Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Ursula K. Leguin
(2012, Usula K. Le Guin)
[original copyright 1968, Houghton Mifflin Books]

The Earthsea Cycle, book 1

A boy is sent to a school for wizards when he shows enormous potential. Impatient, he learns magic, but dabbles in dark spells, during which time he unleashes a dark shadow that haunts him through his adventures until he decides to face it.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
March 30th to April 24th, 2017


I was caught right away by the author’s very epic way of writing, and by the way the character is presented. The world is well-developed very early on, and it was quite peaceful. I liked the way the main character had to confront his own demons without resorting to war with his neighbors.

Spoiler review:

From the first pages, I quite enjoyed this book. It’s written in the style of an epic, telling the history of the world and the development of the main character at the same time, while hinting at his future greatness. It shows that this story is just one in a greater universe.

Unfortunately, like the chase scenes in many books (and movies and TV shows for that matter), the voyages sometimes go on for way too long. I understand that the world is large, and Ged had to travel a long time to get out beyond the world that he knew, but these were the times when the author seemed to miss the mark and the story sagged.

For most of the book, however, which focuses on Ged as he grows from a small boy to a powerful wizard, the author strikes the right balance, showing us how dark Ged’s soul is, and that he becomes observant enough (and scared enough) to recognize it. It’s obvious to the reader that Ged’s desire for recognition is going to cause him trouble. What is refreshingly surprising is how he changes because of being exposed to the darkness, becoming a stronger person who no longer wants power or recognition, and even shies away from his power for a while. Most characters written in a story such as this would rush headlong and try to take over the world. In this book, the only thing that Ged wants control over is his own soul. I really appreciated the story for this.

The many different islands clustered together seem to form the entire world. From Ged’s travels at the end of the book, it looks like nothing else exists. But the islands are spaced far enough apart that each has its own weather, from the cold north to the hot south, east and west. Interestingly, this book has all sorts of cultures and people with different skin colors from these different regions, instead of a unified people. The magic is one that has been seen in ancient history as well. A person or thing’s name is the key to getting it to do anything you want. Nobody knows a person’s name unless there is extreme trust between them, because the person who knows your name can do a lot of damage.

I really liked the brief time we spent on Ged’s childhood, where the foreigners attacked his home, and he was able to spin a fog around them to save his village. This brought him to the attention of the local witch, who started teaching him, until an experienced wizard takes him under his wing. Ged’s time with Ogion is brief, and Ged is very impatient to learn. Much like the Karate Kid, Ged doesn’t realize how much he is being taught. When a young sorceress nearby goads him into learning about dark arts, he gets in trouble, summoning a darkness that fills Ogion’s house until the wizard returns and closes the breach into the nether-world.

As Ged’s ambition exceeds that of the gentle Ogion, he is given the choice to go to the island of Roke, where there is a school for wizards. I really like the way wizards are held in high regard. They can get free passage across the various seas, in most places, even if they have no skill in weather manipulation. Ged’s education is left rather vague, but he does gain a lot of wizarding power and control -until he is egged on by Jasper, and ends up releasing a darkness into the world that hunts him for the rest of the story. I really liked the way he withdrew from the world after that encounter, and it haunted him until it was vanquished. His small posting in the outer sea, the encounter with the dragon, his trip up north in the icy sea, all led him to realize that he was avoiding what he must do. So he went to see Vetch and recruited him to join him on his quest to find the darkness. The journey was too long, but the result was worth it, quieter than I would expect, but gentle and satisfying somehow.

I am interested, now, in reading other books, as I have no memory of the one other Earthsea novel (The Farthest Shore) that I’ve read in the past.


Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright © 1999 -  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.