Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

wizardleguinSeries: Earthsea Cycle #1
Published by: Puffin (and many many others)
ISBN: 0141354917
ISBN 13: 9780141354910
Published: 1968
Pages: 224
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Recommended
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

This is part of my reading challenge for 2017, to expand my woeful knowledge of women in speculative fiction by reading at least 24 books by women that were and are instrumental in our genre.

Yes, I know, I haven’t read anything of the Earthsea Cycle until now – something I’m glad to rectify! It made a great start to the year as it was a slow read – in a good way. You want to take your time losing yourself in the world as it doesn’t exactly spiral out as expected.

Ged, our main character, a young boy from Gont who is found to have a way with magic, is first apprenticed to a great mage who can’t teach Ged everything as fast as he would like, so he leaves him to go to a place of training in Roke. There he soon strives to learn the most, faster than any other there, and he meets friends and also rivals.

It’s through this ego posturing that Ged gets himself into a significant amount of trouble which is what sets his character. Wary now of magic, and constantly underestimating himself, Ged recovers and goes on learning until he is eventually given his staff and sent out in the world to be a wizard.

At this point we’re not even halfway through the book, so I assure you there’s more action than that. The pacing is good in that aspect – action, recover, thought over what befell him, as Ged moves through what his future brings him. The characterisation is good, as Ged grows and he sprouts friendships with people he meets along his many journeys.

What works well in this story are the limitations of the magic system. Ged isn’t all powerful – although he is moreso than most. Even this causes him additional setbacks, and we see him constantly learning more about things that aren’t about wizardry – what it means to be human, and an adult.

The creatures in the book are excellent – real and brutal dragons (who are crafty and powerful), awful magic that can hunt you down and the only way to fight it is to turn around and hunt it yourself (and who’d want to do that?), and loyal and snuffly creatures who ride in your pocket and stay close when you’re injured.

It’s easy to see why this series is so instrumental in the genre. I highly recommend reading it.

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