Friday, March 20, 2009

The Farthest Shore

The Farthest Shore
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Published by Simon Pulse
Published in 2001
ISBN-13: 9780689845345
272 pages

Synopsis from back cover:
Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea. As the world and its wizards are losing their magic, Ged--powerful Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord--embarks on a sailing journey with highborn young prince, Arren. They travel far beyond the realm of death to discover the cause of these evil disturbances and to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it.

First Sentence: In the court of the fountain the sun of March shone through young leaves of ash and elm, and water leapt and fell through shadow and clear light.

The third book in the series, The Farthest Shore is a thought-provoking book that deals with the issue of death and eternal life. I also think it is the deepest book of the whole lot but one that is still enjoyable.

Because there is another wizard with great power (perhaps even matches Ged's) who is working a spell that will throw the world into chaos and upsets its balance by denying and avoiding death, Ged and prince Arren embarks on a journey (possibly of no return) to set things right again. They travel by sea into the West, the farthest shore. In their adventure, they encounter dragons and the children of the open sea, to name a few.

Out in the sea, alone with Arren, Ged talks about choices:

"Try to choose carefully, Arren, when the great choices must be made. When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. [...]"

"[...] We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I--though I have the power to do it--to punish and reward, playing with man's destinies?"

There are moments Arren becomes irritated and distrust Ged, and even questions his decision to go with the Archmage. You see, Ged does not use his magic freely and even got himself hurt. Arren wonders why Ged refuses to behave like a mage that he is. Ged seems to be philosophizing a lot without any real action. He begins to doubt the Archmage and wonders if they are doing the right thing.

This book shows us that people will do terrible things to gain eternal life. "To claim power over what you do not understand is not wise, nor is the end of it likely to be good," Ged says. They are willing to give up their true names because of the fear of death. In trading for that, they become slaves; darkness takes over. Even though they live, they wish they were dead. Even dragons, the oldest being, lose their Old Speech and turn on each other.

This story tells us that in death, we know life. I have enjoyed The Farthest Shore and love the encounters with the dragons. I will share with you Tehanu, the fourth book in the series in a bit.

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