If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Le Guin "To light a candle, is to cast a shadow": Ursula K.
With the belated publication of Tehanu, the original trilogy was repackaged as a quartet. 'Tehanu' isn't the fourth book in a quartet, but the first book in a new trilogy. But taken as a unit, the 'second' trilogy is a remarkable achievement, a rare example of fantasy questioning its own basis - all the more powerfully because Le Guin understands, and loves, what she is taking apart...
Call me Always Late on the Bandwagon because it took me sooo long to realize that Earthsea was a book by my favorite sci-fi writer, and not just a terrible Sci-Fi Channel series (that Le Guin disavowed, by the way). A Wizard of Earthsea is the coming of age tale of Ged, who is also known as Sparrowhawk, a boy who will one day grow to be a great and famous wizard. It follows the upbringing of Arha, a young girl who is the reincarnation of the priestess of the Nameless Ones, who guards the Labyrinth and the treasure of the Tombs in Atuan, a remote land at the edge of Earthsea. This is basically some sort of Earthsea-apocalypse tale: the signs that the end of the world as they know it are coming abound, and the disappearance of magic from their world would cause this civilization to collapse. There's a strong feminist commentary in this story, but Le Guin is not being didactic: she is showing us what Tenar goes through, the way power is taken away from her, then given back, then taken away again and how she reacts to this ebb and flow. It ends on an open and hopeful note that makes me want to check out more "Earthsea" books! Le Guin was preaching to the choir with me, but I loved the Taoist aspect of her magic system, which puts emphasis on balance: every action has consequences, and that understanding is the keystone of the wizardry of Earthsea. The Tombs of Athuan was especially interesting: the gender relations and the coming of age of Arha were an usual choice of topic at the time it was written, and captures something quite true about the internalized isolation of women in some societies, the development that is more or less imposed on them instead of being a result of their choices. It was interesting to realize that I enjoyed many famous works these books very obviously inspired: Harry Potter, Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicle and How to Train Your Dragon owe a lot to Le Guins creation.
I started this book back in October 2016 and occasionally broke off to read others, such as The Last Wish only returning to Ursula K. https://www.goodreads.com/series/1115... I've reviewed ALL of the books contained in this volume separately too:- Wizard of Earthsea https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... - 4 Stars Tombs of Atuan https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... - 5 Stars Farthest Shore https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... - 3 Stars Tehanu https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... So, having read the first four Earthsea books, what did I think of the whole volume? There were parts of this huge book, which I loved reading and couldn't put down. Each book has it's own distinct character, but the story is a good one and I recommend it to any who enjoys slightly old school fantasy and quite poetic prose.
Even so there is a continuity through the 4 books which give the feel of a greater world history than just the tale itself which for me at least gives the stories a timeless quality - almost as if I am reading a historical biography of a long lost age.
Apart from its detached tone, what most sets The Earthsea Quartet apart from other fantasy series is its concept of magic, which involves knowing the true names of things -- the names things were given back when they were first created, many of which are now forgotten. So people who can divine true names, like the intrepid hero of the Earthsea Quartet, Ged, are potentially very powerful indeed. In Earthsea, the wise wizard uses his powers sparingly, so as not to upset the world's equilibrium. Ultimately, LeGuin says, the wizard's challenge is not to become powerful, but rather to understand the nature of things and act upon this knowledge in a manner which will help keep the world a safe place to be. In the first three books of the series (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore), she doesn't really go in for great villains, but leaves her evil forces largely unspecified.
Ged stayed with Yarrow and her brother, called Murre, who was between her and Vetch in age. Listen, I don't understand: you and my brother both are mighty wizards, you wave your hand and mutter and the thing is done. It fools the stomach and gives no strength to the hungry man." "Wizards, then, are not cooks," said Murre, who was sitting across the kitchen heart from Ged, carving a box-lid of fine wood; he was a woodworker by trade, though not a very zealous one. "Nor are cooks wizards, alas," said Yarrow on her knees to see if the last batch of cakes baking on the hearth-bricks was getting brown. I have seen my brother, and even his prentice, make light in a dark place only by saying one word: and the light shines, it is bright, not a word but a light you can see your way by!" "Aye," Ged answered. Yarrow, your little dragon has stolen a cake." Yarrow had listened so hard, gazing at Ged as he spoke, that she had not seen the harrekki scuttle down from its warm perch on the kettle-hook over the hearth and seize a wheatcake bigger than itself. "So then you would not summon up a real meat-pie lest you disturb what my brother is always talking about - I forget its name-" "Equilibrium," Ged replied soberly, for she was very serious. What is a boat but a thing that doesn't leak water?" "I've bailed some that do," said Murre. - I shall eat my brother's, so he can starve with you-" "Thus is Equilibrium maintained," Ged remarked, while she took and munched a hot, half-toasted cake; and this made her giggle and choke. There was a little pause; and Yarrow asked, watching the harrekki climb back to its perch, "Tell me just this, if it is not a secret: what other great powers are there besides the light?" "It is no secret. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars.
I love The Lord of the Rings for its wealth and genius as an epic narrative, however, as a piece of fantasy writing, the world and people created by Le Guin in her Earthsea books have a depth and sense of reality with which Tolkien, in my opinion, never managed to imbue his land of Middle Earth or its characters - and she can cover in fifty pages what JRR would need most of a book to say. This brings me to Tehanu , the final book in The Earthsea Quartet (as my volume, re-issued in 2012, is entitled). However, Le Guin is a very fine writer and whatever her motives for writing Tehanu, perhaps she simply wished to redress the balance and tidy up the rather male-centric world shed created in the first three books, and while Im not wholly convinced that this book should ever have been marketed as the final part of a quartet (so as not to disappoint those anticipating something altogether different, perhaps it should have been presented as a separate story about Earthsea?
Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc.