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A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea

Book - 2012
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Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous 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.

Publisher: Boston : Graphia, 2012, c1968
ISBN: 9780547851396
Characteristics: 266 p. : map ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and... Read More »

Gold standard writer of fantasy. This is how a master does it.

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JCLCharlesH May 19, 2021

High fantasy and coming of age combine in this classic story of magic and friendship. Ged is a magically gifted youth who's desire to rise above his humble roots leads him to cast a spell he is not prepared for with potentially dire consequences. Haunted by his past mistakes, he moves into his wizarding career and attempts to atone for his choices.

Apr 13, 2021

I don't read a lot of fantasy and will be the first to admit that I'm a little out of my depth on this one (again). I'm not against fantasy, in fact there have been many Fantasy books that I've really enjoyed. I just generally find it hard to understand the rules of the universe without a sort of visual accompaniment or aid.

That being said, I found this book to be a pretty digestible read (of course it's target audience includes people half my age, so you could argue I set the bar pretty low). Le Guin builds a fascinating universe but takes the time to explain it to readers so we (okay, so *I*) know what's going on.

The writing style is engaging. It's largely driven by plot exposition, which I don't usually like, but given that the story is framed like a song or legend that's been passed through the ages, the format works. I also like that Le Guin had the courage to write a deeply flawed but relatable protagonist. The hero's flaws were self-evident but understandable, making for a satisfying character arch.

That being said, I did find the second half of the book a bit meandering. The hero's penance-journey started to feel a bit repetitive and is made worse by the fact that he doesn't seem to learn more about his predicament or how to resolve it, he just...keeps going. This compounded with a rushed finale made for an unsatisfying conclusion.

However, it's a quick, easy read with some creative world-building and neat ideas. I just think that the second half would have benefited from a little less plot and a little more character.

IndyPL_SteveB Feb 14, 2021

Book One of the Earthsea Cycle.

Earthsea is a large archipelago around an inner sea. The tradition of magic and wizards has been there for centuries, and every island or island group wants to have its own magic user. There is even a School for Wizards, probably the first major wizard school in fantasy literature. The people of Earthsea range from blond, white-skinned people of the northern islands to the very dark-skinned people of the southern group. The main character is labeled as “bronze-skinned” and his best friend at the School for Wizards is dark-skinned.

Duny is a young boy with untrained magical powers. He saves the villagers on his island of Gont from an invasion by creating a fog that bewilders the invaders. The island’s wizard takes him on as an apprentice and gives his him “true name” of “Ged.” Because true names have power and should rarely be revealed, he becomes known to others as “Sparrowhawk.” Eventually Ged chooses to go to the School for Wizards, where he feels out of place among the more sophisticated students. Out of anger and pride, he eventually tries to show off his half-trained abilities by calling up a dead spirit. Instead he calls a shadowy being which attempts to kill him. The shadow disappears from the island but Ged knows that someday he must face it again. When Ged graduates from the school, he spends months traveling Earthsea looking for the shadow.

What seemed completely original and powerful in those early days of literary fantasy seems a bit less so today, after decades of novels influenced by this one, which really did open up new vistas for teen novels. It is still very good, with fine writing and the charm of the various cultures of the Archipelago.

Jan 15, 2021

Light fantasy fable with an obvious lesson. Dark shadow unleashed by a powerful wizard when he was young. Chased by the shadow until he turns and hunts the shadow until uniting both parts of him by naming the shadow by his name. ‘Know thyself...’

Nov 13, 2020

I greatly enjoy Ursula Le Guin’s works....they contain monumental truths, sage advice, deep understandings well worth the time to read, think about, digest and enjoy. They also tend to be just damn fun to spend time with.

Aug 12, 2020

At times, A Wizard of Earthsea is a generic fantasy story, but what makes it different is the life lessons that it teaches. Ged, the main character, goes through the wringer in this book, but the wisdom he earns by the end is really touching. The world-building is also very inspired and investing.

Jun 28, 2020

This was a little bit confusing but I liked it anyway. I liked how the main character had to overcome their fear and how he grows in that journey.

ArapahoeTina Mar 18, 2020

Le Guin's storytelling may not be for everyone—she's slow and deliberate and has a fancy for creating unusual names and detailed world-building. The ending of this one was so profound, it took me off guard. Ursula truly is a master!

Feb 11, 2020

Le Guin's gorgeously evocative prose transports the reader to Earthsea, with its esoteric magic and whimsical locales suffusing the young protagonist's hero journey with a sense of inscrutable wonder. Ged's pitched battle against a foe of his own creation feels repetitive and overwrought at times, and the story comes to a rather predictable conclusion, but the ride to the finale is well worth it. This is a brisk read, perfect for a rainy Sunday, and essential for fans of the genre.

This is a really cool concept for a book. I loved the ending. The only thing I can say about this book other than that is that the characters have a lot of potential for funny fan fics, since the story doesn't go into very specific inner dialogue. Not something I would recommend to people wanting to get into the genre, but a good read.

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Jun 28, 2020

sophiaSHkim thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

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ArapahoeTina thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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Jan 16, 2018

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ArapahoeTina Apr 27, 2020

But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power...It must follow knowledge, and serve need.

ArapahoeTina Apr 27, 2020

To light a candle is to cast a shadow...

ArapahoeTina Apr 27, 2020

But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.

Jul 12, 2015

". . . knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life's sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark."


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Jul 12, 2015

This is the original boy goes to wizard school. Our young hero Sparrowhawk will let his pride get himself in trouble, and will need to undertake a great journey of self discovery to hopefully get himself out again.

siammarino Feb 16, 2015

Ged is a prentice wizard who is sent to the isle of Roke to learn his craft with others like him (starts just like Harry Potter). However a spell goes wrong and he is haunted thereafter by his own dark shadow. Ged learns to confront it instead of running, and in doing so he is freed from the evil that tormented him. Loved this book! Very atmospheric and lyrical. There are no armies and bloodshed; the fight is inward instead of against others.


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