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A wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A wizard of Earthsea (original 1968; edition 1971)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Series: The Earthsea Cycle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,485361328 (3.98)2 / 804
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the 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.… (more)
Title:A wizard of Earthsea
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971.
Collections:Your library

Work Information

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

  1. 190
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  2. 197
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    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling (wosret)
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    The Once and Future King by T. H. White (MarcusH)
  6. 71
    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Konran, Jannes)
    Jannes: Rothfuss draws inspiration from many sources, but to me no influence is so evident as that from the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  7. 93
    The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Death_By_Papercut)
    Death_By_Papercut: Quality, epic fantasy.
  8. 50
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  9. 50
    Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin (sturlington)
  10. 40
    Abarat by Clive Barker (Death_By_Papercut)
  11. 30
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  12. 20
    The Naming by Alison Croggon (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: The protagonist who starts from humble beginnings to become a powerful mage may be a cliche, but in both these series beginnings there is a carefully thought-out alterative world with sympathetic characters.
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    aulsmith: Two different schools of magic
  14. 31
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Anjali.Negi)
  15. 20
    Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan (andomck)
    andomck: Magic systems based on language . One is the secret names of things, the other is secrets itself.
  16. 10
    Tales of Nevèrÿon by Samuel R. Delany (Anonymous user)
  17. 10
    Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way by Ursula K. Le Guin (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: The Taoism that Le Guin imbibed at her father's knee is evident in the magic of Earthsea.
  18. 11
    Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (andomck)
  19. 34
    Eragon by Christopher Paolini (Othemts)
1960s (90)
mom (571)

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English (351)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Japanese (1)  French (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (360)
Showing 1-5 of 351 (next | show all)
DNF @ Page 20. I'm just not into super-fantasy stuff. shrug
  filemanager | Nov 29, 2023 |
Really, really mixed feelings. On one hand, I love Le Guin's ability to paint a picture with her words and the writing is beautiful. On the other hand, her writing can bore me to death. The underlying ideas behind this book were really powerful, I liked the story.

I didn't feel attached to the main character, let alone any characters- this book focused more on worldbuilding and, even when the focus was on the protagonist's journey, I hardly ever felt a connection w the protagonist himself, even though the whole journey is supposed to be relatable and introspective

I really liked the magic system and how it was rooted in language. That was a cool idea to play around with and I like how she used it

Overall, I think the writing dragged a bit too much. Made it hard to pay attention and hard to finish ( )
  telamy | Nov 6, 2023 |
"For a word to be spoken, there must be silence. Before, and after."

I decided to read this book for the same reason I decided to read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki. I love the films of Studio Ghibli, and one of the biggest reasons I love them is their stories. I also feel like Spirited Away has a lot in common with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which will always be two of my favorite books. I had also already read The Borrowers series before seeing The Secret Life of Arietty and have always loved it.
However, I must admit it has been a while since I have seen Goro Miyazaki's Tales from Earthsea but I remember loving it and that the story was fascinating. So, though I didn't know quite what to expect coming into this book, I had an inkling of some of the themes. Now that I have completed the book I would like to watch the movie again, though I know it is actually based on the whole Earthsea Cycle and not just the first book and that it also ties in other bits and creations of it's own to make a new story.

I learned some things reading this book. Ursula K. Le Guin is a beautiful writer. Everything feels like it has more to it, each sentence sometimes feels like something you could spend a while meditating on-- which honestly is so in sync with the story itself. The scenes with the mysterious shadow were a perfect amount of creepy, though this story is not "horror," I won't lie, I had a nightmare about the shadow. And while I didn't enjoy the nightmare, I appreciate the fact of how deep the creepiness had sunk in. And it wasn't just the description of the way the thing looked, but it was the tone across the whole of the tale, the feeling Ged had of being followed by some unnameable force, all the symbols it held...I feel like it had so many angles that make it truly a frightening thing. It comes from darkness, it is the unknown, it comes from the gate of death, it seeks to posses, it has no name, it has no shadow itself but is pure darkness for it IS the shadow, it is the dark side of a human soul, it is the nightmares that chase you each night and into the waking day, It is the fear that you either run from or face but must learn to live with, it is the thing that you have come to create and cannot wish another to carry its burden-- it truly encompasses so much, and yet in all things, truly, it is the definition of a shadow. And though I guessed a part of what the ending might be, I honestly never even thought of the final weapon Ged is able to use.

I love the world building in this book as well and honestly can't wait to read the others to see them built upon this foundation. I love the way the magic is done in this world, that you have to know the true name of a thing, the true essence of it, in order to have any control over it. But, having control over any of it, from the smallest pebble to the greatest mind, even for just a moment, effects the equilibrium of everything which is balanced in the world and so you must take that into account with each choice while using this magic. I love that there is a story to it, that the system is explained, because though I enjoy books about powers and magic, it really bugs me when you never know the mechanics of it or why or how it is. It just IS. When Magic is used in a way like it is used in this book, it can serve such a greater purpose and as this author has done, the learning of the use of magic can lend knowledge, and at the same time requires knowledge, to and of the character's world and their place in it.

