May 23, 2013

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

It's hard not to like a story about high fantasy.  And indeed, I can't say I disliked this book, but nor did I think it an exceptional work either.  There were just too many flaws to make it outstanding, but the world building at least, was interesting.

Sparrowhawk aka Ged aka some other things was born with great power in him.  At an early age it was discovered he could do magic and was at first apprenticed to the town witchwoman, then to a traveling mage, and then finally sent on to the great Mage school.  But it was while at school that he released a dark power on the land, one that would destroy him if he wasn't careful, and this dark shadow follows him throughout his journies until he realizes he must do something about it.

I actually didn't really think much of Ged.  He was too power hungry in the beginning and brash.  Although I suppose youth can be this way at times.  I also didn't understand his learning processes as he seemed to learn things quickly or without description in the books.  It therefore came as a surprise when he knew how to do something he previously did not without any background information provided.  Vetch, his friend, is a little more interesting and compassionate.  I actually would have rathered the story be about him because he was a likable character.  Ogion too was interesting, and I was sad to see that he wasn't in the book for very long.  I do have to say that I was disappointed with how the women were described in this book.  They seemed more pawns than anyone with their own power, although I hear this is rectified in later books of the series.

I actually liked the plot and the adventures that Ged had.  But I didn't enjoy the pace of the book.  It was too choppy and you were just getting settled into one point of his life when it quickly bounced ahead to another.  There was so much detail that could have been added and made Ged's world more complete.  I felt as if a lot had been left out and I wanted more description.  But there was a lot of action; Ged was continually on the move so there wasn't any lulls in the story.  I would have to say that this is probably a young adult novel more than an adult one, it kind of read at that quicker speed to me.

I should say that I actually "read" this book as an audiobook and while I've seen numerous complaints about the narrator, I actually liked him.  I thought he gave the characters good voices and that his way of speaking made you really dig into the book and made it more exciting.  It was like listening to a master storyteller tell a tale around a campground fire; or at least it was to me. 

I'd have to say that this book ranged somewhere between three and a half and four stars for me.  I liked it, but there were a lot of aspects to the book I wasn't thrilled with and the characters just didn't charm me.  For fantasy lovers though, this is probably a must read book.

A Wizard of Earthsea
Copyright 1968

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