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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.

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