Books in Brief: Earthsea

Time has gotten away from me.  Because it’s been a few months since I’ve read some of these titles, the reviews will be more about overall impressions rather than detailed analysis.



A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursala Le Guin.  Sparrowhawk had great magical talent but his reckless pride led him to tamper with magic beyond his training and he loosed a terrible shadow upon the world.  The tragic consequences of his actions sober him.  He applies himself to his studies and grows into a wise mage resolved to capture the shadow and send it back to whence it came.

LOVED this book.  A wonderfully told coming of age story.  A believable story of transformation.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursala Le Guin.  Believed to be the reincarnation of the last high priestess, a young girl is taken from her family and consecrated to the service of the Nameless Ones.  She is isolated and taught the dark rituals she is expected to lead.  Ged (Sparrowhawk) comes to the tombs in search of the lost Ring of Erreth-Akbe.  Arha (Tenar) discovers him and traps him, outraged by his sacrilege.  Her anger gives way to curiosity, however, and she begins to question everything she has been taught.

More horrifying than Ged’s coming-of-age story.  While Ged (Sparrowhawk) brought something terrible into the world, Tenar is ripped from her family when she is only 6 years old and indoctrinated into an evil cult.  And yet, despite this, she is still able to question what she has been taught and choose her path.

The Farthest Shore by Ursala Le Guin Magic is fading quickly from the lands of Earthsea and no one knows why.  Songs are being forgotten and people are going mad.  Archmage Ged (Sparrowhawk) chooses a young prince to accompany him as he searches for the cause.

Le Guin adds more detail to her wonderfully developed world of Earthsea.  She continues to introduce interesting characters.  That said, I struggled a bit with this story.  The Big Bad annoyed me — I think I expected someone Bigger and Badder.  And I didn’t quite get some of the motivations.  I didn’t like the ending — not that it should have ended differently, I just didn’t want it to end the way it did.

Tehanu by Ursala Le Guin.   Le Guin revisits the character Tenar, perhaps the only character more haunted than Ged.  It’s been years since she left the Tombs with Ged; she’s now a widow.  She takes in a severely injured child and names her Therru.  And Ged returns.  Immediately following the events of The Farthest Shore, the dragon Kalessin brings him to Gont, unconscious and near death.  Tenar nurses him back to health . . . but not to his former power.  That is gone.

This was an interesting departure for the series.  Ged has no power; his sense of self is shattered.  And he, Tenar, and Therru are targeted by another Big Bad who has ample magic.  The danger feels more threatening this time around.


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