Book: A Wizard of Earthsea - Livre d'Or — LiveJournal

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Book: A Wizard of Earthsea
Friday, 02 December 2005 at 10:22 am

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Author: Ursula Le Guin

Details: (c) Inter-Vivos Trust 1968; Pub 1993 Penguin Books (as single-volume quartet); ISBN 0-14-015427-2

Verdict: A Wizard of Earthsea is moving and beautifully written.

Reasons for reading it: I have been meaning to read it for a while, because I love Le Guin, and because of all the debate about the recent film, and because I couldn't remember whether I read it as a child.

How it came into my hands: I bought it in Galloway and Porter, yay Galloway and Porter.

I'm coming to the conclusion that Le Guin does such amazing things with language that I don't really care what she's actually writing about. A Wizard of Earthsea is in some ways a fairly standard fantasy story, with a peasant lad discovering he has amazing magical powers and finding himself in a situation where he must save his vaguely Mediaeval tech world from evil. Except that it's very, very good.

I was utterly caught up in the story, to the point where I found myself almost believing in its magic system. Obviously when I read fantasy in general I take magic as a given, but I was much more emotionally engaged than that in the world-building assumptions of aWoE. And Le Guin has an almost Tolkien-esque genius for writing in a high mythic tone but still creating really solid, sympathetic characters. (I think my instinct that aWoE somehow fits into an unexplored corner of Tolkien's universe is partly the amazing quality of the writing, and partly a coincidence of names in the creation myths, Ëa versus Éa.) There are so many heart-stoppingly lovely sentences in aWoE, and it's the language that induced a very receptive emotional state so that I cared very deeply about Ged's experiences and emotions.

I rather wish I had read aWoE as a kid (I think I must have been thinking of Susan Coopers The Dark is Rising books), because it would have made a very profound impression. As an adult, I can find minor things to quibble about, mainly the way the story has so many generic elements. I was also a bit annoyed with the concept of Equilibrium; it's a fairly standard way of dealing with magic, so that characters who are capable of altering reality don't become over-powerful, but using the term Equilibrium, an Enlightenment, science-y word, spoils the mystical feel. I also found the final confrontation with the Shadow a little bit cheesy.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the quartet!

Moooood: touchedmoved
Tuuuuune: VNV Nation: Holding on
Discussion: 8 contributions | Contribute something

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pthalogreen: default
Date:December 3rd, 2005 10:32 am (UTC)
9 minutes after journal entry, 11:32 am (pthalogreen's time)
You'll like the rest of the quartet. :)
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thalassius: Antarctica
Date:December 3rd, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 11:32 am (thalassius's time)
Yay! Wizard of Earthsea.

They are very cool indeed, and they lose some of the generic elements (particularly The Tombs of Atuan).

Only advice I give is, don't go straight from The Farthest Shore into Tehanu. I personally didn't like Tehanu enough to want to finish it, but whether you get on with it or not, it's so different from the (wonderful!) ending of The Farthest Shore that it jars rather if you go straight from one to the other.

I think there's now a fifth book, though I can't remember what it's called.
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catwithclaws: books!
Date:December 3rd, 2005 12:56 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 05:56 am (catwithclaws's time)
The Other Wind is the last book.

There is also Tales from Earthsea, a collection of short stories. However, as a few of them take place between Tehanu and The Other Wind, it's recommended that you read them between those two. Makes The Other Wind make a LOT more sense. I didn't and was a bit 'eh?' about some stuff in The Other Wind until I read the Tales

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Date:December 3rd, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry
Also two short stories, "The Word of Unbinding" and "The Rule of Names", set in the same world but earlier than A Wizard of Earthsea, which she wrote and published around the same time as A Wizard of Earthsea.
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pne: default
Date:December 3rd, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 04:02 pm (pne's time)
Thanks for the info!

I had read the trilogy (which was all there was back then) in high school I think, and rather liked it; it's on my wishlist to get copies of for myself at some point.
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catwithclaws: book love - Sawyer
Date:December 3rd, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 05:54 am (catwithclaws's time)
I too could not remember much of the Earthsea trilogy (there are 5 now plus one of short stories, so technically 6) from when i read it as a kid. I remember liking it, I remember him in a boat and the tombs. that's it.

So after watching the movie whenver it was (about this time, 2 years ago?), I dug out the copies I'd picked up at used book stores in the previous years, knowing I wanted to re-read, but had not yet read again.

I LOVE IT. Le Guin's writing does something to me, for I utterly adore her. If a storyteller can make you happy no matter the tale, those are her words. To say the least, I had book #4 and quickly found #5 and the short stories and read them all, very happy with the final 'end' and the maturity her newest books brought to the tales.

Well worth your time, I hope you enjoy them all :)
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hairyears: default
Date:December 3rd, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 02:56 pm (hairyears's time)
Yes, it's a few years since I read aWoE, far later than I should've read it - I recall being put off it by a dreadfully turgid reading of the book on Jackanory.
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rysmiel: wilde thing
Date:December 3rd, 2005 08:25 pm (UTC)
10 hours after journal entry, 04:25 pm (rysmiel's time)
Oh, I am glad you enjoyed it, and look forward to your reaction to the others. It's been ages since I read them... did not like Tehanu much, it's a complete change of scale and it seems to be doing something LeGuin talks about with regard to telling "women's stories", by which she seems to means stories focused on day-to-day life and domesticity, which IMO she is very interesting talking about as things that should be exciting and work but not quite able to do for me in fiction, at least not by comparison to frex Maureen McHugh. Have not read The Other Wind yet.
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