Winner of five Nebula and five Hugo Awards, the National Book Award, the Newbery, and many other awards, Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the finest authors ever to write science fiction and fantasy. Her greatest creation may be the powerful, beautifully written, and deeply imagined Earthsea Cycle, which inhabits the rarified air at the pinnacle of modern fantasy with J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and Jane Yolen's Chronicles of Great Alta. The books of the Earthsea Cycle are A Wizard of Earthsea
(1968), The Tombs of Atuan
(1971), The Farthest Shore
(1972), the Nebula-winning Tehanu
(1990), and now, Tales of Earthsea
If you have never read an Earthsea book, this collection isn't the place to start, as the author points out in her thoughtful foreword; begin with A Wizard of Earthsea. If you insist on starting with Tales of Earthsea, read the foreword and the appended "Description of Earthsea" before proceeding to the five stories (three of which are original to this book).
The opening story, "The Finder," occupies a third of the volume and has the strength and insight of a novel. This novella describes the youth of Otter, a powerful but half-trained sorcerer, and reveals how Otter came to an isle that cannot be found, and played a role in the founding of the great Roke School. "Darkrose and Diamond" tells of two lovers who would turn their backs on magic. In "The Bones of the Earth," an aging wizard and his distant pupil must somehow join forces to oppose an earthquake. Ged, the Archmage of Earthsea, appears in "On the High Marsh" to find the mad and dangerous mage he had driven from Roke Island. And in "Dragonfly," the closing story, a mysterious woman comes to the Roke School to challenge the rule that only men may be mages. "Dragonfly" takes place a few years after Tehanu and is the bridge between that novel and the next novel, The Other Wind (fall 2001). --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
In this stellar collection, which includes a number of original stories, Le Guin (The Telling; Four Ways to Forgiveness; etc.) makes a triumphant return to the magic-drenched world of Earthsea. The opening novella, The Finder, set some 300 years before the birth of Ged, the hero of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), details both the origin of the school for wizards on Roke Island and the long-suppressed role that women and women's magic played in the founding of that institution. "The Bones of the Earth" describes Ogion, Ged's first great teacher, when he was a young man, centering on that wizard's loving relationship with his own mentor. "Darkrose and Diamond" is also a love story of sorts, about a young man who'd rather be a musician than a mage and the witch girl he loves. "On the High Marsh," the only story in which Ged himself appears, albeit in a secondary role, is a touching tale of madness and redemption. Finally, in the novella Dragonfly, a tale set immediately after the events related in her Nebula Award-winning novel Tehanu (1990), Le Guin tells the story of a young girl who chooses to defy the ban on female mages, tries to enroll in the school on Roke Island and, in doing so, initiates great changes to the world of Earthsea. In her seventies, Le Guin is still at the height of her powers, a superb stylist with a knack for creating characters who are both wise and deeply humane. The publication of this collection is a major event in fantasy literature. (May) FYI: In addition to five Hugo and five Nebula awards, Le Guin has won the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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