Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

The Wizard of Earthsea was the class reader in my English class when I was fourteen. The class never did get to the end of it but I made sure I did and consider it the first fantasy novel I ever read. I recently read it again more than ten years later and was surprised at the things I remembered, those which I didn’t and the things I thought were in there and never turned up.

The wizard of earthsea is about a boy named Ged who is taught rudimentary magic by his aunt the local witch. After he uses his powers to save the village from a horde of barbarians he is taken under the wing of a wandering wizard. Ged chafes under the wizard’s tutelage, wanting to learn ‘real’ magic rather than the patience his master is trying to teach him. Egged on by a playmate Ged unwittingly almost unleashes a shadow creature which his master arrives just in time to stop. His master offers Ged a choice; either remain as his apprentice or travel to a wizards school and learn magic there. Ged chooses the latter and quickly excels there. However he gets into a heated rivalry with another student and in effort to prove his superiority unleashes another shadow creature when he tries to summon a dead spirit. Ged has to find a way to deal with the creature which will hunt him forever and try to steal his body, powers and soul.

Initially I found the language a bit simplistic (which explains why it is often shelved in the children's section) but combined with a prose reminiscent of classic mythology the two combine rather well. Earthsea is a wonderfully realized and original land made up of island chains in a massive ocean and world building is certainly one of Le Guin’s strengths and one in which she should be considered a pioneer.

All in all The Wizard of Earthsea is a classic which I think everyone should get around to reading at some point. 8/10.

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