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A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle,…
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A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1) (original 1968; edition 2004)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,575171356 (4.02)1 / 476
Member:aaronius
Title:A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Spectra (2004), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:epic fantasy, coming of age, magic, responsibility, nautical, map

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)

20th century (37) American (35) children's (74) children's literature (45) classic (51) coming of age (54) dragons (113) Earthsea (370) Earthsea Cycle (83) fantasy (2,190) fantasy fiction (29) fiction (923) high fantasy (49) Le Guin (54) magic (243) novel (111) own (66) paperback (61) read (148) science fiction (240) series (124) sf (60) sff (136) speculative fiction (36) to-read (130) unread (64) Ursula K. Le Guin (41) wizards (205) YA (106) young adult (163)
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English (165)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (171)
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
The writing was beautiful and the world building interesting, but the pace was slow and the story clearly sexist.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic fantasy story about a Ged, a great sorcerer who makes a mistake when he’s a student. His mistake unleashes a terrible and unnamed shadow creature, which will destroy him if it can and then wreck havoc upon the world. The story’s reminiscent of a fable or fairy tale. The writing’s lyrical, and characters tend to be simplistically described. As other reviewers have pointed out, Le Guin tends to tell instead of show. I didn’t have too much of a problem with this aspect – for me, it added to the fable-like feeling of the story.

My biggest problem with A Wizard of Earthsea is that it’s openly sexist. Magic is explicitly only for men, and if a woman’s using magic, she’s clearly evil and ineffective:

“Weak as women’s magic” (page 5)

“Wicked as women’s magic” (page 6)

The few female characters present are primarily evil - Serret and Ged’s aunt for instance. Yarrow’s the only notably good female character, and she’s Ged’s best friend’s little sister who shows up in the second to last chapter. Her role is to look sweet and ask Ged questions. She’s described as beautiful but stupid:

Spoken by her brother: “This is my sister, the youngest of us, prettier than I am you see, but much less clever” (page 169)
Spoken by Yarrow herself: “I wish I could truly understand what you tell me. I am too stupid” (page 177)

All in all, it’s a rather vile image. The only good women are pretty, powerless, and stupid. They serve their men and don’t take actions of their own. I’m given to understand that this changes later in the series. The second book for instance, has a female protagonist. However, don’t expect to find any good female characters or even a book with female characters present in the plot in A Wizard of Earthsea.

The majority of characters do have dark skin, which makes it atypical, especially for a fantasy book published in the 1960s. While this is laudable, I’d have trouble recommending this book to anyone because of the prevalent sexism. ( )
  pwaites | Jul 11, 2014 |
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin is the story of Ged, a young wizard who, through is own reckless behaviour, released an evil being that threatens both himself and the world. His quest and sole purpose in life becomes the conquering of this terrible shadow, and as the story follows his adventures Ged learns many life lessons that eventually lead him to a greater self-knowledge and gives him the necessary tools to face down his nemesis.

Originally published in 1968, I found this book both an interesting read and a lesson in how the fantasy genre has changed over the years. While today’s fantasy is often chock full of sword play and battles of magic, rife with sexual tensions and love stories, this was more of an inward, introspective story. The book reads like a fairy tale with it’s moralistic tone and lyrical language. I listened to the audio version as read by Rob Inglis and found his tone and style perfect for the story.

As the story advances and Ged changes from the hunted to the hunter, we can see him evolving into the great wizard that he has been told he will become. Learning to be comfortable with his dark side allows him to gain the maturity and self-control that he needs. He finally comes to really understand some of the codes he has been taught about knowing the true nature of things, and how dangerous changing his form can be.

Somehow I missed reading Ursula Le Guin in my younger days, but with A Wizard of Earthsea, I have now discovered an author that I can appreciate and I look forward to reading more from her. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jun 19, 2014 |
This is in many ways a very conventional fantasy story, especially the somewhat forced use of ye olde englysshe grammar, but it was nevertheless quite an interesting story, and kept me turning the page. Something of a cut above Extruded Fantasy Product. ( )
  sloopjonb | May 24, 2014 |
What I didn't like about this book all came from having read it so long after it was written. Things which at the time it was written would have been fresh and new, are much less so decades later. Still, it was a wonderful journey story that I enjoyed very much. ( )
  RhondaParrish | May 9, 2014 |
Perhaps the slowest, most boring fantasy novel I have ever read. "Boring" meaning there's little action. There is a lot of reflection, a lot of childish hate, a lot of world building that makes the story 100 times more complicated than the spare 177 pages indicate. Someone called this "Bildungsroman as fantasy" and that seems to be extremely accurate. While I wasn't a fan of the story itself, I liked Le Guin's writing style. I like her steady pace and unflappable delivery. ( )
  lesmel | May 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
The most thrilling, wise and beautiful children's novel ever, it is written in prose as taut and clean as a ship's sail. Every word is perfect, like the spells Ged has to master. It poses the deep questions about life, death, power and responsibility that children need answering.
added by melmore | editThe Guardian, Amanda Craig (Sep 24, 2003)
 

» Add other authors (54 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robbins, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553383043, Paperback)

Often compared to Tolkien's Middle-earth or Lewis's Narnia, Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea is a stunning fantasy world that grabs quickly at our hearts, pulling us deeply into its imaginary realms. Four books (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu) tell the whole Earthsea cycle--a tale about a reckless, awkward boy named Sparrowhawk who becomes a wizard's apprentice after the wizard reveals Sparrowhawk's true name. The boy comes to realize that his fate may be far more important than he ever dreamed possible. Le Guin challenges her readers to think about the power of language, how in the act of naming the world around us we actually create that world. Teens, especially, will be inspired by the way Le Guin allows her characters to evolve and grow into their own powers.

In this first book, A Wizard of Earthsea readers will witness Sparrowhawk's moving rite of passage--when he discovers his true name and becomes a young man. Great challenges await Sparrowhawk, including an almost deadly battle with a sinister creature, a monster that may be his own shadow.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:24 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A boy grows to manhood while attempting to subdue the evil he unleashed on the world as an apprentice to the Master Wizard.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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