Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
Powers (Annals of the Western Shore) Paperback – April 6, 2009
About the Author
URSULA K. LE GUIN was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929, and passed away in Portland, Oregon, in 2018. She published over sixty books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translation. She was the recipient of a National Book Award, six Hugo and five Nebula awards, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
So, like. I was reading this trilogy of young-adult books by Ursula K. Le Guin.
The first one was, at a certain level of abstraction, about a young man, of whom there are great expectations, who conquers his fear and his ego to find his true power.
The second one was, at a similar level of abstraction, about a young woman, trapped in a limited and limiting role by a caste of priests, who is freed by the young man from the first book, and goes off with him.
If you see where I'm going with this, you will understand that I had certain expectations concerning _Powers_. Those expectations were, I am happy to say, fully destroyed by the book I actually read; there is no reasonable level of abstraction at which it is similar to _The Farthest Shore_.
Gavir is a slave in the town of Etra. He is a slave of a good family, who by and large treat him well, and is being trained as a scholar to teach the next generation of the family's children - even, yes, the slaves. While we see that other slaves are not as well-treated, and indeed one of the family is not so kind, Gavir does not particularly resent being a slave.
Then - not to be too spoily - two tragedies strike, resulting in Gavir's - well, not exactly running away from slavery; more like wandering off in a daze.
Now, I have briefly and unfairly summarized about two hundred pages of this five hundred page book.
The rest of the book is something of a picaresque novel, as Gavir moves from one social situation to another in succession, learning the ways of the world as he goes. Or perhaps it is a quest novel, where the object of the quest keeps shifting. Gavir gains and loses friends and companions, and ultimately winds up in a much better place (no, I don't mean he dies and goes to Heaven!).
This almost makes it sound as if the book is aimless; it is not. But it takes its own aim, and it takes it carefully, and it takes its time in making it clear what that aim is. From the first, of course, there is the theme of slavery and power. But power manifests itself in many ways throughout the book: there is Gavir's mysterious ability to remember things, including ones that have not yet happened; there are economic power, political power, military power, physical strength, the power of trust (and betrayal), and the power of charisma. _Powers_ is as carefully titled as _Gifts_ and _Voices_.
Gavir is one of Le Guin's most amiable characters. Like many of her protagonists, he begins essentially clueless about a great deal, and gradually learns to negotiate the world and society - yes, it's also a bit of a _bildungsroman_. His learning is organic to the situations he finds himself in,
And the writing - is there anything left to say about Le Guin's prose? - is sharp and clean and beautiful and poetic where it needs to be and prosaic where it must. Gavir's voice is his own, quite distinct from Memer's and Orrec's.
I have one quibble. It isn't a bad thing, but it is a thing. Le Guin was a master of languages and names; indeed, she wrote an essay (partially in response to Tolkien) on the habit of inventing languages. The quibble, then, is that her made-up languages, especially in her young adult fantasies, have a common sound to them. There isn't a name in the Western Shores, of a person, place, or thing, that wouldn't feel perfectly at home in Earthsea - which probably started me off on the wild goose chase with which I began this review; so now I'll stop.
No one loves Ursula K. Le Guin more than I do. She has written some truly amazing books. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. The beautifully described civilizations, the well-developed characters, and the vivid landscapes are all there. What is missing is a story. Or a purpose for this story. It is an interesting tale of one man's life, his journey from slavery to various incarnations of freedom. That's all fine but it does get a little old as he travels from one situation to another, leaving his past behind, and giving the reader little to hang onto from one situation to another. The reappearance of an old enemy at the end of the novel seems without foundation, more of a contrivance on the part of the author, and one that isn't even needed.
The book's ending is not the least bit satisfying or conclusive.
At the beginning of the book, the main character says something to the effect that he is telling his life story to his wife. The wife is never heard of again.