October 31 2021
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin
Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Genre/ issues: Fantasy
“But need alone is not enough to set power free: there must be knowledge.”
I don’t know why I’d not read any Ursula Le Guin before now, and delving into A Wizard of Earthsea this week has been a pure delight. We follow the life of Sparrowhawk, whose true name in the Old Language is Ged, and in the magic world of Earthsea true names have power. By knowing the true name of a creature or a thing you can enchant it, or control it.
As we follow Ged from childhood through troublesome adolescence, to his apprenticeship with the Wizard Ogion and his tutelage at the School of Wizards on Roke, he finds himself on a quest to defeat the shadow that has plagued him since an I’ll-advised magical pissing contest with a fellow student unleashed it into the world. And the shadow knows Ged’s name.
This book is wonderful. A short read at just 161 pages in length, it has deceptively simple linear narrative, and magnificent world building that sucks you in to Earthsea, with its archipelago of islands, complex and highly functioning trade routes, and deep respect for magic and the role of wizards. Whilst we see many villages as we travel with Ged, the inhabitants are largely left to do their own thing in the background, and our protagonist is one of only 3 characters that are given the space to grow in this right and deftly written masterpiece.
And, speaking of the writing … woah. Much of the action takes place on a boat, as you would expect from a land of tiny islands amidst an expansive ocean. This felt appropriate, as there’s a flow and a lilt to Le Guin’s prose that carries you along with it, occasionally caught in a rip as you get pulled in unexpected directions … wherever her words took me, I was happy to go.
I borrowed this book from @penrithcitylibrary, and I’ll be buying myself a copy to add to my collection, because once I’ve read the rest of the Earthsea quartet this is definitely a world I’m going to want to revisit.