A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

photo-3Book Description (Amazon): Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous 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.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: deliberate

For a book of 197 pages, I thought it would be no problem to knock it out in a week (or less). It was actually a lot harder than I expected. This book is very deliberate and there is not a single unnecessary word in the book.

The book begins in the area of Gont with a young boy named Duny. His mother died and he realizes at a young age he has some magic tendencies and starts learning basic magic from his aunt. His powers are proven one day where he creates a vast fog saving his village from intruders. He is sent to a wizard name Ogion who mentors him and gives him his “real name”–Ged. Ged thinks that he should be progressing more quickly and is egged on by a witch girl who he continues to meet as he roams around nearby. He looks up a spell to bring a creature back from the dead and decides that he has to go to the school for wizards on the island Roke.

While he’s at Roke, he realizes that he is a very competent wizard, but he has jealousy with a wizard named Jasper. Ged believes that Jasper looks down on him for being lesser than him in both class and magic skills. Ged’s jealousy increases and increases until they have a wizard’s duel. Ged summons a woman from the dead, and a creature appears and attacks him and kills one of the professors in the process.

Ged’s only friend at the school, Vetch, graduates and moves home. Ged eventually finishes school (the attack set him back) and moves to the villages of the Ninety Isles to protect them from dragons. While he’s there, he befriends a fisherman whose son becomes sick. Ged tries to bring him back and realizes at that time that the creature who has been following him will never go away. He sets off to convince the dragons never to haunt the Ninety Isles and does so by guessing the old dragon’s real name. Ged leaves the ninety isles in hope of returning to Roke now that his business is done but he is unable to return due to some magical powers. He goes on to Osskill where the creature has killed a human and taken his form. The creature nearly kills Ged in the wilderness but Ged escapes to a nearby castle.

In the castle, the lord Benderesk and his wife Serret nurse Ged back to health and then try to convince him that he can figure out the true name of the spirit who hunts him by touching this magic rock, the Terrenon (for whom the castle is named). Ged realizes that the Terrenon holds an ancient dark magic and tries to escape as he realizes that the lord wishes him to hold the dark power. He escapes and takes Serret with him. He realizes finally that she is the witch who he knew back with Ogion. They transform into birds to escape the ancient creatures who are attacking him. Ged escapes; Serret does not. Ged continues to fly and fly until he returns to Ogion, worn of all strength.

Ogion convinces Ged to become the hunter, not the hunted. Ged sets off to backtracking his steps to find the spirit who is haunting him, and along the way finds Vetch who volunteers to help. Vetch, like a few others along the way, has seen the shadow spirit who has now gained enough power to take on the shape of Vetch. The pair travel beyond the end of the known earth and find the spirit. When Ged finds the spirit, they simultaneously say the true name of the other “Ged” and real Ged realizes that the spirit is a part of him and they become one.

Verdict: 3 stars

I appreciate this book for its ideas, and I suspect many books have built upon these ideas over the years. This is not the first book I have read where everything had a “true name”. However, I just never really became absorbed into the book at all. It was too dry. I mean, another certain author filled 7 whole books full of talking about wizard school. This book took only about 50 pages. Perhaps the books in the sequel give more detail to the world and the magic, but I doubt I will be reading them.

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Filed under 3 stars, Book Club, Book Review

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