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Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore) Paperback – April 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–In this well-realized fantasy, the people of the Uplands have unusual and potentially dangerous abilities that can involve the killing or maiming of others. Gry can communicate with animals, but she refuses to use her gift to call creatures to the hunt, a stance her mother doesn't understand. The males in Orrec's line have the power of unmaking–or destroying–other living things. However, because his mother is a Lowlander, there is concern that this ability will not run true to him. When his gift finally manifests itself, it seems to be uncontrollable. His father blindfolds him so that he will not mistakenly hurt someone, and everyone fears him. Meanwhile, Ogge Drum, a greedy and cruel landowner, causes heartache for Orrec and his family. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout the novel. The characters, who are well rounded and believable, often fail to understand the extent of the responsibility that comes with great power. In the end, Gry and Orrec come to recognize the true nature of their gifts and how best to use them. Readers can enjoy this story as a suspenseful struggle between good and evil, or they can delve deeper and come away with a better understanding of the choices that all individuals must make if they are to realize their full potential. An excellent choice for discussion and contemplation.–Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-10. Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest novel, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu (1990) for another full-length young adult novel. Providing an intriguing counterpoint to the epic third-person voice of Le Guin's Earthsea novels, this quieter, more intimate tale is narrated by its central character, Orrec. Born into a feud-riven community where the balance of power depends on inherited, extrasensory "gifts," Orrec's gift of Unmaking (which is wielded at a glance and is as fearsome as it sounds) manifests late and strangely, forcing him to don a blindfold to protect those he loves from his dire abilities. The blindfold becomes a source of escalating tension between Orrec and his stern father, and its eventual removal serves as a powerful metaphor for the transition from dependent youngster to self-possessed, questioning young adult. Although intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics. One would expect nothing less from the author whose contributions to literature have earned her a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award, and, most recently, a Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement. Jennifer Mattson
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: Annals of the Western Shore (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152051244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152051242
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are lots of reasons to like a good LeGuin novel--her spare prose, her sharpness of description, her ease of storytelling, but in simple terms, when LeGuin writes well (nearly always), it boils down to the fact that reading becomes bare unadorned pleasure. Pleasure at its purest and simplest. And that is the gift of this newest book.
The backstory is pretty simple--families living in the Uplands have hereditary magical abilities or "gifts" (one type to a family) that can and usually are employed to harm: gifts of "unmaking" (killing/destroying), of "calling" (calling animals--used to call them to be killed), of "twisting" (maiming things and people), of "wasting" (cursing with a slowly fatal illness). The clans feud back and forth over land, cattle, etc. yet must also stay on terms to keep interbreeding as the gifts are strongest when bred true through the family. The description of the clans reminded me of old Celtic tales of cattle-thieving etc. Fans of Irish/Scottish old tales of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series might see some similarities).
Into this world come two youths raised as friends since childhood. Orrec's family has the gift of unmaking (using the eyes and hands) and there is a lot of pressure on him early when his gift takes its time to manifest itself, possibly because his mother is an ungifted "lowlander" who left the lowlands to wed his father after a raid. When his gift does appear, it seems to be "wild", uncontrollable and a danger to those around him. At his own urging, Orrec is blindfolded to protect those he loves.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I recently finished reading Gifts, and I have to admit it totally took me by surprise. My mom gave me the book, and it looked sort of...weird. But once it gets into the story, it's completely awesome! It's really interesting and complex, and I love how at the end it all comes together. It totally turns around at the end of the book. Gifts is one of the best books I've ever read! I can't even begin to explain how good it is. It should be the law to have to read it :-P
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hentges on January 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Le Guin brings us, in this finely-crafted novel, another story that is superficially aimed at younger readers and yet holds great depths for readers of all ages. As with her Earthsea novels, Le Guin layers the story with meaning that a young reader may overlook without losing any enjoyment and that only adds to the reader's enjoyment when he or she is ready for the more complex themes.

Le Guin's anthropological background shines in this story as well. The setting has echoes of Scotland, but the fabric of the fantasy setting is woven so tightly that you never truly see our world through it. The culture the characters live in is fully realized and the actions of the characters within the setting reflect this. These are not modern people in fancy dress, strutting through some generic fantasy world; they live and breath on the pages, acting in ways that are wholly consistant with their imagined background. The result is a novel that is so envoloping that you quickly get lost in it. Read the exerpt here on and then curse me, for you will be wanting to turn to the next page at the end of it and will end up paying for overnight shipping just so you can continue the story as soon as possible.

In addition to enjoying the story, I marvelled at the craft of this novel. The way the story is bookended by chapters that bring the story full-circle is beautiful in its elegance. Le Guin's careful revelations through the course of the plot show her mastery of pacing and presentation.

In summary, we are fortunate to have a living master of her art and craft like Le Guin turning out novels of this quality. At a time when fantasy seems to be measured more by bulk than quality, it is refreshing to read a novel in which every word is vital to the story. Take the opportunity to read a story told by someone in the full maturity of their talent and buy this book today.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Yoshimura on November 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I finished 'Gifts' in about a day flat. It was wonderful.

I love reading LeGuin because she really understands the human condition and her characters, even in short stories, are always three-dimensional, fully-realized, living, breathing people. Her imagination is overflowing and you can sense the love she's put into imagining all the details of each world she creates, its customs and folkways, religion, language, history, dress; everything is there.

But more than that, where she really shines is in showing us the beauty and pain of our relationships with each other. The small kindness that breaks the heart, the well-meaning betrayal, the yearning to understand another, the void of loneliness, and the quiet strength of the spirit. Everything that is good and true about people, she captures.

I can recommend this to everyone. It's very quiet and slow-moving and understated but it's the stuff of true poetry; beautiful, tragic, but ultimately hopeful.

I also highly recommend her short story 'A Fisherman of the Inland Sea'. It's probably the best love story I've ever read.

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