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

I had never read the Earthsea books as a youth. I think as previously mentioned, the only fantasy book I read when I was younger was The Lord of the Rings, and I never tackled anything after that, because how do you top that? I’ve found over the past few years, however, that I’ve been more open to diving into tales of fantasy, so I was willing to have a look at this one, and see what I thought of it.

We are introduced to the character of Ged, who takes the name of Sparrowhawk for his public life, as his name, and all names are kept private, for there is power in the naming of things. And young Ged seems to have some powerful magical gifts, that may equal his pride one day, if he can set the one aside.

When he is prenticed to a master mage, Ogion, he grows to love the man, but not learn as quickly as he would like. And despite Ogion’s cautioning of maintaining a balance between all things, he offers to send Ged on to an island, where he can learn magic, illusion and mage skills, amongst other up and coming wizards at school that will teach them.

While he makes friends, and applies his skills and studies quickly, his pride still threatens him and gets him into trouble, leading to a demonstration that lets a darkness loose on the world. A darkness that will seek out Sparrowhawk and destroy him, unless the young man seeks it out first.

There are adventures a plenty in this novel, in fact, each chapter serves, in a lot of ways, as its own story, detailing the events of parts of Ged’s life as he continues on his education, his first assignments, his misadventures and adventures all of it culminating in his search for this darkness that has power over him, knows his name, and is beginning to take on his likeness.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and Le Guin works to develop a real sense of history to the world she has created, but I also found that that, to me, some of it felt rushed. This could have been a titanic adventure with lots of great character beats and moments, but instead, we simply follow along as it chronicles, in broad strokes, his adventure. I found myself wishing the novel would take its time, fill out the characters that were introduced, instead of telling us about them, let the characters actions and words tell us about them.

It feels, story-wise, like it a halfway step between fairy tale and story, which is not to say that I didn’t like it. I just wish it had been filled out more instead of rushing through the narrative. I wanted to take my time and enjoy the world, but felt I was on a rushed and guided tour, only getting glimpses, while knowing there is something larger just beyond the path I’m being ushered down.

Have you read them? What are your thoughts?

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