the plot, it pictures a strange world that is still quite similar to ours. LeGuin's books are not for the 'heavy action lovers', where long battles occur.
Special as well is the development of the shadow that is unleashed by Geb. It develops into a real human being, it is it's own shadow, and it is finally united with Geb. It makes me think of Yin and Yang.
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am 29. Mai 2000
Not only is the "Earthsea" trilogy a wonderful series for adolescents but it also contains profound wisdom for adults seeking their own path to individuation. Rich in timeless myth, the series has the young mage Ged surmount many trials on his way to understanding himself and therein lies the key to his ultimately becomming the Archmage of Roke. Each book in the series has the main story turn on the issue of trust between two people and upon Ged's courage in facing dark issues either within himself or in the enviroment. Ged is a powerful role for young people developing a sense of their inner integrity and for middle-agers every where beginning to deal with their shadow issues. Of course there are plenty of dragons, battles, transformations and journeys which can be enjoyed simply as a good storey, but don't pass up the chance to re-read to catch the deeper meaning. This series is too good to be eclipsed in popularity by LOTR and the Chornicles of Narnia, "Earthsea" stands on its own! If I haven't convinced you, please read the essay by Noel Perrin in his book, "A Child's Delight."
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am 21. Juni 2000
I have all four of the earthsea books, and have to say that the first one is the best. We are introduced to the major character in the series, Ged, and his beginnings to becoming an archmage. I remember reading this many years ago in high school and just being in rapture while reading it. The chasing of the shadow...very metaphorical. Although the next 3 in the series only get 3 stars from me, this one is definately a 4.
am 12. Juni 2000
This is the first Le Grin book I've read for many years. WhileI don't remember the details of the earlier books, I do remember thefeeling I had entering her world. And the blend of moral insight, magical powers and occult dangers seems like a familiar and slightly disquieting scent.
Le Grin undoubtedly is a skilled myth-maker. Her protagonist is a young man who is learning to use his magical powers. Her world is sparsely but I think rather well realized. (Her maps are more real-looking than Tolkien's.) The outline of the book is rather similar to the great Chinese classic Journey to the West: a hero of great power overreaches himself and is forced to set out on a journey to learn (among other things) humility and self-control. Along the way Le Grin drops the reader thoughts to chew on for a while. "Magic consists in this: the true naming of a thing." (How does that apply to modern genetics?) "The price of the game is the peril of losing one's self." (True whether the game is business, the occult, or modern science.)
The ease with which Le Grin's hero, Ged, works magic, I think, threatens the plot and the imaginable quality of her world sometimes. Ged flits from island to island so easily that the world becomes rather too dream-like. He is in danger of becoming too strong to have adventures. The story is about his taming to good, like the Monkey King. Yet one gets the feeling that in Le Grin's world, evil is ultimately stronger. Perhaps this is why her world feels less real, and less enjoyable, to me than those of Tolkien or Lewis, based on a Christian psychology, or that of Journey to the West, based on a rather cheerful Buddhism. Nor do I think her insight or imagination can really be compared with Tolkien in Lord of the Rings or Lewis in Till We Have Faces. And her world seems to have less humor than the other three. While I enjoyed the creative realization of her story, and felt as if she were bringing me near to some depths of psychological insight, I felt a little dizzy from the journey, and was glad to be back on terra firma. But I'll probably take another short visit before long.
author, Jesus and the Religions of Man...
am 17. Juli 1999
A lot of people (usually the sort of techies that read sci-fi to jerk-off over descriptions of gadgets-mankind-has-never-seen-before) totally mis-understand this book. A lot of very young children who are asked to read under the misconception that it is for them, get confused. You'll find reviews from both sorts on this web-page.
The reason is that this is an allegory of emotional life. Ged is a fallible hero who has done something wrong and goes out to try and redeem himself. It's about adolescence and discovering your power and how to apply it to society. It's full of little gems of wisdom like the Arch-mage who dies quietly,going slowly down the road to the land of the Dead, as one who is familiar with that road. Wise men have faced death and have come to understand it.
People who have not lived do not understand this book. It is not really fantasy at all, but about a human being's emotional life. Not surprisingly it does not appeal to those who do not know how to live.
Unlike the simplicistic (racist, class conscious) plot of Tolkien, this book actually gives you something lasting to apply to life. And don't be put off-it does have odd moments of supreme drama. It develops at the pace that life develops for most of us fast and exciting at puberty / adolescence, quieter echoes later on. And it manages all this in a tiny slim paperback. Tell that to Tolkien.
The film-maker Powell/ Pressburger of A Matter of Life & Death fame (another superbly crafted allegory) wanted to make the film. Maybe this detail will afford an inroad to understanding to all those techies who couldn't find a logical, step by step plot that poked two fingers up their nostrils and dragged them thru the book?
This review is of the first book only.
am 3. März 1999
LeGuin creates a completely believable world reminiscient of the days when Viking pirates plundered European settlements. Earthsea is an archipelago of small and large islands, ruled by island kings threatened by seagoing marauders and the occasional dragon. It is a region still subject to the creative power which formed the islands out of the sea and still endows a few of its inhabitants with some degree of magical power. From amongst these some are drawn to train as fully fledged wizards on the island of Roke so as to serve the island kings or attend to woes of the island people.
