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The Earthsea Quartet (A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; Tehanu)
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Top Customer Reviews
The quartet consists of the following novels: "A Wizard of Earthsea," "The Tombs of Atuan," "The Farthest Shore," and "Tehanu." Each book follows the life of the Wizard Ged, as he embarks on numerous quests during a period when magic is dying out in Earthsea and evil is replacing it. Although this novel, and the entire quartet, have been classified as children's books, I do not totally agree with the label or classification. The tales may well be appreciated by children and adults alike, but the sophisticated prose, the very language used to form the riveting narratives, is as rich and flavorful as dark Belgian chocolate. And apart from the obvious storylines, there are subtexts, subplots and subtleties. One could say that Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," or "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift, are delightful children's books, however, these same novels are usually appreciated by adults on an entirely different level.
"A Wizard of Earthsea" introduces the main character of the series, Ged, a little boy who discovers he has magical ability. He studies under Ogion the Silent, the great mage of Re Albi, learning to read and write the Six Hundred Runes of Hardic. Ged discovers he has developed the power to call animals. However, he is tempted by magic clearly forbidden to one so inexperienced, and makes a terrible mistake. From this incident, Ged and Ogion learn that he has become too powerful at too young an age and is not able to control the magic within. The boy decides to leave his beloved mentor and travel to Roke Island and the School (for sorcery).
He studies under the Archmage Nemmerle, Warder of Roke and the nine Masters of Roke. Ged's arrogance and carelessness lead him to show off to impress the other boys. He accepts a dare to call up a spirit and instead releases a mysterious, evil shadow from beyond this world. The experience nearly kills him. This time the consequences are truly horrific and will have a lasting effect on his life.
When he recovers, he finishes his studies and is hired by the residents of Pendor to protect them from a dragon that has menaced them for years. While he lives there he is haunted and tormented by the evil shadow, and finally realizes that he must go after it instead of trying to hide. In order to fulfill his obligation to the townsfolk of Pendor he goes out to meet their dragon instead of waiting for it to come to him. Only then will he go in search of the shadow.
The tale of the "Tombs of Atuan," is the second book in the Earthsea Cycle and begins a few years after Ged's adventures combating the "shadow" force. In Atuan, part of the Kargish lands, a little girl, Tenar, is chosen at birth to assume the role of One Priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, where the ancient Nameless Ones are said to dwell. When Tenar turns five years-old, she is taken from her parents and formerly given to the Nameless Ones, her life until death is dedicated to them - the old gods. She is schooled to become the High Priestess, reborn, of an ancient religion. And from this time she will have no other name but Arha, the Eaten One. While, in Atuan's tombs, she discovers an intruder in the forbidden labyrinth. This man offers the young woman a wider destiny if she wishes it. She chooses to turn her back on everything familiar, in exchange for an uncertain future.
Something is leaching the magic, mystery and all the joy out of Earthsea. The world's Balance has been disrupted. Arren, the young prince of Enlad, heir to the Principality of Morred, joins Ged, (now Archmage), on a quest to find the source of the evil. Their search will take them to the open sea to visit with the raft people, and then across the wall into the dry land of the dead. "The Farthest Shore," the third novel, is my favorite. Ged's and Arren's commitment to prevent their world from falling apart, is inspiring and often extremely moving.
In this book we learn that it is now time for a king to sit on the throne of Earthsea again, to wield the Sign of Peace and unite the lands and peoples. However, a prophecy must be fulfilled first: "He shall inherit my throne who has crossed the dark land living and come to the far shores of the day." Ged insists on taking action before any more discussion takes place about kings and future. He would go where the trouble is now, with Arren, to find the source of the blight. They must find and close the hole in the world where the light is bleeding out.
"Tehanu," the fourth and final book, was written twenty years after publication of "The Farthest Shore." Ms. Le Guin returns to Earthsea, and to Gont, to chronicle Ged's life after he ceases to be Archmage, and to reunite him with Tenar. A new power and another champion of Balance, Tehanu/Therru, is also introduced here. Tenar's reflections on her life, the nature of a woman's power and her own place in the world are major themes in the novel. Although "Tehanu" stands on its own, as do the other books in the Earthsea series, the story will be more enjoyable if the previous books are read first.
Ms Le Guin examines many topics in these extraordinary novels. To me one of the most interesting is the delicate balance between life and death. The author focuses on the importance of death and how its inevitability makes life more meaningful. Her approach is influenced by eastern philosophy. The eternal cycle of life, death, the return of the body to the earth, and one's energy to the universe, is part of the natural world which maintains the equilibrium of our planet.
Ms. Le Guin's prose is, quite simply, exquisite. ENJOY!
Accessible to the young, yet still entertaining for the old, the Earthsea trilogy is a timeless classic. Le Guin writes from a Daoist perspective, and the root message in this series, that too much of something is never a good idea, is readily apparent. I read this series in high school (due largely in part to a very open minded and liberal english teacher), and continue to enjoy it today some 15 years later.
The fourth book is set after the original trilogy, and is geared mainly for adult readers. In my assessment it detracts from the original series in that it should not have been included as a "quartet" as it has a very different tone. Good nonetheless, but different. Enjoy all.
Ged apprentices to the local Wizard on God, and is eventually sent to the school for wizards on Havnor. There in anger during a fight with other youths he releases a dark shadow, an evil. The Masters of the school appear and banish it from the island. However this shadow and Ged are now tied together in a very unique way.
After leaving the school Ged becomes haunted by the shadow he has released. He tries to return to the protection of Havnor but cannot return to the island the magic protecting the island will not let him approach. So he decides to head south.
The shadow is getting closer and closer to him, and he must discern it's true name or else he will not be able to defeat it. Can he solve the puzzle, will he wrestle with his shadow and win or will he succumb to the evil he has let loose.
This is a book I first read back in highschool. Then a few years back had to read it for an English literature course at the University of Waterloo I was about a third of the way through it when I realized I had read it before and that is when I found our that the story continued. Since then the two collections of short stories have been published in this world.
Le Guin deals with some big questions of life in this book. Such questions as:
Who am I?
Do I have a role or purpose in life?
Can I defeat the darkness within me?
Can good conquer over evil?
Why am I here?
Can I make a difference?
This book will be a good read for anyone who has ever struggled with some of these questions. Or who wants to use a novel to help them grow to have a deeper understanding of themselves.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read some time ago. Meh. Improved my appreciation for J.K. Rowling.
* The Tombs of Atuan
Wonderful, the best of the quartet.Read more