A Wizard Of Earthsea
(Ursula K. LeGuin)
A Wizard of Earthsea relates the story of Ged, son of a blacksmith in a
remote village who is destined to become the most powerful wizard in
the archipleago of Earthsea. In his youth, Ged is discovered by a
local wizard named and becomes his apprentice. The young wizard's
arrogance leads him to unleash an evil shadow creature, and the book
relates his attempts to evade this creature long enough to find a way
to defeat it.
The world of Earthsea includes such familiar fantasy elements as a
magic school, dragons, and strange witches, but these old concepts are
given a refreshing new slant in this story. The wizard school of
Roke is not Hogwarts revisited (in fact, this story is older than the
Harry Potter series), but just one more phase in Ged's
development. The dragon is sly and impressively dangerous, but
acts in a way that makes the reader almost sympathetic. So
craftily written are the witches that even the reader doesn't see them
for what they are until it is far too late.
This book stands out in the fantasy genre with a sense of normalcy in
place of the usual high adventure. Ged is more of an everyman
than a swashbuckling hero. Outside of Roke, he uses his magic
sparingly, and then without the impressive effects common to fantasy
literature. Magic in Earthsea is not much different than
mathematics in the real world. Although it is capable of bringing
things as incredible as the theory of relativity or as terrible as the
atomic bomb, it is used much more commonly to deal with common problems
using established methodology. Ged at his best acts more like a
theoritical physicist than a demigod.
LeGuin employs a writing style that is at once simple and beautifully
descriptive. Without a single wasted word or unnecessary phrase,
she conjures up a rich world of islands and open sea. Even the
most minor characters are brought to life with excellent dialogue and
strong description. The major characters are sure to stay with
you long after you have finished the book.
This novel should be considered essential reading for any fantasy enthusiast.