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Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore #1)

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,997 Ratings  ·  587 Reviews
Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 286 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Harcourt (first published 2004)
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A Canadian I read it as a standalone book and while I enjoyed it (3 stars) the whole book felt like the first chapter of a larger work.

Community Reviews

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Dear Ursula Le Guin,

You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the same name. I know it is not the favourite of many of my friends who love your work too, and I don't know if I can even call it a favourite, but I accepted Gifts from you at the perfect time, much as I've accepted your other works.

When all my fantasy worlds were filled with too obvious expressions of god vs. evil, and I was struggling with the binar
Jun 14, 2011 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Marija
Shelves: ya, fantasy, 2011
Gifts is a hard sell as a teen fantasy novel. Why not market it in the same vein as A Wizard of Earthsea I wonder?

As all Le Guin's books, Gifts is deeply philosophical and introspective. It is preoccupied with exploring what it means for a person to have a dangerous, potentially lethal ability. To give some frame of reference, think Graceling with Katsa's constant fretting about her killing Grace minus action, angsty teen romance and pseudo-feminist propaganda plus more depth and better knowled
Jul 23, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading several books by Ursula K. Le Guin and a little more about her and her writing, I think that she may not be capable of writing a bad story, perhaps not capable of writing a bad sentence.

Gifts, her 1999 novel, has tone and imagery reminiscent of Anne McCaffery or Robert Silverberg. The gifts she described, powerful spell-like traits associated with a family or lineage call to mind the knacks Orson Scott Card invents in his Alvin Maker series – though those powers seem to appear spo
Mar 02, 2011 Robert rated it liked it
Recommends it for: All LeGuin fans/Everybody who thinks Fantasy is stupid.
Shelves: fantasy
With the recent publication of the third volume of the Annals of the Western Shore, I decided to go back to the start and re-read the first two and follow it up with the latest.

Gifts is the first book. It is narrated by Orrec Caspro son of his clan's leader. The clans of the uplands have uncanny powers, Gifts, at least if the family blood runs true, but Orrec's mother is not of the clan or even of the Uplands where the clans lead their isolated impoverished existence, feuding and farming. Orrec'
Sanjay Gautam
Feb 14, 2016 Sanjay Gautam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Jun 06, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Gifts is a quiet story, in the way that Ursula Le Guin can do really well: those moments of silence, introspection, contemplation. It isn’t my favourite of her books, but I love the things she explores here: the longing of parents to see their children succeed; love within families; grieving and loss; trying to choose the lesser evil… Orrec’s voluntary blindness and the way it affects the world around him, his fears and his wants, are beautiful; Canoc is a wonderful portrait of a difficult man: ...more
Apr 22, 2010 Kristen rated it did not like it
What was I supposed to think when I picked this up? I hardly ever actually look inside the book and read the first page or first chapter. It's always the cover and blurb on the back of the book that makes me want to read it.

Maybe I should start reading the first page or chapter from now on?

It's written by Orrec's point of view, and when I say written, I pretty much mean exactly that. It's like an autobiography. Orrec, to me, comes across as a bit of an emo person. The way he talks about his life
Dec 21, 2011 Ian rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. Beautiful. UKL's use of the English language is without equal or parallel. Not a word wasted. Not an idea wasted. Simple, efficient, and yet touching and thoughtful. I don't know how she does it.

How fortunate that I read Gifts during the Christmas season, when we in western culture are too often focused on the wrong "gifts" in our lives. Gifts is not a book about Christmas or the Christmas season, but the parallels are unmistakable. Of course the other themes are all there ... a paren
Sep 20, 2009 Rachel rated it did not like it
I didn't find this book compelling, maybe I should have read Voices first. Reading the premise at the library, I was interested.

"Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two y
Feb 26, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Orrec is born into a Gifted family in the Uplands. Although his family controls a fey and unsettling Gift, they are nevertheless barely able to eke out a life from their sparse and rocky land. The Gifted families raid each other for the few resources that remain: livestock, wood, serfs. Cut off from the rest of the world by a combination of shunning and pride, the people of the Uplands grow more stunted and inbred with every generation.
Unable to find a wife among his own people, Orrec's father
Sep 20, 2007 victoria.p rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this, found it interesting and compelling reading, and quite moving at certain points. LeGuin's prose is as lucid and sharp as ever, though I think to get the full impact of Orrec's story, you need to read Voices as well.
Feb 17, 2015 Giovanna rated it really liked it
Recommended to Giovanna by: Lys
"Stories are what death thinks he puts an end to. He can't understand that they end in him, but they don't end with him."

