A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Conditional Recommendation: A gifted young wizard journeys to restore the balance after releasing an evil shadow into the world.

Age: Young Adult
Series: Earthsea Cycle, Book 1 of 6
Pages: 183
Published: 1968
Genre: Fantasy, Classic

Read this book for the prose, for the quality of the literature, and Le Guin’s mastery over language and imagination. This book is considered by many to be a classic fantasy, and it is but don’t go comparing it to the massive dramas of other authors like Tolkein. This story is smaller, and the telling is slow and highly introspective, as if someone sat a long time in silence pondering before saying anything. Be prepared going in because if the reading palatte you’ve developed is more accustomed to thrillers—fast dialogue and punchy action—then this book will feel boring. Like many classics, you can’t rush the reading but should take the time to savor the words. I definitely recommend this enchanting fantasy for it’s character development and outstanding prose.

Summary from the Publisher
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.

Enduring Themes
Facing trials, recognizing the darkness in oneself, darkness vs. light, knowledge not immediately equating to wisdom, and more.

Goodness and Truth
Ged’s enduring problem throughout the book is himself. How true to life! As imperfect humans, sinners before a holy God, we too are our own biggest, enduring problem throughout life. Ged’s ambition, pride, fear create many obstacles that he must learn from and overcome, but the process of him making mistakes, getting humbled, being afraid of your own darkness and the struggle to summon the courage to face it, is a resonant reality for any person.

I think there’s much more to be mined from this book—more than a first reading facilitates.

Language Well-Used
This is high quality wordsmithing. Notice the word choices and enjoy the creative ways Le Guin conveys information.

Memorable Characters
Ged’s character arc would be worth studying. He has many try-fail cycles but what I love about him (besides him being a prodigy—those are always fun to read about) is that he learns, and adds to his knowledge, wisdom.

A Satisfying Ending
There is something wonderfully satisfying about relief—a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following the release from anxiety of distress. The lightness from a burden lifted is particularly enjoyable in this ending.

Fantasy Elements
In this book, some people are born with power—the ability to use words and spells—and true names (a common fantasy trope) have great power.

Where to Find this Book: Amazon* or your local library!
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