Into this world the young rustic boy Ged is born with exceptional powers which after their initial wonder and excitement prove more of a burden to him and serve instead to separate him from his family and people. LeGuin writes an intriguing tale of the loneliness of power and the terrible consequences of our actions, even if it is unintentional or well-meaning.
LeGuin demonstrates clearly that she is one of the few writers who appreciates that power even of the magical kind has its own rules and limitations which may set us on a path which taxes us to our limits and may deprive of us of life's simpler pleasures and the gift of peace of mind. And so Ged discovers that simple pranks when dabbling in magic have fateful consequences which pursue him to the ends of his world and that a wizard is not the master of his world but very much its servant with his hands not only full but tied.
Why and how is explained carefully and ingeniously through the course of the three novels, teaching us why magicians deserve our respect and our pity.
But LeGuin can be merciful and Ged's lonely life finds unexpected peace and comfort in the concluding novel Tehanu.
am 12. November 1997
in the forlorn hope that Ms Le Guin might see this, i wanted to say that i read the Earthsea Trilogy in my thirties, when i was working as manager at the Unicorn Theatre in London; we were offering at the time -as a christmas production -a rather clumsily dramatized version of the 1st book in the trilogy, adapted by Shaun Prendergast and directed by Nick Barter. it remained resolutely earthbound and never followed the hawk's flight into the imagined and empty sky. yet reading the book (s) was an act that helped propel me into a new arena of my life - acting in effect like an opening into, or at least out of ... from and to ... well, to WHAT i'm still trying to define. and in no small measure this sea change was surely due to the profound acccuracy with which ms Le Guin re-creates (and enables us to re-experience, if we will) the deepest levels of our mythological selves. the trilogy was and is a Jungian joy ... into the underworld -the tombs- to rescue the Anima and thence to the ultimate confrontation with the Shadow, and the integration that bestows wholeness (grace). now that the trilogy has become quartet -and how i devoured Tehanu, and what flavors! - the emergence of the Anima as co-eval healer and warrior has bred a text for the new millenium. long may ms Le Guin wield her magic pen ! and by the way, a review of the Farthest Shore on the Amazon pages states `only an American could have written this' -i take that to be a complement to Ms Le Guin, and am reminded that i am a Resident in the US, about to apply for naturalization, for very good creative reasons as well as a passion for the United States. or perhaps both are the same thing. 2 of my plays are in the Amazon pages - Road Movie and Kissing Marianne (the latter anthologized in Staging Gay Lives) - i could not have written them in England. or as a Brit who hadn't asked questions answered, in part, by Ursula K. Le Guin's art. -Godfrey Hamilton
am 27. April 1998
I first read this book two years ago when i was 22 and away on holiday with my fiance. It is one of his favourite books, and he has read the whole series time and again. I enjoy reading all types of literature, although science-fiction and fantasy books are my favourite. I have always favoured sci-fi, especially Asimov and Clarke, and my fiance fantasy, particularly Tolkien and Le Guin. This book, along with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, have made me as passionate about fantasy as sci-fi.
The book works on many levels, as a good story, as escapism, as a gateway to an incredible fantasy land, and as something far deeper. The story is thought-provoking and compelling, rich and meaningful. The book examines how we consider ourselves and the world around us. What is our real self ? What are we capable of ? How do our actions influence the world around us ? How do the names that we apply to objects affect how we view and understand them ?
A brilliant book that i would recommend to anyone of any age. I think its ridiculous that great literature such as this, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, C.S. Lewis, and so on get classified as "childrens books". They are books for everyone with imagination, who enjoys good story-telling, and interesting and unusual characters. They are tales which leave strong images for years after reading, which make you want to go back to read again and again, which offer something new each time they are read, which make you want to tell other people about them, which enthrall and inspire you, which leave you with plenty to think and talk about, and which push back the boundaries of your thoughts and imagination.
am 2. Januar 1997
Over Winter/Christmas break from school, my English teacher
assigned my class a major report: Pick an author from a
list he gave us, read atleast three of the author's works,
find reviews about this author, then write a report about
how the author is viewed. So I start to think,"Oh brother!
A report! On vacation! I''m supposed to have FUN, NOT do
My mom took me to the library and I asked the librarian
where I should look. I handed her my list of authors
and she skimmed down it. She said that Ursula Le Guin
might be good. Since these were supposed to be short story
authors, I was not planning on doing that much reading.
Then she handed me two of her books. They were short
stories. Good! Then she handed me "A Wizard of Earthsea".
"A whole book!! I have to read a whole book!", I thought.
Do not get me wrong. I like to read, but my idea of
vacation is not spending it reading. So when I got home
I read the two short stories and put the other book aside.
The next day I was planning to go out, but my mom said I could
not until I read atleat two chapters in "A Wizard of
Earthsea". So I started reading. But, to my amazement,
I got hooked on it! It was SO GOOD! After I finished it
(Which has about 3 hours), I asked my mom to take me to the
library to get the sequel, but they did not have it. So
now I'm looking for the rest of the series.
I definately would recomend this book to anybody who loves
fantasy, not just children. I don't think anybody should
miss out on the magical story that Le Guin wrote, which is
now on the top of my "favorite book" list.