Okay, so...I would have never read this book if it wasn't for Lys. I read the whole Earthsea series last year and was actually disappointed by it, so I didn't think I would pick up something by Le Guin so soon. Now, after reading Gifts, I think that the Italian translation played a key role in my huge Earthsea disappointment.

I have to admit that I really liked Le Guin's writi
Feb 28, 2015 Vippi rated it liked it
Recommended to Vippi by: Lys
3.5 stars

Although at the beginning it was a bit slow-paced, I liked this book. Le Guin herself has a rare gift - a very poetic, suggestive writing that gives her story the warming scent of an old tale told in the firelight.

I also appreciated the evolution of the main character, Orrec, and the path that led him to his final decision.

The only flaw was that I found difficult to completely empathize with him: he sometimes seemed too self-involved, unable to understand the others’ feelings (especiall
I love Ursula Le Guin's writing a lot. Gifts is a YA book, technically, but it doesn't have to be just for young people. It's a lovely story, like a fairy tale, and it's very easy to read, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading for people who are older. The main character is a young boy, but the emotions of other characters, like Orrec's father, are there and it's important to understand them and try to identify with them. And Ursula Le Guin's writing is simple and lovely, easy to read but ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A new YA book that seems to start a new series(?) - the second book is Voices, which I'm reading next. In the Uplands, all families pass down certain gifts to their children. Some are positive, some are destructive. Two good friends choose not to use their gifts, and have to try to find a way to live in the society without them. It seems like a commentary on violence as well as an interesting story. I found myself seeing it vividly in my mind, which doesn't happen all of the time.
Aug 09, 2014 Maree rated it really liked it
Wow. This was a pretty powerful book for YA, but I didn't really expect anything less from Le Guin.

The clans of the Uplands are rumored to have powers, and Orrec knows it's true because he's part of it. His family has the power of unmaking -- looking at something and undoing its very essence, a dangerous power for those who can't control it, to be sure. The story follow Orrec as he grows up in this world of rival clans with different powers, ones that are threatened but rarely used against one a
Nov 29, 2015 Soorya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Gifts is set among primitive mountain tribes whose strange, wild magic pervades every aspect of their life. These powers, or gifts, run in the family line, from father to son and mother to daughter, and they die out if people marry outside their tribe. The gifts are quite varied, all wild and dangerous, and the people live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. All this makes for a fascinating societal structure, politics and culture; I loved how convincingly Le ...more
Nov 16, 2014 Lydia rated it liked it
Overall I enjoyed the story of Gifts and the issues and questions Le Guin raises through it. It was a bit hard to get into at first because everything in Orrec's life seemed so bleak - from the mostly destructive gifts themselves and the implied poverty and harsh way of life to his stoic father. However, after the setting is established I realized that I was very invested in the characters of Orrec and Gry.

One of my favorite takeaways from the book was the concept of restraint. Although you may
Ben Nash
This one has a slow start, making me wonder how well it'll work for young adults. In the beginning we're introduced to Orrec as a boy made blind by his father. As the book progresses, we see vignettes over the course of his early years, preparing him for the development of his gift.

Having just finished I Am Number Four, Gifts made a good contrast. I Am Number Four is more fast-paced, but there are so many little holes and a general lack of attention to detail. With Le Guin, we get a fully develo
May 29, 2009 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
2.5 Stars
In first person past tense we see 'through the eyes' of a young man, Orrec, who's heterogeneous blood line may have given him the unstable gift of great power?
In standard Le Guiniean fashion Gifts started out slow and slightly obtuse. It followed the normal, rambling (almost flow of consciousness) pattern I have grown to expect in books by Le Guin (note that my sample set is relativity small but 3 points do define a line :P). It was as though she needed to gain steam
Sep 22, 2013 Robin rated it it was amazing
Life is harsh in the northern uplands where Orrec Caspro grows up. The climate is cold. The farmers and serfs scratch an uneasy living out of indifferent soil. The land-owning families that lead them are divided by vicious feuds. And the most powerful among them, honored with the title Brantor, wield terrible powers. One family's gift is calling to animals, which can be helpful when you're training a horse or a dog, but is oftener used to deadly effect—in the hunt. And that's one of the milder g ...more
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 Kat Hooper rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Usually I love an Ursula Le Guin novel, but I just couldn't get into Gifts. The writing is beautiful, as we expect from Le Guin (therefore 4 stars), but I found this novel too dull for me.

