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Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) by…

Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) (original 1990; edition 2004)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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3,607431,460 (3.79)98
Title:Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4)
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Pocket (2004), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin (1990)



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English (39)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  English (43)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This book didn't really get me - which may have been because I never read the first three books of the series. (I think it nowhere said that this was not a standalone.) I actually only finished it because I started using 'Kalessin' as a nickname. It wasn't a bad book, just one that did not touch me. ( )
  KalessinAstarno | Nov 4, 2016 |
Tehanu is the fourth book of the Earthsea Cycle, written 18 years after the third book. It tells a different type of story and has a different tone from the earlier books. It’s a direct sequel in that it continues where the third book left off. It actually starts slightly before the ending of the third book and then continues with the story of two of our main characters, Ged and Tenar. The larger focus is on Tenar, the girl first introduced in The Tombs of Atuan.

This book seems to be a polarizing book among fans of the original books. I actually enjoyed it a lot, but I wonder if I’d have felt differently if I’d read the original books when they were published. If I’d lived for years with the story in my head as it was written, especially seeing the third book as the end of the story, I might have had more trouble accepting this book. Without spoiling the story, the third book brings about a major change that affects Ged and then the story ends with a sort of vague implication of a “happily ever after” ending. That ending wasn’t too terribly difficult to accept, but it did feel a little unrealistic. In this book we get, in my opinion, a more realistic story that deals with the repercussions from the third book in a more serious way.

This book doesn’t have a strong story, especially not a strong fantasy story. There’s an underlying but not strongly-fleshed-out story thread with more of a fantasy feel to it, but it represents only a very small portion of the book. Most of the book felt almost like a contemporary fiction story set in a rural environment. It focuses a lot on the “ordinary” concerns and fears and day-to-day lives of adult characters. There’s also some not-so-subtle discussion of power, what power means, what it’s worth, and especially power as it relates to gender. I found some of that to be a little too obvious, pulling me out of the book to make me consider what the author herself wanted to say rather than thinking about it in the context of the story. However, I didn’t think there was so much of it that it bogged the story down.

I still really enjoyed the author’s writing style which, despite a slightly different feel, held my interest just as well as the previous books had. She also made me care, or continue to care, about the characters. Although the actual plot was a bit sparse, it was interspersed into the book well enough to keep me interested in the story when combined with my interest in the characters. ( )
  YouKneeK | Sep 17, 2016 |
What an amazing book that tracks characters we've all come to know and to love through the next phase of their lives: middle age. So often the hero goes off and meets dragons, the young maiden is rescued from her prison, and never do we know what happens to them later. In this case, Tenar, rescued from the Tombs of Atuan, learns from the Wizard Ogion and becomes a farm wife. But that's not how we see her - we see her as the widow, coming to the rescue of an abused young girl, and being summoned to the bedside of the dying Ogion.

Then Ged returns as an old man, no longer the Archmage, and Tenar finds herself living with a new family. How many older women get to choose their family, or even their destiny? LeGuin paints a superb picture of the characters later in life, making their destinies and choices even more authentic than if they were seen by a young writer wondering what happens when you get old. Because really, none of us know the answer to that question until we're there. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Quite slow and the climax I was expecting didn't really happen. Not sure what this book was meant to be about.
Seems there were some feminism ideas or at least gender specific roles being examined, the nature of identity. Not as much Earthsea magic though! ( )
  Laurochka | Feb 6, 2016 |
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Bantam, 1991
ISBN 0553288733 (paperback), 252 pp.

Review date: August, 2015

From 1968 to 1972, Ursula K. Le Guin published a series of three books aimed at older children and teens, a series which soon became a recognized classic of the high fantasy genre: the Earthsea trilogy. For fifteen years, it seemed that the trilogy, and a couple short stories preceding it, would be all of Earthsea the world would see—and, as I wrote in my review for the final book, The Farthest Shore, the series came to an acceptable end, with the primary protagonist, Ged, finding his life as a wizard at an end and returning home to the isle of Gont, from which he had removed so many years before. But then, in 1990, a fourth book appeared. Entitled Tehanu, it picked up the story begun in The Tombs of Atuan, the second book of the trilogy, reintroducing the Kargish exile Tenar, former child priestess of the dark powers of Atuan, now a 40-year-old widowed farmwife on Gont, whither she fled with Ged some two and a half decades before.

I've said before that although the Earthsea trilogy was written for children, adults might get even more out of it than younger readers. That certainly holds true for Tehanu, with its protagonist no longer a teenager as she was in her previous appearance, but now well into middle age—or probably even old age in a pre-industrial society such as Earthsea's. Moreover, the themes are heavier and darker than those encountered in the previous books, with Tenar finding herself the caretaker—indeed, the adoptive mother—of a young girl who was repeatedly raped and beaten, and finally burned in a campfire and left for dead. (If this had been published online, it probably would have come with a trigger warning. With this book, the Earthsea Cycle has finally matured, along with its author and its readers. Although the original trilogy is often billed as children's fiction, I'd say that this book, with its gritty realism, is definitely for older teens and above.)

