A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a GR Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Club Select and one that I had read while still in High School; it remains one of my favorites to this day (I liked it much better then the Lord of the Rings), although I chose not to reread it for the club discussion. The book is the first of an original trilogy; with a forth added much later that I have not yet read. Taken together, the entire quartet would probable equal the page count typically seen in a single novel today; to its benefit.
Le Guin packs a well constructed fantasy world, character development and a fair amount of action to keep the story moving along, leaving the tedious details to the readers imagination. EarthSea itself seemed designed for peoples with an intimate connection to the seas; something I had always fancied for myself growing up around the boats and marinas of the Chesapeake Bay. From the beginning I was able to make the world of EarthSea my own. The people of EarthSea seemed to be a wonderful combination of exotic Pacific Islanders and barbarian Vikings, fitting right in with my independent study of ancient peoples mythology and migration (though I was more interested in the indo-europeans at the time). This gave the whole story the feel of ancient, oral tradition that was so fun to play with. The magic of EarthSea was my first introduction to the concept of naming, balance and sympathetic forces; to this day I believe it makes more sense then nearly any other system I have encountered (: if only it were really true :).
When I first encountered the main character, SparrowHawk, I didn't like him very much; and, even as a young teen myself, I couldn't really identify with him. Fortunately he had a few things going for him ... He wasn't particularly evil or bad, just overly arrogant, willful, and still relatively naïve (unlike some other protagonists who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Thomas Covenant and Richard Cypher-Rahl) and he actually develops to overcome much what makes me dislike him by the end ... Truly a hero's journey.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.