Most of the story is told by Orrec as it happened in the past (a technique I just couldn't appreciate), and he relates several stories that his mother told him. Orrec and his best friend Gry live in a culture where magical gifts are used for destructive purposes and they
Aug 05, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
Lovely. Great world-building, clear prose, strong, believable characters with their own motivations. I'm glad I have the other two on my shelf now that I've finally gotten around to reading this trilogy.
Jan 07, 2016 Marissa rated it it was ok
Ok, so I slogged through this. It gets a bit easier after the first four or five chapters of being introduced to characters and places that have literally no bearing on the story, but I guess Le Guin considered them important to set things up. They weren't, not really.

This book is... disappointing. Not what I was expecting from Le Guin. There's some magic-ness to it, but mostly it's the story of a kid who is afraid he'll never live up to his dad's expectations for him and, in that fear, never l
Oct 19, 2009 Carolyn rated it it was ok
Disappointingly slow and bland. Much repeating of the same information. Weird shift in the story narration - starts with visitor, goes back several years, then back further, then to visitor again, then continues on. Place names and people/clan names confusing - has a detailed map in front of the book, but almost none of the places mentioned in the book are on it - a bit annoyed to find this.
Jan 08, 2014 Nathan rated it really liked it
Fantasy Review Barn

Starting at the beginning because that is usually the best place to start. A drifter from thelowlands finds himself entertained by the tales two young people are telling; tales of clans ran by people with specific gifts that make them a bit more than people. Gifts that run through family lines, always in danger of being watered down when new blood joins, but with wonderful/terrible possibilities. The young lady, Gry, claims to be able to call animals at will. The mysterious bo
Jan 14, 2011 Qing rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
Brief premise: Orrec's lineage possesses the gift of undoing, which basically destroys life and things, but he hasn't shown any glimmerings of the ability to undo.

However, after he seemingly killed an adder, his dog, and razed a hillside without him realising that he was doing so, his father deemed his gift to be wild/uncontrollable. Orrec's eyes has to be sealed lest he accidentally undo stuff with catastrophic consequences.

The blindfold, which basically is a huge banner on his head saying "err
Jul 21, 2012 Lys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, e-book
Leggere la Le Guin è sempre un'esperienza più... sensitiva che altro, e i Doni non fa differenza.

Leggere la Le Guin è entrare in un mondo ovattato, fatato, dove il non detto conta tanto e quanto l'apertamente mostrato, dove la luce e l'ombra si equivalgono, giocano e si combinano a creare una storia dalle mille sfacettature e più.

Accendere una candela è gettare un'ombra.

Solo nel silenzio, la parola,
Solo nel buio, la luce,
Solo nella morte, la vita

Citazioni di altre opere della maestra Ursula, ma
Althea Ann
Sep 26, 2013 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing
I was a little bit disappointed when I had heard that this recent book from LeGuin was a ‘children's book' – but I needn't have worried. It's just another one of those publishers' marketing ploys. This is definitely a story that can be appreciated by readers of any age.

It's a very bleak story, in many ways. It tells of two young people in a remote, backwards society. Life is harsh, they're dirt-poor, inbred, always violently feuding over the slightest of pretexts – and to make things worse, each
I think the highlight of this novel for me was the way in which the story was told. The narrative was truly beautiful. The narrator basically told stories, more like wove stories/threads together until in the end it came together in one fascinating tapestry. Its also so well-rounded! I love stories that are like the old image of the snake eating its tale, stories that start at one place and end relatively near there. Coming full circle basically.

As for the characters...I wanted more from Gry, th
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Class of 2015: Gifts 1 5 Mar 26, 2014 09:44PM  
Blind YA fantasy? 3 20 Dec 16, 2013 01:54AM  
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has 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. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...

Other Books in the Series

Annals of the Western Shore (3 books)
  • Voices (Annals of the Western Shore, #2)
  • Powers (Annals of the Western Shore, #3)

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“To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.” 88 likes
“We scarcely know how much of our pleasure and interest in life comes to us through our eyes until we have to do without them; and part of that pleasure is that the eyes can choose where to look. But the ears can't choose where to listen.” 24 likes
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