The Wizard of Earthsea by Urula Le Guin
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.
The Wizard of Earthsea is a beautiful book that just isn’t for me.
I mean, you want to talk about classic fantasy literature, you got it right here. Reading this for the first time in 2018 it was impossible not to notice how obviously Earthsea affected, well, EVERYTHING. The story was simple but meaningful. Everything about it was so lovely.
But I just didn’t connect with the writing style. It’s written more like a Bible story or a Greek epic poem than like a novel. Dialogue, for example, was almost non-existent. Descriptions were limited and saved usually for creatures. And in general I just felt as though it was sparse. And like in a Bible story, narratives moved over the course of weeks or months, not minutes or hours. I don’t want anyone to think I’m criticizing this, because I’m not. It just didn’t work for me. Tolkien-lover through and through!
Ged sets the stage perfectly for every arrogant, uber-talented hero you’ve ever read a story about. I saw so much of Kvothe from The Name of the Wind in Ged, but of course, Urusla Le Guin did it first. What I like about Ged is that he didn’t really start arrogant, but ended up being arrogant because he was more powerful than everyone else. His whole journey is about learning that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He learns that just because you have power doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it. I loved that.
I also loved Earthsea itself. What a cool fantasy world! Instead of your typical Westeros or Middle Earth giant continent, Earthsea is a realm of islands. Everyone goes about by boat, and children can sail as well as they can walk. The people of Earthsea are all people of color, ranging in tone depending on where they live. Interestingly, the darker skinned people live in the north, while those living in the east were the only people with pale skin. The magic in Earthsea is also very unique, and I wish we had learned more about it. But, like I said, sparse. I also wanted more creatures! Ged has this little tiny furry animal called an Otak that I absolutely loved, and there were talking dragons! Also tiny dragons. But like with the magic, things were just mentioned in tantalizing snippets.
So I guess what I’m finding out is that I didn’t love this book because I didn’t get enough of the aspects of fantasy novels I love. But I can’t not recommend this book for fantasy lovers. It’s beautiful, it’s touching, and it features friendship instead of romance for the win.