Tuesday, November 15, 2016

High Fantasy Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula LeQuin

A Wizard of Earthsea  (Earthsea Cycle #1)
by Ursula K. Le Guin 

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.

My review:
A Wizard of Earthsea is the story about the origins of Sparrowhawk, a boy destined to be archmage and hero in the land (sea?) of Earthsea. I added this book to my to-be-read list back in 2013 when the miniseries based on the Earthsea books came out because I love fantasy and it had all the elements: young protagonist, magic, quests.

Still, having now read it, I can’t help but feel a little let down. The story itself is interesting. The struggle, the quest, and the danger, all progress logically and pull you along as Sparrowhawk grows into a more likeable hero.

Then again, it all falls flat. Part of that is due to the distant, 3rd person point of view. It’s all about Sparrowhawk, in the past, before he becomes famous, with lots of reminders that he will, in fact, fight this battle or that, become arch mage, or be an all-powerful master of the arcane of some sort. But, it reads more like a campfire tale by someone who’s memorized the words than an immersive adventure where the reader feels like they’re there in the action.

Also, there’s just a ton of hooptedoodle (look that up in the first few pages of John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday). Anyhow, I found myself skimming it. I just wanted the book to get to the point, the action, and while I can totally dig a few paragraphs of flowery words and fanciful description, there was way too much of both in some parts.

Also, if one’s true name is so important and powerful, why does Sparrowhawk find it so easy to share his? Right after going on and on about the true name, the first thing he does upon reaching the wizard school is state his true name to the keeper of the door. I recall this from the miniseries, too, and it didn’t sit well then, either. And if your friend shares their true name with you, why in the world would you then insist on greeting them with that name in public, ever? Seems incongruous.

Anyhow, while I didn’t find it a struggle to keep reading this book, it did make me second guess my own love of fantasy books. I couldn’t help but feel that if I’d read this ten years ago, I might have absolutely loved this book. But I didn’t read it ten years ago, I read it now.

So, overall, I must say I thought the book was ok and somewhat likeable, but not quite up my alley. Folks who really dig traditional fantasy with all the flowery words and hints of future greatness might enjoy this book. It’s not the most immersive experience, but there’s a good story in there. Still, I probably won’t continue reading the series.

I borrowed this book from the library.

About the Author:

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has also written poetry and essays. First published in the 1960s, her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.

She influenced such Booker Prize winners and other writers as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell – and notable science fiction and fantasy writers including Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks. She has won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Le Guin has resided in Portland, Oregon since 1959.

Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.