Monday, February 09, 2009

A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Publisher by Bantam
Published in 2004
(Parnassus Press HC edition in 1968)
ISBN-13: 9780553262506
197 pages

Synopsis from back cover:
Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth. Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk 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.

First Sentence: The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northern Sea, is a land famous for wizards.

This is my first Ursula K. Le Guin book and I enjoyed it tremendously. The synopsis above gives a good overview of the book. It is also a fairly short novel with 197 pages only. Ged (his true name) is destined to be an Archmage but he does not yet know about it. As a child, he is called Duny. He is wild and quick, loud and proud, and full of temper. One day by accident he repeats aloud the rhyme that he heard his aunt uses to call a goat that has strayed, and the other goats come to him. That is how he is 'discovered' and is sent to learn from a mage named Ogion. But before that, his village is attacked and he summons a magic that drives the bad guys away.

As mentioned earlier, Ged has attitude problems. He becomes impatient with his master who does not seem to be teaching him anything but asking him to gather herbs and to listen, and to wait. He decides to leave Mage Ogion and moves on to the school for wizards on Roke with his master's blessing and recommendation. At the school, he befriends Vetch and also finds an otak (a small rat-liked beast) for a pet which he names as Hoeg. His attitude remains the same leading him into trouble and near death when he unleashes something monstrous. Since then, he becomes the hunted.

A Wizard of Earthsea talks about balance, true name and magic. Ged has upset the balance and he must restore it. You will have to read the book to see how he tackles the shadow. He undergoes a transformation from being a proud person to someone who is humble. Good does come out of evil, but only if we are brave enough to overcome it. There is lesson in humility.
It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul. (p. 129)

I have enjoyed this short read by Le Guin and will continue with the rest of the books in the Earthsea cycle: The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu, all of which are in my to-be-read pile.

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