- Series: Earthsea Cycle
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Spectra; Reprint edition (September 28, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553383043
- ISBN-13: 978-0553383041
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 759 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1) Paperback – September 28, 2004
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From the Inside Flap
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.
From the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929; her parents were the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber. She writes both poetry and prose, including realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, young children's books, books for young adults, screenplays, essays, verbal texts for musicians, and voicetexts for performance or recording. She has published five books of poetry, seventeen novels, over a hundred short stories (collected in eight volumes), two collections of essays, eleven books for children, and two volumes of translation. Several of Le Guin's major titles have remained continuously in print for over thirty years. Her best known fantasy works, the first four Books of Earthsea, have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into sixteen languages. Three of Le Guin's books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors her writing has received are the National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula awards, the Kafka award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award.
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Ged is a flawed hero. Fueled by a rivalry with a fellow student, Ged's pride leads him to show off his power by practicing dark and forbidden magic. He ends up unleashing a shadow, and Ged's quest to ultimately hunt down this demon drives the rest of the novel. In this sense, the story is deeply personal. Even though it covers years of Ged's life, there is nothing epic about this tale. The story concerns Ged, and Ged alone.
In 1968, this story would have seemed vastly different than Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" or the sword and sorcery tales of Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock. For one, there is nothing European about Earthsea. Rather, the people of its archipelago appear more like one might imagine hailing off the coasts of Africa, India, or Asia. Also, there's nary a sword to be found in "A Wizard of Earthsea." Instead, it's all about wizards, and wizards carry staves.
A story about wizards is naturally all about magic, and Le Guin creates one of the most interesting magic systems ever made, all based on the true name of things. A wizard who knows a thing's true name has power over it, and Le Guin harkens back to that theme throughout her tale. Reading it, I can't help but think it inspired modern fantasy like "The Name of the Wind," which employs a similar magic system.
Despite a few bouts of lengthy exposition, and conflict that waxes and wanes maybe more than it should, I was drawn into a story as if I was reading it for the first time. I wish it had not taken news of Le Guin's passing remind me of these tales, but I'm fortunate it did. "A Wizard of Earthsea" is a true classic, unique in its day and far ahead of its time. For anyone, particularly those who want to explore one of the roots from which modern fantasy was born, I highly recommend it.
I’m disappointed only in myself for waiting so long to read this swift, engaging book.
Le Guin’s world building is nearly as deep as Tolkien’s and leaves the reader wanting to know so much more about Earthsea and its histories, cultures and dragons. I look forward to continuing my journey into this compelling, mysterious world.
The book follows the young boy, Ged, also known as Sparrowhawk. Ged has all the qualities you’d wish in a fantasy lead: he is powerful and brave and good. But he’s also young, at times immature, brash, arrogant, and reckless.
This recklessness inadvertently causes Ged to unleash an evil upon the world, and in true fantasy fashion, he has to be the one to vanquish the evil and make things right again.
There’s not a ton of action in the book. The wizarding school is not as elaborately imagined as that in Harry Potter (though it predates that series by decades), but is interesting nonetheless. What the book does have is strong character growth, and a philosophical edge not usually present in fantasy. It will make you think as well as feel.
I could not fault the writing, but as the book approached its 50th anniversary, it does feel mildly dated. Still, if you want a fantasy that is more introspective than action packed, this is a good choice, and an interesting opening to the series. I will be picking up the second novel to see how it unfolds.
4 out of 5 stars
I will be reading the rest of the series at some point. Also, I love the cover of this edition.