I feel like at this point it seems like I'm trying to call this book perfect or something, which I'm not, but it's just that it is honestly so beautiful and refreshing with it's symbols, intricacies, explanations, revelations, and the like. Maybe I would even have to say that this book probably has the best use of tone of any that I have read-- it is extremely fluid because of this.

I did feel as though here and there things got a bit too technical and lost my attention for just a moment, or where I wasn't exactly sure of the meaning of what I was reading, but this was seldom and usually if I went back over it a few times I could sort it out. This book is not long, and yet I feel like taking the time to read it slowly is the best way about it. While I wish that we could have learned a bit more of some of the other characters, I also see how the tale would have lost the intimacy of the main character and his bond to the shadow if the focus had been shifted too much. The only thing that I truly even probably had a problem with was that after the slower pacing of the beginning of the novel, the ending seemed much too fast. Though whether this could have been intended I am not sure because I could see a way that doing it that way would make sense but at the same time I always feel a little offset when I feel rushed at the end of a book. But even my criticisms hardly sound like ones...I think I am realizing even more while writing this how amazing I really think this book is. ( )
  rianainthestacks | Nov 5, 2023 |
A Wizard of Earthsea was an early venture into "YA Fantasy" publishing, and it set much of the pattern for the wizard bildungsroman that later made the fortune of the world's richest woman. More than half a century after its original publication, it holds up very well. It is certainly a better book than its more "successful" imitators. I first read it when I was less than ten years old, and I had forgotten many of the details and much of the structure--despite in the interim having sampled some of the attempts to adapt it to the screen.

While the publishing press and the author herself have been quick to compare this high fantasy Earthsea to Tolkien's Middle Earth, I found the style far more reminiscent of Lord Dunsany, an author praised elsewhere by Le Guin with language similar to her remarks in the 2012 afterword to Wizard. There she mentions other fantasy literature that "mostly lurked in small secondhand bookshops smelling of cats and mildew" (262). To the extent that this book is an "epic" fantasy, it is more Odyssey than Illiad, deliberately spurning the matter of great wars and killer heroes.

As an orientation to esoteric wisdom, Le Guin's work far exceeds more recent tales of "wizard school." The teachings of Lao Tzu that she imbibed at her father's knee are evident in the magic of Earthsea. She has one clinker in her diction, where she misuses "adept" to mean "neophyte" (26). That lexical slip is far outweighed by such musings as this:

"You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do ..." (99, italics and ellipsis in original)

Le Guin quietly but consciously twitted racial preconceptions of US readers when writing this book, but she admittedly conformed to received gender types for fantasy literature (263). As a result, the business with Serret reflects Aleister Crowley's observation that "the neophyte is nearly always tempted by a woman."

My reread of this novel was undertaken with a view to reading the entire Earthsea cycle of six volumes. Only the first three of these had existed for my childhood reading. As a reading project, then, it shares elements of my mature returns to Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising books (a series about magic enjoyed in my childhood) and Gene Wolfe's Solar Cycle (a reread in order to approach the volumes subsequently published). I'm only encouraged by this first book.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Oct 4, 2023 |
I'm hoping the next book is a little less disparaging of women's magic. ( )
  IsraOverZero | Sep 23, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (123 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Archer, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergen, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cases, MadeleineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon. DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, Anne YvonneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Inglis, RobNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paronis, MargotTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pergameno, SandroForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robbins, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saunders, Micksecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smee, DavidCover artistsecondary 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 Éa
To my brothers
Clifton, Ted, Karl
First words
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.
It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.
The wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.
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Wikipedia in English (6)

Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the 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.

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Book description
Το νησί Γκοντ, ένα μοναχικό βουνό που η κορυφή του υψώνεται ένα μίλη πάνω από τη φουρτουνιασμένη Βορειοανατολική Θάλασσα, είναι ένας τόπος φημισμένος για τους μάγους του. Από τις πόλεις στα οροπέδιά του κι από τα λιμάνια στους σκοτεινούς, στενούς του κόλπους, πολλοί Γκοντιανοί έφυγαν για να υπηρετήσουν τους Άρχοντες του Αρχιπελάγους, στις πόλεις τους σαν μάγοι ή μάγιστροι, ή για ν' αναζητήσουν την περιπέτεια σαν περιπλανώμενοι γητευτές από νησί σε νησί σε όλη τη Γαιοθάλασσα.
Από αυτούς λέγεται ότι ο μεγαλύτερος, σίγουρα ο πιο πολυταξιδεμένος, ήταν ο άντρας που τον έλεγαν Κίρκο, που στις μέρες του έγινε και Άρχοντας των Δράκων και Αρχιμάγιστρος. Τη ζωή του αφηγούνται τα "Κατορθώματα του Γκεντ" και πολλά τραγούδια, αλλά τούτη εδώ δεν είναι μια ιστορία για την εποχή που δεν είχε γίνει ακόμα διάσημος, πριν γραφτούν τα τραγούδια.
Haiku summary
Sparrowhawk or Ged
A nameless shadow follows
Waiting for a name

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