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Voices (Annals of the Western Shore) Hardcover – September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–The year Memer was born, a foreign army overthrew her city's elected government, declared the written word demonic, and destroyed every book it could find. Seventeen years later, possession of books is still punishable by death, and Memer and her mentor, the Waylord, are the protectors of a hidden library and the intermediaries of an oracle within it. At the invitation of the head of the occupying forces, Orrec the poet and storyteller and his wife Gry visit the city, and their arrival catalyzes the end of the occupation and the renewed prominence of Memer's extended family. Some readers will recognize Orrec and Gry from Le Guin's Gifts (Harcourt, 2004), although Voices stands entirely on its own. Filled with thought-provoking parallels to our own world, this political saga adeptly shows some pragmatic reasons why a war might end: growing personal connections between an occupying army and a local populace, changes in leadership and dimming of religious fervor within an invading nation, the expense of maintaining a distant garrison, and the recognition by two parties of shared economic goals better served by cooperation than oppression. While her prose is simple and unadorned, Le Guin's superior narrative voice and storytelling power make even small moments ring with truth, and often with beauty.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. Le Guin's new book pairs organically with its companion novel Gifts (2004), echoing themes of revenge, family legacies, personal morality, and a humanistic magic redolent more of earthy mysteries than flashy sorcery. Seventeen-year-old Memer, a "siege brat" resentful of the invaders who raped her mother and left her hometown "a broken city of ruins, hunger, and fear," dreams of one day delivering vengeance. Then Orrec and Gry arrive--the same teens who fled the Uplands in Gifts, now worldly, grown up, and, in Orrec's case, renowned as a Maker of stories. Orrec's tale spinning begins to erode the boundaries between the conquered and the conquerors, confronting Memer with decisions that temper her childhood dogmatism and press her to a deeper understanding of her mystical birthright. Readers who look to fantasy for traditional epic quests may consider this novel too contained, but the relevance of the slowly festering conflict between occupying and occupied cultures cannot be missed, and the author's understated writing flows as unstintingly as ever. One final note: the photo-collage jacket portrait of a dark-skinned girl is to be applauded, celebrating the diversity long present in Le Guin's fantasy but too infrequently evident on the covers of her books. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Series: Annals of the Western Shore (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books; First Edition edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152056785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152056780
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,048,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Anne-Marie G VINE VOICE on October 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Much more fast paced than I am used to for LeGuin's novels. As always though, the writing is amazing, she really does show her family's background in anthropology when she creates these new peoples. They are so realistic. I had the feeling while reading this that it is very much inspired by some contemporary events. It deals with the effects of war--and not just war but an occupied people (in a city) and how the cultures of the occupied and occupier clash due to willful misunderstanding and ignorance.

Memer is the narrator and hero(ine) (though that depends on what outfit she is wearing). Right away you are pulled into her world and the suffering it has been through having to hear only second or third hand of the glory her city once knew.

Not only does the book touch on contemporary issues but it also is very much about the power of the written word and oral communication. (Memer might not realise the power of the oral herself being very biased towards written, but the story has several points where it stressed how the two can work together).

The book has some mature themes though no truly explicit scenes (it does acknowledge the existance of sex and rape however). I enjoyed it and finished it in a couple of hours.

It was only when i was part way through it that I realised it was actually the second book set in that world, and the store didn't have the first. So I can say for a fact that not having read the first one doesn't lessen one's enjoyment or understanding of the second (though there werre probably a few things I missed or didn't pick up on due to that literary hole.)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Carey on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a YA novel set in the same world as Le Guin's earlier Gifts, and Orrec and Gry, from the previous book, do figure in the story. The story is completely separate, though, and it's not necessary to have read that one in order to read this.

Memer is a young girl growing up in a city under occupation. Ansul was previously a city of learning and culture; the conquerors have looted the university and destroyed all the books in the city. Writing is demonic, because it takes words, the breath of Atth, the Alds' god, and traps it. Memer's household, Galvamand, was one of the leading households of the city before the Alds arrived, one of the most learned households, and a bit more than that, as we and Memer gradually learn. The house has a secret room, where some of Ansul's books have been preserved, and the head of the household, Sulter Galva, teaches Memer to read. It's the one bright spot in a hard and impoverished life, and for everyone's safety they keep it secret even from the rest of their own household.

Two things upset this precarious stability. One day when she's out doing the marketing, trying to avoid the notice of the Ald soldiers who can be capriciously violent, Memer witnesses the arrival of a Maker, a storyteller--Orrec, with Gry, and a pet lion they've acquired. Because of the Alds' ban on books, and because both Alds and the citizens of Ansul greatly admire storytellers, Orrec's arrival would have been a major event even if the lion hadn't panicked one of the soldiers' horses. Memer, with great presence of mind and a sense that the god of luck has taken charge of her for the day, manages to get control of the horse before it runs anyone down. In the aftermath of this, Orrec and Gry are invited to stay at Galvamand while they're in Ansul.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A companion novel to Le Guin's Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore), VOICES looks in on the life of a teen growing up in a city controlled by an enemy people. Memer has never known a life when hostile soldiers didn't patrol the streets and the possession of a book was not a crime punishable by death. The invading army believes that written words are evil, and that the city of Ansul is full of demons. But Memer knows that the Waylord, the man who raised her after her mother's death, has a hidden library in his house. There, he teaches her to read, and then, to use her understanding to help the city face its greatest crisis.

For a novel that has a lot to do with story-telling and reading, VOICES has more action and excitement than readers might expect. The arrival of Orrec, a great storyteller (and the narrator of GIFTS), rekindles the courage of Ansul's people, and they attempt to rebel against their oppressors. Memer finds herself caught in the middle, torn between her loyalty to the Waylord, who wishes to find a peaceful solution, and her hatred for the soldiers who destroyed so many things that she treasured. With many twists and turns along the way, VOICES delivers a conclusion that is both satisfying and unpredictable.

Perhaps the strongest element of the novel, however, is the way it moves from black and white to shades of gray. Orrec believes that all people have some good in them, and as Memer is forced to get to know the invaders she despises, she realizes that they are not all terrible and cruel. Some of them are simply different, and unable to understand her way of life.
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