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Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) Hardcover – March 28, 1990

240 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ursula K. LeGuin follows her classic trilogy from Earthsea with a magical tale that won the 1991 Nebula Award for Science Fiction. Unlike the tales in the trilogy, this novel is short and concise, yet it is by no means simplistic. Promoted as a children's book because of the awards garnered in that category by her previous work, Tehanu transcends classification and shows the wizardry of female magic. The story involves a middle-age widow who sets out to visit her dying mentor and eventually cares for his favorite student.

From Publishers Weekly

The publication of Tehanu will give lovers of LeGuin's enchanted realm of Earthsea cause for celebration. In Tehanu , LeGuin spins a bittersweet tale of Tenar and Ged, familiar characters from the classic Earthsea trilogy. Tenar, now a widow facing obscurity and loneliness, rescues a badly burned girl from her abusive parents. The girl, it turns out, will be an important power in the new age dawning on Earthsea. Ged, now broken, is learning how to live with the great loss he suffered at the end of the trilogy. Tenar's struggle to protect and nurture a defenseless child and Ged's slow recovery make painful but thrilling reading. Sharply defined characterizations give rich resonance to Tehanu 's themes of aging, feminism and child abuse as well as its emotional chords of grief and loss. Tehanu is a heartbreaking farewell to a world that is passing, and is full of tantalizing hints of the new world to come. Fans of the Earthsea trilogy will be deeply moved. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Series: Earthsea (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum; Reissue edition (March 28, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689315953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689315954
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Carmen on January 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This story is so hard to rate, because it is excellent - the writing is so much more personal and deep than in the previous books in the trilogy. If you are looking at the technical parts of the story, Tehanu is much better than the beginning stories, and you will go back to the first trilogy, read it and wonder why she couldn't have made the style more like it. It is an good starting point for people who are not accustomed to fantasy, or who like reality to have a place in a fairy tale.
The problem that everyone has with this book, in my opinion, is how harsh it is, how human the characters. We who loved the first book will be shocked and dismayed at how frail and... and real our heroes have become. Ged without magic, and utterly without power really hurts to read about. Reading these characters, after having loved who they were, is like having your dreams shattered. The magic is torn brutally out of the fairy tale, and what we have left isn't pleasant. I kept reading the story only because I was certain Le Guin wouldn't let what was once a beloved story for adults and children alike become such a hard, ugly story about life and pain and hope. She just couldn't, but she did. Reading a fantasy in which your heroes are broken and humbled is almost as frightening as watching your parents cry, or seeing what was once a beloved place be torn down to make something like a freeway, black and ugly and full of smog. I kept wishing for the dream that was clear and innocent and beautiful in the first books to come back, but it never did.
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170 of 212 people found the following review helpful By Barry C. Chow on November 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a betrayal of all that came before. It should never have been written.
The first three were works of wonder, touching on universal themes: sublime, compelling, cogent and inspiring. They asked large questions and arrived at honest answers, but they did so gently and gracefully. The quiet unhurried voice is one that this author has honed to perfection. Her world of Earthsea ranks among the very classics, alongside Middle Earth, Narnia and Avalon.
Here, everything that made Earthsea so inspiring and evocative is sacrificed to make a point. Le Guin has decided that the fourth book of the series shall be a polemic - an undisguised and prolonged treatise directed at female empowerment and decrying child abuse. Are these worthy moral pursuits? Of course they are. Do they belong in the world of Earthsea? Not even remotely.
This book was one of the most excruciating and disappointing reads I have ever undertaken. It's not the writing or the skill - the author's proficiency remains unparalleled - but the desecration of what was magnificent. The skill with which this work is written actually adds to the anguish; we remember what this skill was harnessed to build and cannot help but contrast it to what it is now being used to destroy.
Reading this book, one is struck by how fragile a fantasy world like Earthsea really is. Earthsea works because, like all myth, it is founded in a successful illusion. When an author creates such a world, she makes a pact with the reader: "Accept this illusion, and we will journey to a place more vital than any you have known." If the author ever forgets this promise, if she ever turns from the myth to the commonplace, the illusion collapses and the world disintegrates.
In this novel, Earthsea suffers precisely such a fate.
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Queen Cobra, Goddess of Truth and Justice on June 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
I refuse to accept this book as part of the Earthsea trilogy, not simply because I dislike it, (which I do) but because it has little or no continuity with the earlier three. Ged's soliloquy on the way to the final confrontation on Selidor in 'The Farthest Shore' shows not only does he realize what the battle is going to cost him but accepts the price willingly. He is even looking forward to going home to Gont, Ogion and Tenar and perhaps learning what magery could never teach him. A long way from the lost and despairing figure in 'Tehanu'. Then there's chronology. According to 'The Farthest Shore' it's been about eighteen years since Ged and Tenar brought the ring of Erreth-Akbe back to Havnor, certainly not enough time for Tenar to find a husband, bear two children and raise them to adulthood. Nor does her choice of a simple farmer as a husband seem particularly likely. A more minor quibble is the fact the Master Summoner survives in 'Farthest Shore' but is suddenly and inexplicably dead in 'Tehanu'. If Ms. LeGuin didn't care enough to maintain continuity I don't see why I should have to accept this depressing little tome with its stereotypical portrayal of men as oppressors and women as victims as a legitimate sequel to the Earthsea trilogy.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Assaf Tal on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the 4th and last book in the Earthsea quartret.
After using up all his power to heal the tear in the fabric of reality, Ged returns to Gont, his first home, to learn and cope with life without magic. Alongside Ged's story, we are told the story of Tenar whom he rescued from the Tombs of Atuan in the 2nd book.
Unlike the first three books, this book has almost no plot. This is in fact not a bad thing. It means Tenahu is more of a "character's novel", which is fine, with the two main characters being Ged and Tenar. The book slowly unfolds and reveals their lives and their relationship.
In my opinion Le-Guin botched up an opportunity at a really great novel here - there aren't many character-based works of fantasy out there. This is a rare book. The theme of losing one's power and learning to cope with it is also powerful and capable of moving, if used correctly. However, Le-Guin has turned Tenahu into a feminist manifesto. I'm all for feminism, but it has been shown in countless cases that art recruited to prove a point is at most average art. This is exactly the case with this book - in her attempt to show the value of women, Le Guin forgot about her characters and the whole coherency of the book. I think the only reason this book has survived so far is because it has the earlier 3 books to carry its weight.
I felt I had to write these things down, although I don't think these comments will deter any earthsea fan from purchasing this book, and, after all, aren't we all Earthsea fans here, having reached the 4th book at all?
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