In my reviews of the original trilogy, I classified each as a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age tale that follows the subject's inner development—psychological, moral, emotional, etc.—from youth to adulthood. Some may argue that while Le Guin's books might indeed count as coming-of-age tales, they aren't necessarily bildungsromans in the strictest sense, not going into enough psychological depth or not covering a great enough length of time, I believe otherwise: that the focus of each book is one of the deepest, most critical psychological changes in each character's life, and the length of time, varying from many months to a few years is enough to see the characters move from late youth into early adulthood, especially given the dramatic changes that occur. In a way, Tehanu too is a bildungsroman, for within its pages the young girl, Therru, whom Tenar adopts is herself seen growing up, perhaps too soon, coming to terms with her trauma and finding her true self.

But more than being a bildungsroman on its own, it is the capstone to the Earthsea trilogy, the book that takes the merely acceptable ending of the previous one and draws it out into a satisfying one. Mirroring the structural pattern of The Tombs of Atuan, the book begins with the focus on Tenar (and Therru), only later introducing Ged into narrative—in this particular case, immediately after the events of The Farthest Shore. Thus continuing Tenar's story, it could be seen as a continuation of her coming-of-age, or a second stage in its progress, but even more so, it is a continuation of Ged's own story, turning the entire series thus far into one great bildungsroman, for Ged in his old age must now come to terms with his loss of magical power after the events of the previous book, and he finds himself emotionally stunted, something of the teenager he was when he first embraced a life of magic. I discussed in my review for A Wizard of Earthsea how that book adhered to the stages of the traditional Campbellian monomyth—but what this book does is subsume that book, making it only the beginning and enlarging the entire trilogy (or rather tetralogy) into the full series of stages of the monomyth, with Ged finally "done with doing" and now focused simply on being, or at least learning just to be, making his final Return to his home.

Although there is a definite plot, the narrative of Tehanu is much more subdued and character-oriented. There is not a lot of intense action, and it is not exactly fast-paced, yet it is captivating enough to be a fairly quick read. It is less symbolic, less epic, less traditional fantasy than the previous books; whereas many authors strive to build realistic worlds so that there is a touch of the familiar in their fantasy, Le Guin might be said to have crafted here a work of realism with a touch of the fantastic; but it is not a work of magic realism, nor even contemporary/urban fantasy, no, but high fantasy yet. It's a refreshing, different type of book to read, the likes of which I've not seen before nor since. Even more than that, she has not just written a story, she has, as always, given it depth, commenting on our own reality: the roles of women and of men, the emotional effects of aging and of choosing a life of celibacy, the hidden strengths we all have inside, and the nature of evil when there is no epic evil force at work—only the darkness that lurks within humanity itself.

In many ways this is a better book than the three previous ones, and yet it does not and cannot stand alone. Much of its strength lies in the fact that we already know many of its characters, have seen them when they were young, have watched them grow and learn already. It weaves the thread of the previous tales together and ties them off, creating a full story, closing a full circle, and making the Earthsea trilogy not a tetralogy as would be expected but a single narrative split into multiple volumes. With this book, the Earthsea tales have truly come into their own and like Ged and Tenar themselves they have grown and matured, and although it is not "The Last Book of Earthsea" as its subtitle bills it, and not even the last appearance of many of its beloved characters, it is the last book of this particular epic story, and the beginning of a new age and a new focus in the land of Earthsea, continued (thus far) in two other books in the series.

For those who enjoyed the original trilogy, Tehanu is a must-read, and to those who found they didn't really care for the original trilogy, but did manage to make it all the way through nevertheless, I would also suggest reading this book, for it may very well bring the full satisfaction you didn't quite get from what really is an incomplete story without Tehanu.


4 stars: Outstanding. The work displayed a skill beyond the reach of most others. I am likely to add it to my permanent collection and recommend it wholeheartedly to others. This rating may be more subjective than others, as it relies to a slightly greater extent on my tastes in genre and style. Creative writing is more likely to receive four stars than conventional nonfiction. Equivalent to a school grade of 'A'. ( )
  tokidokizenzen | Aug 3, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alsberg, RebeccaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergen, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guay, RebeccaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.
—The Creation of Ea
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After Farmer Flint of the Middle Valley died, his widow stayed on at the farmhouse.
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Poza najdalszym zachodem, tam, gdzie kończą się lądy, mój lud tańczy na skrzydłach innego wiatru.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0689845332, Mass Market Paperback)

Ursula K. LeGuin follows her classic trilogy from Earthsea with a magical tale that won the 1991 Nebula Award for Science Fiction. Unlike the tales in the trilogy, this novel is short and concise, yet it is by no means simplistic. Promoted as a children's book because of the awards garnered in that category by her previous work, Tehanu transcends classification and shows the wizardry of female magic. The story involves a middle-age widow who sets out to visit her dying mentor and eventually cares for his favorite student.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this final episode of "The Earthsea Cycle", the widowed Tenar finds and nurses her aging friend, Sparrowhawk, a magician who has lost his powers.

(summary from another edition)

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