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. (synopsis from Goodreads)
After reading (and loving) The Left Hand of Darkness, I decided to give LeGuin’s work in fantasy a go. While I wasn’t as much of a fan this book as I was of the other, I still really enjoyed reading this book. While I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about Tolkien and how his books very much read like someone was telling me a story out loud. This is how I felt when I was reading this book and it actually added to my enjoyment. While it’s awesome to read fantasy that completely immerses you in the world, it was refreshing to read something that had this feeling of storytelling while still being able to paint a picture in your mind of the world that LeGuin has created.
Despite the size of the book (it’s only about 200 pages long) we get to experience this whole new world, watch the main character, Ged, grow from an impulsive young boy to a humble man trying to fix the wrongs of his youth. All of this while going on an exciting adventure chock full of magic and dragons. What more could one ask for in a fantasy series?
One would think that a book this size with this much adventure crammed into it would leave no room for character development, however, LeGuin manages to attach us to Ged, not from long winded descriptions of his behavior or even long dialogue with the people he encounters, but through his actions. Everything Ged does in this book is important to his character so no superfluous details are there to distract from what we really need to know about Ged. Ged’s tale of a young boy who, in his youthful arrogance, makes a regrettable mistake that he must live with for the rest of his life is one that many people know. Who hasn’t made mistakes in their lives that they kind of regret when they get older.
While Ged’s situation is a little more severe than what most of us would go through in our lives, we can still relate to the feeling of indestructibility that often got us into trouble. It’s a growing up story, and one that many readers can relate to. By pinpointing these common emotions, LeGuin was able to write a character that, while in a whole other world and a wizard, we can see ourselves in, and that it was really makes this book work. Sure, I did want a little more from Ged’s character at times, but overall, I believe that LeGuin did a good job.
A Wizard of Earthsea is a great addition to any fantasy collection, and one that fans of fantasy should definitely read. I would also recommend it to those who have been thinking about getting into the fantasy genre or even readers who are not normally into the whole magic and dragons thing. The story is engrossing, the book is short (the following books are just as short as the first) and is a great example of storytelling at its finest.