A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

29Nov06

Synopsis:
A young mage-in-training with unprecedented powers performs a forbidden spell and looses a shadow from another realm that intends to destroy him.

Review:
The writing in A Wizard of Earthsea is beautiful, and the world is wholly original. However, this books gets a little too fantasy-ey for me. It’s got a lot of Magic, and not that that much adventure. It’s much more about the ideas than it is about character development–which is fine. It’s just not what I prefer.

I picked it up because I felt like it was a gap in my literary education. Le Guin’s series is a seminal one, and I could see her influence on Patricia McKillip (The Book of Atrix Wolfe and Alphabet of Thorn), another writer whose work I admire but don’t hold with affection.

What most people who don’t read fantasy don’t know is how broad the genre is, and that fans of fantasy don’t have to like all of it. Le Guin’s form of fantasy (and McKillip’s, and also Lois McMaster Bujold, to a lesser degree) is not very accessible to the fantasy novice, and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is not familiar with the genre already. If someone asked me for a fantasy read, I’m not really sure what I’d suggest. Any thoughts about good, entry-level fantasy?

Currently reading:
White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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4 Responses to “A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin”

  1. If someone asks me for a fantasy read I direct them immediately to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I think it is being made into a movie that will come out this summer, so there isn’t much time to read it before the hype sets in and we are saddled forever with someone else’s ideas about how it should look. It isn’t very long, though, is the only thing.

    You might try, if you haven’t already read it, Little, Big, by Jonathan Crowley. It’s longer and full of characters and beauty, and connected to a bunch of mythical threads like Madame Blavatsky and that stuff, all in interesting ways.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m kind of fascinated by Madame Blavatsky, so I’ll definitely check that one out.

    For some reason, I can’t get into Neil Gaiman, which I feel like is my problem, not his. I tried reading American Gods and just couldn’t stay interested. I’ll give Stardust a try; I really want to like him because he’s so admired by people who’s opinions I respect.

    Great blog, by they way–congratulations on finishing NaNoMo! I only hit 20,000 words but I like what I have so far, so I’ll keep going.

  3. 3 paperbacks

    Yeah… I love fantasy, but sometimes the books start reading like an old textbook about how magic and the stars blah blah blah are all interconnected. I feel like I’m reading chemistry–except its not even useful like chem would be, haha
    I’m more into girly fantasy anyway like Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey…

  4. I have read all of Gaiman’s books except for the collection he just came out with this year (and the Sandman graphic novels, which are out of my price range at present). American Gods I liked less than any of the others. Tied for the top are Neverwhere and Stardust.


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