“A Wizard of Earthsea” – Embarking Into the World of Fantasy

Book Review : A Wizard of Earthsea by Usula K. LeGuin

I have included the front cover of the book from my childhood as well as a more recent version for fun.

Spoiler Alert!

A motherless boy, Duny, runs wild on the island of Gont mostly ignored until his aunt witnesses the effect of him using magic that he inadvertently learned. She senses the opportunity for power and begins to teach this proud boy in her limited knowledge of spells.

When their homeland, Gont, is under attack Duny hides their village in mist and confuses the maurading enemy causing many to fall off a precipice. His new fame brings him to the attention of a wizard, Ogion the Silent. Ogion accepts Duny as an apprentice and gives him his true name of Ged. Power lies in a true name and so Ged is known as Sparrowhawk, the name the other children had called him. Ged chaffes under the slow tutelage of Ogion and chooses to go to the school of wizards on Roke Island. Because of his pride and desire for praise Ged makes a poor decision to raise a spirit from the dead because of the taunting of Jasper, a schoolmate. Through that decision Ged is changed and haunted by the shadow that has escaped through his actions. Ged must come full circle to understand the shadow and to try to rid himself and the world of the evil that he is responsible for unleashing.

I vividly remember reading this book as a child and being entranced by the wonder of a strange new world. I remember being overwhelmed and frightened by the shadow that Ged unleashed. I was terrified that Ged would not be able to return to his original form as a man after traveling as a bird for so long. A Wizard of Earthsea was a wonderful book introducing me to the fantasy genre.

I believe A Wizard of Earthsea was so very different to me because its root philosphy seems to be one of balance, yin and yang, found in eastern religion rather than Christianity. Originally published in 1968  it helped form the fantasy genre for children.

As I read the book again I am surprised at the simplicity and how quickly the action moves forward. I was surprised that Ged would so casually kill the young dragons who were sentient beings in a world based on “equilibrium”, perhaps the jolt I felt is a result from all the voices in the world telling me to save the world and the species that still exist.

Many modern children’s books, such as, “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games”, develop more complex worlds compared to A Wizard of Earthsea, yet I love this book because it brings back the joy of reading from my childhood. The question stands, what is the value of LeGuin’s novel today? I’m rating it 4 out of 5 stars because it contains many truths and it opens fantasy to young readers as well as those who may be low readers who won’t be daunted by a book with less than 200 pages.  Truths found in A Wizard of Earthsea that need to be heard today include; be your true self, don’t play around with dark forces, avoid false pride, and face your fears to conquor that which would stop you on your life’s path.

4 out of 5 stars

– the Mother

Teen Point of View

I thought this book was amazing! It moves at a face pace and is very realistic. I read it all through school without putting it down once. I thought the plot and the growing character was skillfully written. I think other kids should read it, I would definitely recommend it to people. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars, no doubt about it. The other books in the series were equally exciting and thrilling.

-the Daughter

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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2 Responses to “A Wizard of Earthsea” – Embarking Into the World of Fantasy

  1. EarthKnight says:

    I have read this book many times since my first reading of it when I was five. Now, 35 years later, I find that my appreciation for it still continues to grow with each reading. The story is straightforward, and in this, belies the complexity of the world and the depth of morality the characters Le Guin has created posses. Drawing upon the insight developed from growing up with an anthropologist father and author mother, Le Guin creates a world of depth and richness with admirably few words. Her characters know when to wait and when to act, and they know that when the time to act has come, there must be commitment and no hesitation. There are many books and tales not that appear to be more complex, but upon further investigation most of them fall short, being shallow and lacking the richenss, texture, history, and depth of Le Guin’s creating.

    • Thank you for you comments. I too love this book and the straightforward telling of the tale is one of the characteristics that I love. I am certain that Le Guin had a full back story and all the details in her head when she wrote the ‘Earthsea series’. The novel would have been longer if she had filled in all those details for the reader, however, it wouldn’t necessarily make it a better book. I am grateful for authors like Le Guin who have such a mastery of their craft, particularly after reading so much that is mediocre.

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